A week in Dorset has reinforced that view. Every morning we woke up to an extraordinary spectacle of emerald shrubbery. Even with the torrential rains that we had to withstand, most days the sight was a marvel to behold. I have sometimes imagined that Mother Nature at one point, tired of marking off territories and delineating borders, and feeling frustrated and despondent, threw all colours available in its palette upwards in a fit of anger without caring a jot what the aftermath would be. The result, I am pleased to confirm, was chaotic and yet beautiful. The world as we know it now. Just as mountains sweat shades of brown and green and the sea turns from a deep blue to a delicate turquoise, the verdurous scenery surrounding us in Dorset presented us each awakening day with a different viridescent hue.
Summer camp has its own rules: that is, no rules. The first convention that goes out the window is fashion, or the sense of it, rather. Not that I have ever had any; blue and black jeans for me, thank you very much. And T-shirts and jumpers to cover my upper half, that’s all I need. But even that disappears. The most important element at summer camp is how to be comfortable. Whether your socks match your top is beside the point. Do they shelter you at night from the chilly weather? The fact that a vest might or might not be from GAP or NEXT is irrelevant. Is it comfy enough to wear on the beach during the day?
The second covenant that gets broken very quickly is that of hygiene and the means to maintain it. A wash tent is usually pitched to one of side of the camp and that becomes the place de rigueur for your morning ablutions (or evening ones, whichever takes your fancy). Inside the tent there are other dwellers with you: flies, spiders, the odd mosquito and countless myriad insects hard to describe, let alone name.
The third precept that is easily forgotten is time. Except for the watch on your wrist, which you hardly ever look at anyway, time becomes an even more abstract noun that rarely materialises. Your day is divided by the meals you take and the chores you are tasked with.
There’s a fourth element that one gets used to very quickly. And that is related to one’s tent: bending. One must bend at all times when going in and coming out and suddenly Gulliver’s travels acquire a different dimension from the one we learnt when we read the book in our childhood.
These are not minuses, by the way, but merely aspects of camping. There is, though, one component that I saw throughout the whole stay and which is one of the reasons why my family and I go back every year with this local group. It was respect, manners and politeness. There were many ‘Good Mornings’ and several ‘How did you sleep last night?’. Our social interaction was great and I felt that for a whole week we encapsulated the essence of what it means to be human. And that to me was far more important than all the clean showers or fancy clothes in the world.