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The Call of the Wild

by Grant Clark in May 2013 - Clark's Lore

I don’t regard myself as a complete nancy boy but confess that I do like some creature comforts in my life. Give me a stout couch, a hardy remote control and a frigid beer and I am a happy camper. Which, ironically, is where the problem starts.

You may have read my last article about camping which, I thought, set out fairly clearly and concisely the argument for why we should not be a camping family at all. While I am happy to admit defeat and move on, TLJ is
made of sturdier stuff and does not take defeat lying down. I have no evidence to prove it but I am fairly sure that General Douglas MacArthur features in her genealogy somewhere, while I am just as sure that someone in my lineage must have captained the English cricket or rugby team at some stage.

Anyway, as you have probably guessed by now TLJ signed us up for another camping trip along with three other families. If she doesn’t get the message after this last trip then I just don’t see any hope for her. If ever a camping
trip was going to stand as evidence that the Clark family are not meant to be in the great outdoors, then this was it.

The trip up to our camp site outside of Swellendam was relatively uneventful but we managed to contrive to arrive at midday in 36 degrees of heat, in the teeth of a howling gale. I am not the best tent setter-upper in the business and have been known to lob my mallet and toss the odd tent peg or two in frustration. Throw in intolerable heat, a
gale and an over excited Sizzles, who was convinced that if she stood on the unerected tent long enough it would eventually inflate and become the jumping castle she knew it was, and then you will guess that I was not full of
the joys of spring.

After what seemed like a life time, the tent was finally erected, though was threatening to become the world’s biggest kite at any second. Like I said, I tend to toss tent pegs, so our supply dwindles on each trip.

Just as we finally sat down to relax with a cold beer, one of the camp managers arrived to inform us that there was a problem with the electricity on the site - it appeared that some moron had placed a tent peg through one of the underground power lines. Just as a precaution he checked our tent pegs and gazebo pegs, and declared us innocent, and moved on.

Of course it turns out that he didn’t check our ground sheet pegs and a little while later I noticed our ground sheet was a bit bunched and so resolved to smooth it out by tensioning it a bit. If I had hair I am fairly sure that it would still be standing on end. As it is I can still faintly detect the smell of my eyebrows burning. The only good thing is that I think it has sorted out my arrhythmia and it certainly gave me a boost that Red Bull would be proud of.

Shortly thereafter the forth couple who were supposed to join us called to say that they had decided against coming after all. They had probably heard my girly scream all the way in Cape Town.

The next day offered a respite from the heat and in true Clark style the weather went to the other end of the spectrum and it rained. Of course kids don’t care if it’s raining or not. They want to be entertained and we had
seven of them to entertain. Reasoning that kids would get wet in a pool just as much as in the rain we headed for our trump card and the reason we came to this particular camp site in the first place – the super tube.

On arriving we discovered that it was broken. It appears that some fat dude (possibly a lost SA Cricketer?) cracked the fibreglass the day before and it was only going to be repaired in three days time, after we had left. Seven kids
had been promised a super tube and three sets of parents had not delivered. A Lord of the Flies scenario was very much on the cards. Appeasement involved me driving all the kids into Swellendam to the local Wimpy. They were not well behaved. We are not welcome back.

What else happened? Let’s see: we ran out of ice as did the whole of Swellendam; Sizzles repaid our faith in her by accenting to her no nappy demand by peeing on our bed, thereby soaking our duvet, sheet and mattress right
before the coldest night of the year; we were invaded by thousands of crickets; we were surrounded by noisy happy neighbours; the septic tank filled up upwind of us; the Moose took to waking everyone up in our tent at sun
rise, and of course, TLJ got food poisoning.

I am not admitting to anything here but I was involved in the braaing process that night which may have had a role in the events that followed. Suffice it to say that I am a strong advocate of the five second rule when food is dropped and that this does not always bode well for the diner.

After a night with her head in the communal toilet, we woke up - called it quits two days early, waved our white flag and surrendered.

Like I said, I have English sport captaincy genes in me somewhere and while I may not lead a great charge, I lead a pretty decent retreat. I’m not confident but I am quietly hopeful that TLJ’s mantra of “we will be back!” will not be applied to camping.


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