Camping: The Big Question

We recently returned from a weekend’s camping. And (not for the first time) I find myself asking, “Why do we do it?”

We own a perfectly decent and functional house. It’s great at protecting us from the  wind and the rain. It has central heating, and running water, including a flushing toilet. But still we choose to leave it all behind in order to go camping.

Having crammed every inch of the car full of stuff, we drive to a field and cart all our belongings to our chosen pitch. We put together our little shelter and hope it is strong enough to protect us from the elements. We sleep on the lumpy, hard floor and sit on folding chairs.

The nearest running water is 100m away (and cold). The closest toilet – a wooden hut built over a big hole in the ground – is only about 50m from the tent, but that means we sometimes get a whiff of its unpleasant odour. Cooking facilities are minimal, and when we get cold in the evening we have two choices: retire to a sleeping bag, or make a fire.

And after two days and nights of living like this, we take it all down and put it back in the car for the journey home. By which time everything, including us, is slightly damper, muddier, smelling of smoke, and more creased than before.

So why on earth do we do it? And more to the point, why do we keep doing it?  I have been thinking about this a lot. Not just over the past few days, but for years now. And it still makes no sense.

I’ve tried to focus on all the nice things that can happen on a camping trip.  The (occasionally) sunny weather, the toasted marshmallows, the bacon rolls, the rope swings, the slower pace of life. But I can’t find anything on that list which even comes close to compensating for the lack of comfort, the dirt, the sleepless nights, and the sheer bloody hard work of it all.

Which leads me to conclude that camping is a bit like childbirth; when it’s all over you somehow manage to persuade yourself that it can’t really have been as bad as it seemed at the time.  Or maybe I am just crazy.  Because although we only have one child, we are planning to acquire another tent – to replace the one that collapsed on top of us in a 3am windstorm.  That surely can’t be the behaviour of a sane person.

Especially one who can’t explain why.


Making Notes: A Load of Balls!

I first came across this method of making balls at the Latitude Festival last year, where Cambridge Community Circus were running workshops for kids. They were making juggling balls, but the finished product also works quite well as a stress ball, and I even used one to go with a set of skittles I made.

Skittles made from yoghurt drink bottles and Kinder Egg middles, with bird seed balloon ball and washing up tablet box

You will need:
– balloons
– bird seed (the small round kind – I found it sold as budgie seed)
– scissors
– a jug
– a tray with sides, or a roasting pan (optional)
– dustpan and brush (almost certainly)

Begin by tipping some seeds into the jug. I tend to do this, and the next few steps, over a roasting pan or high-sided tray, to catch any stray seeds.

Cut the necks off a couple of balloons (don’t throw the necks away).  You can use balloons of the same colour, or different colours, depending on what effect you want.

Carefully pour seeds from the jug into one of the balloons. If you can recruit a helper to hold the balloon upright for you, the process will become much easier. When it’s full, take the other balloon and put your seed-filled ballon inside it, facing the opposite way, so that the second balloon covers up the neck hole of the first balloon. You might need to trim a little from the neck hole on the second ballon so that it fits snugly.

You now have a basic seed-filled ball.

If you just want a simple juggling ball for practising your own circus skills, then you can stop there  (although if this is your plan you might want to add an additional step: put the seeds into the corner of a small sandwich bag and tie a knot in it, before adding the first balloon layer – that way you are less likely to get any spillage).

But in my experience, a ball made with just two balloon bodies like this has a tendency to settle into a sort of lemon shape, and that bugged me enough to make me fiddle about with it in search of improvements.

I have found that using the leftover neck pieces as further layers helps to make a much more robust (and spherical) sphere. Cut off the very end part of the neck, which has the little rollover, and simply stretch the remaining tube over your ball, covering up the baggy ends that cause the lemon tendency.  You might need to trim the ends of the neck further in order to get a snug fit.  You can add as many layers as you want, until you are happy with the strength and shape of your ball.

To make up a  juggling ball kit I put three balls inside an old tea bag box which I covered in patterned paper, and added a set of instructions printed from the internet.

Juggling Kit