T is for…

My 6 Ts of family camping

We are just back from a 3 day camping trip in the Mourne Mountains. We were celebrating our youngest son’s birthday. He wants to be a mountain rescue man when he’s all grown up so this is his way of getting in some practice and also his way of getting to eat birthday cake on top of a mountain. The tradition started a couple of years ago and it is a weekend we all really look forward to. We love getting some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city and normally by the end of May the weather is pretty good. This year the weather was hit and miss and we ended up spending a little bit more time in the tent than we usually do (Let’s just say we’ve decided we need a bigger tent with more ‘thinking time’ compartments!).

T is for Teamwork…

There’s nothing quite like dense grey rain clouds rapidly approaching to unite a family into pitching a tent in record-breaking time. We knew in advance that the weather wasn’t going to be great, but not easily deterred, we left super early to try and get to the mountains and get our abode for the next few days constructed. Two of us laid out the tent, 2 went around with pegs and another followed with a mallet to hammer them in. As my husband and I unloaded the cooking equipment and food from the car, the kids went in search of firewood. They arrived back just as the heavens opened and we all had to dash for cover. It was torrential! It lasted for hours….and hours!

T is for Togetherness…

‘Did you pack top trumps cards?’

‘No, did you?’

‘No, I thought you had’

‘Oh’

There’s not a lot you can do when stuck inside a tent for hours on end. We read a while. Cooked some food. Drank a lot of tea. Played a game of squares in a notebook. Talked nonsense. Eye Spy. Don’t Break The Chain. Someone had the idea of sticking cheerios to feet and pretending they were veruccas (gross, I know! But I do have 3 sons!). The ABC game…Frustration and boredom soon turned into laughter and chatter and storytelling and contented togetherness. This is what camping is all about, right? Stripping life back. Savouring the small, seemingly insignificant moments. Why is it that those little moments of joke-telling and giggles engrave themselves so deeply in our hearts and minds? Is is because we know that they’re the ordinary, everyday bits of life that truly matter the most?

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T is for Timetable…

Getting away from work and school and the daily routine means that the timetable can just go out the window for a few days. There’s something about being close to nature that helps me to forget about the things that are usually niggling at me. Chores needing done. Kits needing packed. Homeworks to sign. Meals to cook at certain times. There’s always a million things to do. But somehow, by leaving it all behind I begin to notice the clouds, the sunsets, the bird calls. I suddenly have time to watch my kids build a campfire and toast marshmallows. I have time to hear myself think. To breathe deep. To allow nature and wildness to wash over me and offer its cleansing power. To make me forget about the million jobs needing done and to just be.

T is for Treasure…

The field next to our campsite was overgrown so naturally the kids had to go run in the long grass. Within minutes it had become Velociraptor territory and the shrieks of kids being chased by ferocious dinosaurs carried across the fields to our tent where we watched in amusement as they fell and got up and ran over and over again. Their imaginations were ignited simply by being in waist-high grass! This game lasted until it was dark. We didn’t call them. We sat by the campfire and they made their way back to us when they grew tired. They changed into their PJs, crawled into their sleeping bags and curled up in their camping chairs and we all sat around the fire watching the flames dance as the night grew dark and still. There was only us in that moment. We carried the boys to the tent once their eyes grew too heavy to keep open. We tucked them in and they slept solidly for 12 hours!

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T is for Turning off…

TVs, Tablets, T’Internet, Telephones….it is so great to leave all these things behind and truly switch-off for a few days. So much of our lives are spent online these days. Even the kids homeworks require a great deal of internet access and our mobiles are an extension of our bodies. As useful as all our gadgets and internet are, it’s so good to experience life without these things every now and then. Miraculously it is possible to exist without them. My arm didn’t fall off without my phone and all of my Facebook friends were right where I left them when I returned home. I didn’t even miss anything interesting on TV. Instead I read a fantastic, enriching book under a blazing orange sky as the birds swooped and soared overhead.

T is for Truth…

When I wakened on the second day of our trip I lay and listened to the silence. There was no pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent canvas. I slowly unzipped the tent so as not to waken anyone else. I stepped out onto the dew-covered grass and surveyed the mountains in front of me. The morning mist rolled down the mountainside and my blood rushed with joy. This was it. This was peace. This was truth. I boiled the kettle and drank my tea in the stillness. As the others emerged from the tent, sleepy-eyed and hair awry we cooked our breakfast outdoors and talked about our hiking route for later that day. We love a challenging walk and having been cooped up in the tent we were itching to get moving and stretch our bodies. Rucksack packed, we set off along the Trassey Track towards Hare’s Gap. It was great to feel free and alive. It was energising to exert myself, to climb over boulders and to ascend towards the Mourne Wall. Once there we stopped for lunch and looked back down from where we had come. There’s always something marvellous about seeing the road you have trekked so far. There is the sense of achievement and also a sense of being part of the landscape. Sitting atop a mountain and seeing for miles around puts everything into perspective and I can’t help but feel content in that instant.

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*And 1 for luck…

T is for…being trapped in a tent with three tired, torturous boys during a torrential tempest…

There’s no getting away from the fact that camping with 3 kids during heavy rain is hard work! EVERYTHING gets wet despite the determined attempt to keep the water out. It gets muddy too and you momentarily wonder why on earth you are choosing to sit under a sheet of fabric which is threatening to burst open at any minute in the middle of a muddy field as kids whine about being bored or needing the loo for the millionth time. Surely it would be much better to be at home, fire lit, comfy PJs on and a good movie on the telly? But just as you mentally pack up the car the rain stops. The sun breaks through the clouds. The smell of the wet grass fills your nostrils. The mountains that were hidden come into view once again. Everyone is happy and excited and you remember why you are there.

 

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