Need a holiday?

It’s half term and three of us are staying at home, the absolute best place to be if there are not too many tasks to do. But Lola is off by boat to stay with her friend’s grannie in France for some potato harvesting… (Cross-fingers with the fuel shortages, rubbish non collection, libertie, egalitie and fraternitie protests at Sarkozy’s raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62 that she’ll be able to get back too.)However there is one day when our little tent has to be got out of storage. It was last used in June to help Lola and her friends celebrate a 12th birthday in the park – more for shade and that distinctive tent smell than for sleeping in.

I’m not looking forward to a cold autumn night camping but I guess if I wear all my clothes there shouldn’t be too much to complain about, and 9-year-old Nell will be with us hopefully doubling as a hot water bottle. I’d probably be less nervous about autumn camping (and it does save cash if there’s more than one of you planning to sleep over) if I hadn’t just read The Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy

. It’s an hilarious set of disasters about childhood family holidays back in the 1970s- often lavatorial, but not always. I’ve never laughed reading a book so much, but I think it also offers three good take home messages – (1) Camping is for the well prepared. (2) Kids love it until a certain age. (3) It is hard for parents (especially mums) not to argue – or for the rest of the campsite to hear the detail.

When I was little my mum and dad economised by insisting we all (3 kids, 2 parents) spent a week camping in a wood by our house. They took certain pride in coping with adversity so lying on sticks, or feeling the tents leak from dripping trees after enormous summer rainstorms was considered a good way to harden us up – but still nothing like the cold or discomfort of their own snow-drenched, non centrally heated post war childhoods.

Coach surfing
Since George Osborne announced his drastic spending cuts (20 oct 2010) I’ve been trying to work out if the holiday culture of big trips and plenty of mini-breaks has been killed. I suspect it’s changing to a method that depends far less on cash. For example plenty of people know I like to house swap so despite the winter creeping up I’ve had a mum of two recently ask if she and her family could take over our house for four straight weeks (sorry, no, we live here and the only school holiday that is this long is not until the summer). What’s more since July we’ve had a lot less space as there have been three different adults (one from Brazil, one from Wales and one from Australia) back-to-back staying for a minimum of three weeks in our downstairs room. They save a fortune, and my girls see how adults run their lives differently. All these experiences are a sort of holiday, it’s just not the way the magazines make us imagine them.

So, anyone got any tips for making a middle weight sleeping bag into one good enough for Everest?

This post is by Nicola Baird developing ideas in her book Homemade Kids.

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