Thursday, 20 May 2010


I did rather hope that by this great age my camping days were behind me. Foolish misguided woman that I was....I’m in Norway, for heaven’s sake. You’re meant to go camping here. It says so in the instruction manual that goes with living in this place.

It’s around this time of year that Norwegians start fiddling about with all manner of outdoor equipment...summer outdoor equipment that is, because of course they only put away their winter stuff two minutes ago. Oh, oh, I sense a folding canoe looming.

And so, in the spirit of keen adventure, a tent was purchased, large enough to house our family and several very good friends. We decided to have a tent-erecting-rehearsal in the garden before setting off....nothing like trying to put one of those things up in lashing rain for the first time with one’s fellow campers sniggering from the comfort of their own expertly-erected canvas sanctuary. So we waited for a suitably sunny evening and set to it.

And that’s the thing about camping. It does rather tend to bring out the control freak within everyone. Particularly, I happened to notice, in the male of the species. At first, this was a joint, family-bonding kind of a project, but after fifteen minutes of peering at a set of Japanese instructions, I decided my best option was to stand well back and not do any laughing. At all.

Great swathes of sky-blue nylon were laid with care across the green lawn. Various thin poles emerged from a canvas bag and were pinned together into immense, wobbly lengths, then randomly slotted into narrow pockets of more nylon, this last in a subtly contrasting shade of slightly less pale blue. Then there was some swearing as someone realised a small error had been made, and the lengthy poles were unplugged from the first set of nylon pockets and redistributed into an alternative set, this time of a greyer hue. More swearing followed, in English and Norwegian, for those who might be interested.

I looked on, poker-faced. It’s always best not to speak, move or even emit a thought telepathically in these situations. I bit my lip very firmly and quite painfully, but soon had to break into a smile as a friendly neighbour appeared, as though to offer a helping hand. Instead, he offered a less than helpful comment.

‘I thought you Scotsmen were meant to be good engineers,’ he merrily japed.

I tried, I really did. But it was impossible to prevent unfettered mirth. The Scotsman engaged in trying to put up the tent was not even vaguely amused.

‘Ha ha dee ha,’ said an anonymous voice from beneath a heap of blue nylon.

I thought I should elaborate. ‘Not every Scotsman is an engineer, you know....some of us have other skills.’

The Norwegian was clearly wondering what these might be, so I continued. ‘Look, it’s all very well for you. You’ve probably done all the Norwegian camping you ever needed to in your youth, and no doubt in the snow, with knobs on. We have some catching up to do. And frankly, if we’re seriously meant to embrace this nation and all its wonders, I’ve been told that camping is inevitable.....the camping sites offer world-class views, and are not to be missed, apparently. So you'll just have to admire our willingness to be intrepid, endure our puny efforts, and thank your lucky stars you don’t have to join us.’

He smiled a quiet, Norwegian smile. ‘So, are you heading up north?’ he ventured.

‘Indeed,’ I said with magnificent conviction.

‘Then I wish you the very best of luck.’ This was of course very kind, but I couldn’t help thinking it was rather a loaded comment, and one gained from a wealth of under-canvas experience.

I sighed and retired inside to polish the folding canoe.


  1. May I share a camping escapade? When I was 14 our parents took us camping to France and on
    the first night we pitched our tent late at night in darkness. We woke next morning to a french commotion and hooting of horns only to discover we had pitched camp in the middle of the track through the campsite.Enjoying the blog Jane, especially your pleasures with a man on a piano - always does it for me too.

  2. Anon...that's funny.I love a good camping story. There is something a bit nutty about camping...can't put my finger on it, but more to follow.

  3. Love visiting Scotland and am always happy to read your blog. Now camping in Scotland... Tried that once. It was August 2007 and it rained and rained and no water proofed tent would do. We woke up at 5am and went to sleep in the car.. I love HIKING in Scotland, though and just about everything else.:)