Sunday, February 22, 2009

A crisis of manners at Campsite 24

We were invited to go camping this weekend with my in-laws Imp and Ed. Ed's cousin lives in Hobart, and he and his family were going to be there too, and were apparently dying to meet us. I was a bit lukewarm about it, because we had various other commitments and wanna-dos, and I like a quiet life. The crunch factor was that Imp and Ed were taking The Tub and would be pottering about in it without Elf if we didn't go.

On Friday night I was invited to Matt's exhibition opening, followed by dinner, but was also expected on the indoor soccer court. The opening missed out, as did any significant planning or packing for a camping trip. Soccer was a dreadful defeat but dinner at Sirens vege restaurant was very nice and relaxing. Matt is another brother-in-law who's PhD in fine arts was the content of the exhibition.

On Saturday morning I was required on a stall at Salamanca Market until 11.30, so Elf mounted the whole packing operation on her own. Imp and Ed were supplying a tent, dinner and most other essentials, so we pretty much threw a bunch of clothes, blankets, the picnic basket and our rubber boat in the car and headed off. After all these delays and impediments, we had a very nice drive down to Fortescue Bay (10km north of Port Arthur, about a 90 minute drive from Hobart). Everyone was all set up when we got there, and had been there for hours.

The gathering turned out to be much bigger than we had thought, and I was totally unprepared for the social challenges involved. It was raining - the established crew were gathered around a fire, sheltered by a large tarp strung amongst the trees. Imp and Ed were very welcoming and shared everything with us, but the rest of the gang were a bit stand-offish and the whole thing was pretty awkward. I ended up sitting in the front porch of 'our' tent feeling a bit glum. We had not brought chairs, and this appeared to be a bit of a gaffe. I certainly did not get the feeling that anyone had been dying to meet me, probably because I was radiating peevish vibes.

The boys, particularly Michael, had no qualms about going to stand by the fire. All the kids were poking different things in to observe the various cracklings, shrinkings and sizzlings. Eventually a sense of responsibility prodded me to go down there and ask if the boys were being OK and everyone assured me they were fine. I had heard from 20 metres away that Michael was holding forth on a few of his favourite subjects. Marcus was gamely running around with the other kids and overcoming his shyness a lot better than I was.

So - the main reason I am relating this whole sorry business is: later in the afternoon when Michael had made himself really comfortable in the best seat by the fire, and was chairing a meeting about either the solar system or mammals, Marcus called out to Elf in a weary voice "Mum, Michael is pretending to be a grown-up".

Everything thawed after a while, but we still spent the evening gathered around separate fires. We four slept badly, our soft townie bodies not coping with leaky airbeds and those flat sleeping mats. Elf actually was so relieved when the sun came up that she relaxed and fell asleep. I can only be sure that I slept at all because I remember dreaming our car had been stolen.

I honestly did have a nice time. I had a couple of sea swims, (earache cold) and we saw a lot of wildlife. At one stage during the night Elf told me there was a possum in the tent which fortunately turned out not to be the case. The possums were a nuisance, but a kind-of-fun furry nuisance. There was a half-tame family of pademelons (small wallabies) there which thrilled the kids.

We had a beach walk this morning and then packed up and came back to where we belong. It was a beautiful place, and we are very keen to visit again, but we will do it with a very small group. Camping and meeting new people are things I am barely competent at - so doing both at once is just stretching me a bit thin.

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