Having camped many times in my life, I would describe myself as a pretty seasoned, unfazed camper. I have experienced: being woken by a massive bird sitting on my chest, the car accidentally dragging the tent half way across the field by its guy ropes, not being able to remember which tent is mine, large bear-like animals poking their noses into the canvas in the dead of night, tent/music rage, being attacked by midges, tent burglary, and most weather conditions, including getting drenched, and getting half baked in the early morning sun.
So there we were on Saturday night, us Buttons, all lined up in a tired, snug, little row, in our tent, listening to the sound of the waves, our faces glowing from the cider, and the sunny warm day spent on the beach, playing in the sand dunes. And I couldn't help but feel a little bit smug that we had ignored the weatherman's warnings, and made a last minute dash to the coast. All was perfect. And off we all went to sleep, in sandy, cosy, slopey airbed heaven.
At 3am I woke to the sound of rain lashing against the tent, and the wind ripping through it, blowing and bending it this way and that - rather vigorously I have to say. And I could hear the waves crashing against the rocks just 50 yards away. Tom and Dolly were snoring soundly. I looked over at Betty and her eyes were wide open, not blinking. 'Betty' I whispered 'Are you ok?' 'I'm a bit scared' she replied. 'It's ok my darling, it's just a bit of wind and rain' I told her. My heart was pounding, I was sweating like a pig, I was terrified. I kept thinking about my friend's 12 ft trampoline, and how just a few weeks ago, the wind managed to blow it clean over her garden fence and onto the main road some distance away. I imagined our tent being the trampoline (with us in it) and the main road being the sea.
I lay there, holding Betty's hand, and trying to think of a survival plan, if the tent indeed took off and landed in the sea, or collapsed and suffocated us all, or if the tent poles came free and knocked us unconscious. I had just accomplished the first part of my plan, which was to find a form of light (my trusty mobile phone) in order to be able to see during the rescue operation, when a huge gust of wind swept under the tent and lifted us a couple of inches into the air. Now convinced we were in a hurricane, I shook Tom awake, and told him he was to transport our children to the car. 'Don't be so ridiculous' he said, and promptly started snoring again. I shook him again and aggressively whispered in his ear 'We are in severe danger, we need to get out'.
While Betty got more frightened, and I pretended not to be, Dolly slept on, and Tom was outside whacking tent pegs back in. When Tom reappeared he coolly said 'It's all fine, go back to sleep'.
As we drove out of the campsite at 4am, with a befuddled Dolly, and a shell-shocked Betty, up to their ears in wet tent parts/sleeping bags etc, we saw many battered tents and campers dotted about the place. We also saw that one family had given up on their tent completely and hurled it into the bins as they made a dash for cover.