Apart from the little pocket rocket Ella, there are three main women in my life. They are really quite unique in their own individual ways. Extraordinary women, with personalities, beliefs and interests that are very different from one another, and yet find common ground on more different subjects than one can imagine.
I have not only enjoyed camping, but have felt it a necessary part of my life since the very first time back when I was about nine years old, when along with my brother, sister, and her boyfriend, set up a tent in a forest near Hurn airport. Breakfast the following morning was fried sausages, to which a fox showed interest nearby.
Since then, camping for me has involved large tents on campsites and small tents in mountainous wilderness, with numerous different combinations in between. More importantly though are single nights sleeping rough under either the stars or a plastic sheet for cover, with just the basics for a fire and some food. These nights have always been times of mental grounding, when the thoughts and troubles of life can be forgotten, and replaced with firewood collecting, the building of a shelter, and then the night spent around a fire where lumps of meat are cooked on sticks, a warming spirit is drunk, cake is eaten and good conversation goes on for as long as we want. There is no particular bedtime. The daughters have been on a few of these one night camps, but were very young at the time, in fact both were around six months old when I first ever gave them their 'initiation' into pitch black forests and camp fires.
It had been far too long since the last wild camp for all of us, and Amanda had secretly asked the girls if they would be up for another. They are much older now. Claire is married with two children, and has very recently undertaken a new career which includes college. Rebecca has a demanding job holding a senior position in her company, while using one of her 'days off' to work with us. Amanda has spent the year helping me to build the business up, and at the same time been furthering her counselling career. Along with many personal issues, it has been an extraordinarily difficult year for each one of them.
Last night was a wild camp night. We crossed the ferry to Studland, and made our way to a spot that I had discovered on a walk by myself a week or so before. It was on the harbour side. The forecast was for a clear night and morning, and so perfect, but first we had to endure some rain, and so rather than get wet setting things up, we decided to do the sensible thing and spend a half hour in a pub a couple of miles away, the Bankes Arms.
The weather cleared soon enough, and we went to the spot that was to be our home for the night.
I had camped in the area many times when I was younger, and it brought back such fond memories of childhood adventure. As a youth, I camped out in some way or another at least once a month, and to this day still remember that feeling of waking hear to the sound of the various marsh birds.
Our camp is in the trees on the left, and our evening was to be spent on this wonderful beach.
A bit of rope and a plastic sheet was home to the four of us.
And first thing to do was make a brew and have a 'snifter', as it was already getting quite cold.
I enjoyed listening in on the various conversations that developed around me. The three ladies were happy to talk about pretty much ANYTHING, and I felt very fortunate indeed to have such a relationship with each one of them that they felt comfortable to do so.
Of course, I wasn't just sitting there in silence, and would offer tit bits of my own, but these three special women were a delight to absorb.
A little more firewood was gathered, as the sun was about to settle, and it became colder still. There was an onshore breeze, which made it even more important to get a good fire going.
Everything was ready, and so we went for a little twilight walk. Amanda knows pretty much everything about me, and so it was nice to hear the girls ask stuff about my past as I took them to a couple of places that I used to camp as a young boy. We looked across the harbour towards Poole, and I started to feel that special sense of being stranded for the night, as the ferry would stop running later and we had left the van on the other side.
It was a beautiful moonlit night, and we followed the beach back around to our spot and quickly got a fire going.
The next few hours were spent talking, laughing, at times getting serious, acting stupid, and if truth be known we all got a little drunk. The first, and indeed probably the last time all four of us will get drunk together, and in such a place. These one night wild camps bring something different every time depending on who goes, how they are feeling, time of year etc. It was a special evening, and I learned a little more about each one of them. I also felt that each one of them had a lot of worry and 'baggage' weighing on them, and felt it good that they could at least find the time to offload a little. If life could be one long night around a campfire then the world would be a better place I am sure.
Morning eyes were a little bloodshot, and hair a bit dishevelled, but apart from that everyone appeared to have survived the night. At 55 years old now, my joints aren't quite as supple as they used to be, and a night on hard ground took it's toll a little.
Cups of tea brought us all round, and a morning selfie showed that not too much damage was done.
It wasn't to end there though, as we had the kayaks in the van, and both daughters were insistent on taking them out before we went to the Haven Ferry Cafe for breakfast.
Do any of you also like to camp? Want to camp? Or have tales to tell about it?