There are a lot of good things about #tentlife. It strips life back to the essentials. Everything has its place (usually in a crate) and there’s none of the detritus that surrounds you at home. There’s no opportunity to cook elaborate recipes (no fridge, oven or indeed electricity), no self-inflicted obligation to blowdry your hair or iron your clothes, no TV with its spirit-sapping stream of bad news, no need to organise the sock drawer or alphabeticize the herbs and spices (oh, just me then…)
We are fortunate to find a gem of a campsite – Dogwood – tucked away at the end of a gravel lane amid rolling farmland and pockets of woodland in Brede, East Sussex.
It’s small and offers modest facilities (one shower, two toilets, one outdoor sink) – which seems to attract mostly outdoorsy people who are quiet and self-sufficient. The site is run by Katy and Phil, who agree to host us because the idea of The Crazy Thing resonates with them. (Unsurprisingly, when you learn that they themselves ended up as the site’s owners after holidaying there from London and noticing it was up for sale.)
But tent life has its downsides too. I find earwigs lurking under everything I pick up. The first time I see one (in my shower cap, FYI) I’m surprised they still exist. Their strange little prehistoric bodies with those menacing rear pincers are a blast from my seventies childhood.
And then there’s the constant search for power sources. I lug my laptop around, along with a host of camping gadgets and chargers to plug in wherever I spy vacant plug sockets – the physio’s office, the library, a friend’s house, the pub.
But perhaps the most stressful thing about living on a campsite is that you never know who your neighbours will be from day to day. With jobs to go to (working out our three-month notice periods), we were gone by 7am and back at 7pm each day – with every homecoming presenting us with the question: who’ll be camped next to us? How close will they be? And more importantly, how long will they be there? We found people’s definition of personal space varied wildly. Some would pen themselves in with windbreaks and talk in low voices. Others would practically have a game of frisbee across your dinner table without a second thought.
Eventually though, the sun goes down, the fresh air takes its toll and people drift off to bed. You look around, nursing an enamel mug of tea, and see the flicker of campfire flames and a domed starlit sky and you know it’s all good.