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Columnists

Camp pain

Jude Simpson

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April: the time of year when some people's thoughts turn to daffodils, newborn lambs and positive meteorological forecasts. For me, the time when I ponder how to avoid, escape or somehow endure my extended family's Spring Camping Weekend.

This year, blessedly, the avoidance of said trip has been rendered simple, due to the fact that Baby Simpson the Fourth (and Last) is due two weeks before the fêted [fated] weekend.

There are few people who would still expect me to camp with a two-week old baby, and since most of them are probably up Kilimanjaro or down the Amazon, they're unlikely to get in touch to register their disapproval.

I'm convinced that the number of people who enjoy camping is minuscule. Most campers appear to do it out of an idealised notion of back-to-nature, simple living, coupled - crucially - with the inability to remember from one trip to the next just how far their tented escapade fell short of that ideal.

A particularly frank conversation around a damp brazier at last year's camp (we paid £30 for logs which lasted half an hour, then watched as each man in the party tried and failed to find a way to revive them using string, penknives and yesterday's copy of the Telegraph) revealed that no-one in the party actually found camping comfortable. When pressed on the point, the main advantage to our group turned out to be that camping is relatively inexpensive compared to a cottage or hotel.

When I pointed out that camping is relatively more expensive than staying at home, I met with stares ranging from genuine puzzlement to withering despair, which tells me I haven't yet got to the bottom of the psychology involved in human beings' desire for canvas.

At home we have a dishwasher. When camping, we trek for 200 metres carrying a plastic bowl full of clinking crockery and cutlery, queue for inadequate sink and draining space, and then have to dry up. Honestly, except for camping, I haven't dried up since about 1984.

No-one can actually enjoy this ritual. But it appears one can love camping without enjoying it. In fact, the limited enjoyability is the whole point. That's what gives campers the permission to shamelessly enjoy a comfortable, mod-con life the rest of the year.

I don't need permission. Yes, I like the idea of camping. But, like clip-on wax-and-feather wings, it doesn't work in practice. I would love to lie down on an inch-thick plastic mat and sleep like a baby, waking neither at the 4.25am dawn chorus, nor at the loud swearings of a man falling over my guy ropes while searching for the nearest suitable hedge for a night-time pee. But I'm rubbish at camping. I sleep badly, ache all over, spend the whole time in a foul mood and am generally miserable to be with.

Come to think of it, did the due date of my baby really fall so close, or did the family actually decide on their camping dates after my first visit to the midwife?