Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Loitering within tent

A word of advice for anyone contemplating a camping holiday...don’t!
No matter how idealistically stimulating it sounds to up sticks and head to the great outdoors this Summer, take it from one who has often loitered within tent...it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

To leave the comforts of civilisation in order to enjoy the benefits of living under canvas and savour the delights of ‘roughing it’ is madness in the extreme. I should know, I have been man against wild, I have laid on my back in the middle of a cold and blustery night, staring up at the stars, wondering where our tent has gone.

I have squeezed through a tent flap, into the cold forbidding night, like Captain Oats of the Antarctic, whispering to my wife that I am just going for a short walk. Dressed only in my pyjamas, swan dry, track suit and beanie I have fumbled my way through a dark wooded area, wishing that I had not drunk all that liquid the night before.
I remember the night well; it was foolish to venture bare footed into unchartered territory. I managed to tread upon the only nodding thistle within a five square mile radius and I discovered that at night small but sturdy, pointy tree branches move surreptitiously from the upper part of a tree to groin level.
My definition of camping is ‘learning to stay alive in a hostile environment’.
The adventure stories, tales of daring-do and books about the great outdoors fail to mention that the number of giant sand flies in any given location is dependent on whether or not you remembered to pack the Dimp. Keep a bottle of repellent in your pack; you will not see hide nor hair of a biting insect, conversely leave the Dimp in your medicine cabinet at home; you will be eaten alive.
My wife is usually very well organised, she cannot help herself. This is a commendable talent but one that totally falls apart when we go camping. Oh she plans alright; she plans beyond the call of duty.
One summer we decided to pitch our tent at Ocean beach in Hawkes Bay. Everything was loaded onto the back of our Austin Gypsy truck. Mattresses, pillows, coolie chairs,fridge, Labrador (he slept in a pup tent) and chest of drawers! I kid you not; we took a fully laden, six drawer chest of drawers on a camping holiday! The fact that I was in charge of securely roping the load and then loosing it all on the Havelock roundabout, is neither here nor there.
Who could forget our summer holiday at Hahei in the Coromandel? We wanted a good night’s sleep so purchased the very best double blow up mattress we could find. I pumped it up, the kids, Labrador and I jumped up and down on it. Having had an exhausting first day, we retired to bed at eight thirty. By nine fifteen we were on the floor. I had to pump it up again. I pumped that bloomin’ mattress up six times in the night; goodness knows what the neighbouring campers thought about the huffing and puffing emanating from our tent. By morning we were all deflated.
Then there was the piece de rĂ©sistance, the final curtain to camping holidays. Waihau Bay camping ground produced the wettest two weeks on record and we were in the middle of it. Everything was damp, the food was damp the clothing was damp even the damp was damp. We awoke in the middle of the night suffering from a lack of oxygen. It felt like a giant Hippo was sitting on our faces. ‘Get off John’ my wife gasped. Turned out to be rain water, a huge reservoir filled the roof of our tent and threatened to engulf us. We heaved it into the air, spilling gallons upon the neighbouring campers.
Camping anyone? Never again!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The amazing, hilarious wonderful bottom.
I have often wondered why when you mention certain words to small children they giggle uncontrollably. Take ‘bottom’ for example, a somewhat obscure word that is used to describe the base or end of an object. ‘The bottom of the boat’, or ‘put it in the bottom drawer’, are perfectly sane sentences not at all amusing least of all to children of average intelligence. Not so when the same word refers to the end or base of a person. In that context the quite ordinary, unobtrusive word, ‘bottom’ takes on a life of its own. The ordinary common or garden bottom for some strange reason becomes highly hilarious to small children. It’s a known fact, the more you say it the harder they laugh. This same phenomenon is not produced with similar meaning words like, rear-end, bum or backside. Why is that? I suppose the word posterior could be considered mildly amusing but it does not deliver the same impact as bottom.
As a child I well remember clutching my stomach, falling on the floor in convulsions of merriment at the mention of someone’s bottom. (do I need therapy?) At family get-togethers a naughty older cousin took great delight in making up a rude rhyme about my poor Uncle Otto. He always waited until I was standing next to my Uncle and then whispered in my ear, ‘Otto’s botto sits on potto’. Although the rhyme would not have won any poetry competitions or placed my cousin in the running for the youngest ever poet laureate, to me it was the funniest thing I had ever heard.
Talking of whispering reminds me of a very funny story that was told by Irish comedian, Dave Allen. His father did not like the word ‘fart’. The first time Dave heard the word was when he was about three years old. He was watching a cowman milking and the cow farted. ‘What was that?’ He asked. The cowman replied, ‘The cow farted’. It was just a word; as if he’d said ‘what’s that on the tree?’ and he’d said ‘bark’.
Dave’s family had a dog called Tuppy, because he was bought for tuppence. One day as Dave walked past him, he heard the same noise and said ‘Tuppy farted’. His father said, ‘Where did you hear that?’ and Dave said ‘It came from his bottom’. Young Dave’s dad had a way of getting around the word. He would say, ‘Who whispered?’ and everyone totally accepted the euphemism. That is until one day when Dave’s Granny, said, ‘Come here David and whisper in Granny’s ear’.
Frankly I am surprised that marketing gurus have not pounced on bottoms as a sales gimmick. Kids would not be able to resist jellied or chocolate (perhaps not chocolate) or lolly pop bottoms. As a child I considered the late great Spike Milligan to be the greatest comedian in the World for his famous words in ‘Badjelly the witch’. ‘His trousers fell down, and off he went to bare bottom land.’ We should thank him for creating glorious, spluttering, irrepressible mirth in the minds of young children. I thank the man from the bottom of my bottom, and I take this opportunity to propose a toast saying ‘bottoms up’ to my Uncle Otto on behalf of all naughty words that make us laugh...