My Week's Holiday Under Canvas (19 September 1975)
The week before the late-August Bank Holidays two young men whom I shall call Bash and Brut suggested I should go with them on a four-day camping holiday at Weymouth, along with Bash’s little dog. This was to be a preliminary to a more ordinary six-day visit Bash and I would be making to Yorkshire the following week (but one in which we managed to include trips to the Lake District, the Dales and the Yorkshire coast, and a silver wedding celebration).
In going camping with the pair I knew I would be in good hands. They are experienced, healthy and strong. In fact, Brut is very strong. One day we had a puncture. The jack wasn’t the one for the car – it was too tall to go under the required place.
“What’s now needed is a bit of brute,” said Brut (hence my name for him). Whereupon he squatted with his back to the car, a Morris 1000 Traveller, and lifted it four or five inches higher than was necessary for Bash to get the jack under. He repeated the feat later when we had recovered the wheel from the repair shop. I could only look on in admiration and envy.
At no time in my 67 years could I have done that, nor anything like it.
I believe it was on that day also that Brut did an hour’s rowing on the sea, went for a swim and also ran his daily four or five miles.
When I remarked on this to Bash, he said: ”Oh, he’s only trying to get fit again!” And he really meant it.
Bash is taller than Brut, though I think they would weigh about the same. Bash is a teacher; Brut is training to be one.
PE is not their teaching line. They are gentle souls, thoroughly immersed in their profession. I did learn, however, that the most effective way of settling the hash of obstreperous youngsters is to pick them up by the scruff and literally shake them. I also learned that the most feared staff member of any school is the PE teacher because he can make life really hard for wrongdoers without ever going beyond the bounds! Perhaps there should be more of them about these days.
All three of us are experienced campers. I don’t think any of us has holidayed from an hotel or guest house for 28 years or more, though I have spent some enjoyable times in caravans, as well as under canvas. Some years ago Bash and Brut lived in a tent off the Drayton Road for three months, going home only for baths and to do their washing. They also did the same the following year.
Last year, or maybe two years ago, Brut toured alone in his one-man A-tent as far as inside the Arctic circle in Finland. This year Bash did something similar in France, Switzerland and Italy.
Obviously what those two did not know about camping would not fill many pages. They would be able to “carry” me easily. I would have nothing to do except, perhaps, look after the dog now and then. And so it turned out.
Brut had his Finland tent. Bash and I used the small frame tent with which my wife and I had had several happy holidays in years gone by. Both tents are all-British-made and will be good for a long time yet, with proper usage and suitable attention now and then.
We found a good, established camp-site on a plateau overlooking the Chesil Bank. It had that prime requisite, a well-maintained ablutions block. It also had a well-stocked shop and clothes-washing facilities. And it was only half full until the weekend.
You may recall that the weather just before the Bank Holiday was a little bit off after the really hot spell. In the evenings the wind sometimes threatened to blow us off our perch, but each morning dawned bright and calm and it was good to be alive.
Brut had thoughtfully provided me with a camp bed. It was the first I had ever tried, but I found I needed much more covering, both above and below before it was as warm as the ground-level airbed I had been used to. The dog liked it, however. She was most reluctant to move when I wanted to get in. She took to her first bit of camping like a duck to water. But then, she is happy anywhere in the world so long as Bash is around.
I always liked Dorset. It is a fine county off its main roads. We spent the day-times at seaside spots. There I strolled and sat around while the boys went off on more hectic pursuits. The evenings we spent exploring the hinterland.
I asked them whether they would like to see Tolpuddle, where the “Martyrs” of 1834, now so honoured by trade unionists, came from. I thought it might be a little silent history lesson for them about the sort of men who were the passive resisters to industrial oppression in the days before the words “socialism” and “communism” had been fairly coined. And about the faith that inspired their steadfastness in the two years that elapsed before public agitation caused the King to pardon them.
So we drove to Tolpuddle’s little Methodist Chapel. Outside there is a small notice board giving the names of the six men who worshipped there and who were transported to Australia for refusing to work on the employers’ terms.
A little further along the road was a pub called The Martyrs. Rightly or wrongly, I suspected that this was simply a latter-day attempt to cash in on the Martyrs’ fame by an institution that the Martyrs themselves wouldn’t have been found dead in. So the evening ended at another pub in another place.
I might add that I so enjoyed camping again that if at any time I cannot be found I shall probably have gone off somewhere with a one-man tent of my own.