Thursday, 7 August 2008

Meditations on Britain (Summer Camp Symphony for Crickets, Grasshoppers and Cicadas)

The first time I came to Great Britain in 1997, what made a deep impression on me immediately as my plane headed toward Gatwick Airport were the capriciously mathematical shapes of the greenery below. Hither and thither we, passengers, were regaled with a view worth a few hundred thousand pounds in today’s stock market and yet, there we were, getting it for free. In Cuba, they talk a lot about people drinking tea in the UK, however they always fail to mention the breathtaking landscape that adorns this island’s geography.

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.

Copyright 2008


  1. Thats really nice and I can almost here the music.
    Judging from the pictures I would say that Britain landscape is a lot similar to Quebec's
    Al Godar

  2. Es lindo pero un poco plano no? Soy un desastre con el campismo, eso de carpas, duchas me lo aguanto. Aunque si es verdad que te conecta con la vida de otra manera. Lindas las fotos!


  3. Gracias a los dos. Pues habra otras fotos, una de las cuales se las mandé a los aseres, a su blog.

    Al, the countryside over here is lovely. What I really like is the sharp contrasts between seasons.

    Saludos desde Londres.

  4. Your reference to Gulliver's Travels has me snickering.

  5. Welcome back!
    What a terrific experience!
    Uno llega a olvidar lo que es realmente importante. Gracias Cubaninlondon!

  6. Dear London, welcome to my weekend world! haha
    My boyfriend adores rivers, canoeing and camping, as you can see in my blog. So "going out" for him is going canoeing. Even at home sometimes he cooks outside.
    I love it too, so we get along very well. I have plenty of opportunities for photos and that's mostly what I need to be happy. I love nature and Florida is completely full of incredibly beautiful blue and green springs. Paddling slowly in a river, kilometers away from civilization, makes you feel, yes, more human. makes you realize how gorgeous nature is and you cannot understand how many people can't appreciate it.
    people are very friendly here too, many good mornings, too, so I was reading your post and smiling.
    Makes me feel like writing more about it in my blog. I once did, I don't know if you read it.
    I'm going this weekend to my favorite river, so I'll bring more photos next week.

  7. Aqui te dejo el link de lo que he escrito y fotos:

  8. Well, lisetg, the truth is I am a 'city boy' so whenever I go to the countryside with my family I enjoy more becuase I rarely get the chance to camp. When I lived in Cuba I used to go camping more often, especially at the tail end of the 80s before the 'special period' kicked in. It was just a case of packing up a few items and heading for Puerto Escondido.

    Your pics are great.

    Greetings from rainy London.

  9. I was a city girl too until I started living with a 'river boy' and moved to a small city with beautiful surroundings...but don't envy me's me who envy you...I would loooooove to live in London.
    I am a city girl after all. and I would find the way to satisfy my longing for Nature from time to time.

    Saludos desde el campo



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