We’ve been camping. Camping in Brittany. Camping, to be precise, in Finistère: the end of the world. We stayed on a beautiful dairy farm, with goats, pigs, donkeys, rabbits and geese, as well as the cows and their calves. It was pretty magical. But also pretty cold and wet. I now finally understand those tactful comments people made when I told them where we were going. My lovely neighbour who told me of her many trips camping in France, her many trips to Brittany, but never, as far as she could remember, camping in Brittany. Later, B told me that she’d said to him that they’d bought a caravan in the end after getting washed-out one summer.
Still, the enormous tent we bought second-hand on eBay in December (a cheap time to buy a tent!) but hadn’t had time to put up, did have all its parts, and was wonderfully waterproof. And it only took us an hour and three-quarters to put up in the pouring rain, and, well, about five hours to pack it up again. The trip to Ikea for bowls and door mats and rugs and blankets and cutlery was worth it. The purchase of a roof-box for the car, which had made me feel undeniably middle-aged, was entirely necessary. The extra jumpers, hats and coats that I packed at the last minute, still not really believing that we’d need them, were all invaluable. And, if you ever get a flat tyre in Morlaix on a Sunday, we can tell you exactly where to go.
One night the rain was so heavy that it stopped sounding like discrete drops of water, sounding instead continuous, like being under a river, so that I became afraid that if it started to come in we wouldn’t be able to breath, would suffocate, would drown. But most nights I lay there thinking of what I’d been reading. Worrying about Nedra and Viri in James Salter’s Light Years, wondering what would happen next in A Very Long Engagement, dreaming of the heat of Sri Lanka as I read Running in the Family. The book auditions payed off, the reading was excellent.
T’s fears of running out of books came true by the second day, but by then she was off in a world of bouncing on the trampoline, skipping off to buy the raw farm milk, and swapping addresses with unfeasible numbers of small friends. The Moose loved everything: the animals, the freedom, the charming of new friends, the eating of copious amounts of his daddy’s moules frites (‘Daddy, what other tiny sea creatures have you got in there?’). And the Pip-Pop, oh that boy! He can eat a pain au chocolat faster than anyone else in the family, he can call ooh la la! in his sing-song pure voice, he can take you by the hand and lead you to the calves and the rabbits to say to them he-oooh rabbits, he-oooh cows. There were late nights sitting outside the tent drinking hot chocolate and playing Uno with the two bigger children by the light of the lantern. There was a day on the beach when the sky was an unfeasibly penetrating blue, the children were playing, the little white sails of the boats were scattered on the water of the bay.
Now we’re warm and dry at B’s parents. Their friends keep asking if we’re disappointed by the weather (an overcast 21°C), and all they have to say in reply is that we’ve just come from camping in Brittany. Apparently it’s met with laughter every time.