Lying in the sleeping bag I hear a scuffling sound outside the tent. It sounds suspiciously like a fox. Can it get in the cool box, I think? Should I have put it in the car? Will our patch tomorrow be scattered with tomatoes and bits of baguette?

It must be nearly five in the morning. I have been in that state of half sleep for about six hours now. It is cold. The rug over my sleeping bag keeps slithering off. The inflatable mattress is surely shrinking. Another lorry thunders past. You can’t get double glazed tents – it’s so noisy all the time. The revelling teens only shut up a short time ago. I hear the cockerel, shouting its triumphant dawn cry. They don’t go ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ at all, it’s more of a ‘huh-er-ERER-heh!!’ It’s not dawn, it’s still dark. As if to prove this fact, an owl hoots, softer, much more appealing. Hang on a doggone minute!! Surely the cockerel and the owl are like the weathermen on their pop out house. It can’t be both night and day at the same time. Why won’t they all shut up?!!!

I have recently returned from a camping sojourn with the geezer and our two boys, aged 4 and 7. We had it good really, it was three nights, in a small (25 places) campsite in rural France. There was a pool. There were goats and chickens. A rather rickety swing. And a café where you could buy good coffee, although only at certain times of day. The weather was glorious, if anything a bit too hot. Except at night, when it would cool down (if anything, a bit too cool…blooming freezing actually). The only equipment we had to source was a tent and had bought a four-man tent. I think they’d have to be exceedingly small men. We fitted, although there wasn’t much room for anything else. No matter – the boys only came halfway down so our torches and anything else essential – such as your feet when heaving yourself out of your sleeping bag – fitted in that space. Everything else could be stored in the monster car that the hire car had upgraded us to.

All the other stuff came from our generous families who live nearby. Indeed the lovely Boo (the boys’ name for their step-granny) did all the putting stuff together, so I was even spared most of the irksome packing up of everything bar the kitchen sink.

I don’t want to denigrate camping in any way. There are obviously those who enjoy it very much. And for those not fortunate as we are in having friends/family abroad it represents a much cheaper way to get away. The boys had a whale of a time and I feel guilty that I can’t get into the spirit of it as they can. I can’t help feeling though that it is all far too much work for a holiday. Shouldn’t they be about relaxing? Lolling on bed/balcony/beach. About soaking up the rays and strolling out in the evening with sunwarmed skin, having dressed up a bit. About having someone else doing the cooking, at least some of the time. Even if you’ve opted for self-catering the water for washing up isn’t a five minute trudge away.

It began to dawn on me that I wasn’t a natural camper (except in the theatrical sense – ‘ooh vicar!’) when I thought ‘Damn, I didn’t bring soap.’ The only times I’ve been away from home have been in other houses/hotels where soap was on tap. Or next to it. I could have got dirty, but I bought some soap.

Camping should be about getting away from it all, getting back to nature. (That is, if you like nature. I realise I’m a wussy town type, who only likes nature from a safe distance.) Odd then, that camping mostly happens in small allocated pitches with your every move scrutinised by complete strangers. There was a block with clean showers and toilets. I don’t know about you, but I believe the morning/evening ritual of teeth brushing etc should be conducted without being observed by a gaggle of teens, incredulous that someone could look so scruffy. Similarly, the cooking/eating/sitting by the tent has a permanent audience. It is like living in a house without walls, an Orwellian vision of the future where nothing is private.