SUMMER is over and the new school year has begun.
Parents of young children across the country are breathing a collective sigh of relief as they hand over the care and education of their offspring back to the teachers.
For while it is true that I am a parent to two young children I am also one of those teachers and I am returning to my class of young children.
For me the phrase, ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ seems particularly appropriate.
I should introduce myself. My name is Marianne (Miss Hill between the hours of 9am – 4.15pm on weekdays), I am originally from the UK but for the last eleven years I’ve been lucky enough to live in Estepona on the Costa del Sol.
My partner Neil and I have two young children, Sam (7) and Henry (5), a dog called Joey and, as you will hopefully remember if you’ve been been paying attention, I am a primary school teacher but please don’t worry, I won’t be setting a test to check.
And so, this week was my first back at school.
It’s not exactly the happiest time of the year as you can probably imagine.
Perhaps sensing my plummeting spirits, earlier in the week Neil had suggested that we spend this weekend camping, adding that we could leave straight after school on Friday in order to get the most out of the weekend.
Our family is new to camping, in fact we only discovered it late in the Summer and so have had just a couple of weeks in which to enjoy our new favourite pastime.
Nevertheless, within this short time we have succeeded in spending a small fortune on our continually expanding camping kit.
Take yesterday for example, on the way home from school we stopped off at the Chinese shop to buy a lunch box for Henry but ended up buying a new camping light, an unexpectedly pricey light bulb and a new gas canister for our portable cooker too.
We did however say no to Sam’s heartfelt pleas to buy a huge roll of artificial grass.
We explained that having a grassy lawn outside the tent could be seen as just a little bit too extravagant but Sam wasn’t convinced.
I was looking forward to spending the weekend under canvas and it seemed like just the tonic I would inevitably need at the end of a busy, first week back and I’m sure Neil had only the best intentions when he suggested it.
The weekend has arrived. Today is Friday. Actually, that’s not strictly accurate anymore. I should explain.
We left home this afternoon at 5.30pm. Having dropped Joey off at the kennels we set off, tired but excited, for Tarifa and arrived at the campsite at 7pm.
The man at reception invited us to take a stroll around both the beachside and uphill areas of the site, select our preferred pitch and then return to reception to inform him of our choice and check in.
However, aware that the light would be fading quite soon our investigatory stroll was more of a purposeful power walk with the children sprinting along in our wake, trying valiantly to keep up.
Having agreed on our pitch, we checked in and drove into the site.
We were finally ready to put up the tent. It was 7.30pm.
From this point whatever could go wrong did go wrong.
Despite having put the tent up relatively incident free several times before we somehow managed to put the poles in the wrong way and so had to take them out and start again.
The ground turned out to be the hardest ground we had ever pitched on. It was exceedingly rocky and stony and we struggled to put in even the toughest of our hard ground pegs.
In the gathering gloom we had to move the tent around the pitch in our increasingly desperate search to find some more forgiving ground. We were hammering in pegs in any places they went in more easily only to then struggle to remove them soon after when it was judged that the tent would benefit from being moved just a few inches to the right.
We even sought advice from our camping neighbour as he passed by on his way to the campsite shop. It turned out that he had been through exactly the same experience the day before and he very kindly returned from the shop bearing the gift of one shiny new hard ground peg because most of ours were by now either hopelessly bent or hopelessly stuck in the ground.
Sam wasn’t looking too impressed at our efforts and had some words of wisdom to share with us, “I told you, you should have bought that roll of pretend grass from the Chinese shop to put the tent on. The pegs would have gone in much more easily.”
Having finally got the tent as fixed to the ground as it was ever going to be, I began to assemble the inside area. By now it was getting quite dark though and so we thought it the perfect time to get out our new camping light! There was a thrill of anticipatory excitement in the air! We fixed in the bulb, plugged in the light, flicked the switch and were instantly bathed in its glorious light!
“Hurrah!” we cheered in unison.
Unfortunately the glorious light lasted approximately two seconds, possibly even just one before we were plunged once more into darkness. “Oh” we commiserated in a chorus of disappointment. Having been bathed in such wondrous light for a mere moment we were desperate to feel the natural high of illumination again and so Sam and I went to the shop to buy a new light and another lightbulb.
On being handed the required lightbulb by the woman in the shop I realised that the bulb we had bought from the Chinese shop hadn’t actually been the correct one. This explained the momentary flash of light followed by the all encompassing darkness as our unsuitable bulb found it wasn’t up to the job and inevitably blew.
Now, with our spirits soaring at the prospect of achieving a more permanent light with our purchases, Sam and I hurried back to the pitch.
We huddled round as Daddy opened the light and I opened the bulb. We were on the brink of creating light! Daddy, never known for his light touch and with hindsight maybe not the best person for the job, put the bulb in and twisted it into place. And then twisted it again.
As he twisted it the second time I heard a faint but definite cracking sound.
It didn’t sound promising but there was no time to mention it for at that very moment Daddy flicked the switch and once again we were bathed in glorious light! “Hurrah!” we cheered in unison.
This time the wondrous light definitely lasted just the one second.
“Oh” lamented, experiencing a sense of déjà vu as yet again we were plunged into darkness.
Daddy was sent down to the shop with instructions to plead ignorance about being a little rough handed and innocently hint that perhaps the bulb had been faulty.
He reappeared brandishing a new lightbulb and with a newly discovered delicate touch he twisted the bulb into place.
The switch was flicked and we were bathed in glorious light again.
We waited a moment with bated breath before allowing ourselves to celebrate.
“Hurrah!” we cheered!
We had solved the light problem! A good job too because by now it was late, it was dark, it was getting quite chilly and we still had to finish putting up the tent!
We eventually finished setting up at 10.30pm. We roused Henry from his wide eyed, hypnotic state. He had been sat playing Angry Birds on the iPad for 3 hours, perched on a little stool with his face lit up by the birds being flung about on the screen. He was momentarily disorientated as he joined us back in the real world and looked rather as if he wasn’t quite sure where he was or how he had got there.
At 10.32pm Neil and I toasted our achievement of pitching the tent in a mere three hours by opening a well deserved beer each.
At 10.33pm I was mopping up my beer which had been knocked over by Sam in his hunger fuelled enthusiasm to fetch the frying pan.
Grabbing a handful of baby wipes I cleared up the pool of beer which had already attracted a sizeable group of ants.
After a quick sip of what little foamy beer was left at the bottom of the bottle it was time for me to get out the camping stove and cook some burgers.
At 11pm we trudged wearily to the bathroom block to wash up the dishes and on returning to the tent we finally got the boys in bed and they fell asleep instantaneously.
By 11.30pm we were able to sit down and, absolutely shattered, I crawled into my own inflatable bed at 12.15am. And this is where I am at this very moment. It is now officially Saturday.
I’m tapping away on my iPad, I’m shivering with cold in my woefully inadequate summer pyjamas, I’m fending off invasions by occasional ants who are meandering suspiciously as they crawl up the sides of the tent (anyone would think they had been drinking) and I am uncomfortably aware that in the very near future I am going to need a wee but I’m not looking forward to having to go because it will mean yet another trudge up to the bathroom block in my pyjamas in the chilly night air.
So no, it hasn’t been the most relaxing start to our relaxing camping weekend but sitting here now, in between my teeth chattering and the boys snoring I can hear crickets chirruping, the sea breaking gently on the beach and…nothing, just peace and quiet.
It might have taken a while but we got there in the end.
My weekend of relaxation can finally begin.
So you see, it’s true what they say, good things come to those who wait.
Until next time…