Monday, 7 May 2012

Camping Outside When Even the Fridge is Warmer

Camping in near-freezing temperatures is less fun than expected so we came home early. It's just as well because today I am, again, exhausted and laid out on the settee. 

It has to be said that suffering mild hypothermia proved even my general good-naturedliness has its limits. We left on Friday evening and didn't arrive until gone seven. Frank, the ever good-natured, ever-patient husband, was valiantly attempting to complete both the set-up of the main trailer tent and the awning. The trailer tent bit takes about 10 minutes. The rest took about three hours, as it got darker and darker and colder and colder, with HRH muttering about lights. 

The Raclet Flores (courtesy of

The following morning, after speedily getting dressed in as many layers as she could, Squidge (aged six) declared she was going to run outside. I was too cold by this time to do anything other than watch the kettle like some folk watch the lottery draw. Twenty minutes later, after determinedly running around the outside of the field, she came back into the tent, sobbing and holding up little red hands for me to see.

"Mummy!" she cried. "I'm cold!"

"Why have you been running around outside, then?" I asked.

"I was wunning [sic] so I could get warm." She said, and burst into tears. 

After having convinced HRH that hanging around the men's loos was probably not a good idea and might lead to people thinking he was being strange (define strange...) we were all bundled into the car. Which has heating. 

Wonderful heating. 

Hot heating. 

And in half an hour we were walking into Debenhams, tears abated, on the hunt for the cafe.

So there's me with my flowery wellies, baggy jogging trousers, fur coat, bedraggled hair stuffed under a bakerboy cap, slightly desperate look on my face, walking into an upwardly-mobile department shop with my more or less equally dishevelled family. A neatly-dressed woman in black walked towards me with her arms raised and a determinedly optimistic expression.

"Would you like to try this new perfume?" She asked (I think this shows a real enthusiasm for the job and ought to be highly commended - Debenhams bosses take note).

The next morning, when the sun finally appeared, we decided to head home. Tinkerbell (the nine-year-old) decided to 'write a newspaper'. On one side she had the headline 'Good News' and on the other 'Bad News'. Under the 'Bad News' section, she wrote 'When we were camping, a girl called Maya stole my skipping rope'. Under 'Good News' was 'We will find her and make her give it back!' A private detective in the making.


Anyway, there is always learning to be done, if you're open to it. Our chilly trip taught me that to be cold really is horrible. I realised how much I take for granted my house, with its heating, and our lovely soft, warm bed.  I have lived in a house with no central heating, and I haven't always had a nice bed. But I have always had a bed, and a roof.

Last year, we let our flat to a man who had a chequered past, problems with alcohol, and was at the time sleeping under a railway arch. He was thrilled to be given the chance to have his own flat. Now I have some notion how grateful he must have been. It was bad enough for two nights, but living like that is a different kettle of fish. 

It's not been plain sailing for this man since he began the tenancy. He is still carrying all the emotional baggage that has caused him trouble in the past, but on the grapevine I heard he was attending a local church, a place that offers support to homeless/vulnerable adults, and I do hope that, with support and prayer, he will choose to begin to turn his life around and recognise that, as a human being, he is worthy of life, and love, and respect. So few of us realise that we have choices about who we are and what we do, especially if life has not been kind, or we have become so used to making bad choices that good choices seem impossible. But that's where grace comes in.

I'm still learning how to make good choices, to not listen to the lies about myself from the past. A great help has been this book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Learning to begin every day with thanks is a wonderful healer. Some of the writing is a little twee for my cynical English taste (it's a national sport), and the style is very colloquial, which I found awkward, being used to concise Standard English, but the heart of the message is simple, powerful and unforgettable.

I reckon the process of learning to make good choices takes a lifetime. How about you?

NB names have been changed... 

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