I have never been one for camping, or barbecues, for that matter. I like my home comforts, and cannot see the fun in struggling to light, and keep alight, an outside facility when there are perfectly good ovens and grills in the kitchen. In August 2012 Louisa and Errol and their daughters were flooded out of their tents, but they think that is all part of the fun.
The last time I went camping was by accident. I have not yet mentioned the ten nights involved in the Henley – Newark trip. Sam’s friend James began accompanying him on the boat. The vessel in which Sam was to spend 59 days alone rowing across the Atlantic Ocean was purpose-built. There was therefore a small cabin on board. Designed for one, it was going to have to accommodate both Sam and James. As I have already stated, I like my comfort, so the plan was that wherever we stopped at night, we would find me bed and breakfast accommodation. That worked pretty well. Most of the time. The two occasions on which it didn’t would have to be consecutive, wouldn’t they?
Fortunately the nights were warm. Fortunately James had brought a small tent which he was generously prepared to lend me. Unfortunately there was no mattress, no ground-sheet, and no sleeping bag. Because we hadn’t considered the possibility that we might decide to stop in the middle of nowhere. On the first occasion, we managed to find me some sort of camp-site with tents, but no bedding of any sort, and latrines which I was quite unprepared to use. I slept on the hard ground. Yes, I did actually sleep. When you’ve walked as much as I had, you’ll sleep anywhere. I thought. Until the next night. This time I used James’s tent. These outdoor nights were spent in my day clothes. The place where we had pitched the tent seemed to be incredibly stony. One particularly sharp stone dug into my left thigh all night. I was just too tired to attempt to move, and desperately trying to get some shut-eye. I’ve no doubt I did sleep a bit, as is always the case when you think you haven’t slept at all. When, early in the morning, I finally decided I’d had enough, I looked for the offending stone. I couldn’t find it. Then it dawned on me. I fished in my left trouser pocket, and pulled out my bunch of keys.