My husband and I have something to talk about, other than who has not done the washing up.
We are going camping.
“It’ll be great,” I say, “we can really get back to nature.”
“You pack and I’ll book the campsite,” says my husband, excitedly opening his computer.
I feel as if I have been tricked.
“Can I help you pack mummy?” asks Milk.
I nod, shooting a sharp look at my husband, who seems immediately absorbed in his search.
“Of course you can darling.”
“Can I help you pack mummy?” asks Mayhem.
He is repeating everything at the moment. It’s like having two TVs on in different rooms, with a slight delay.
“Of course you can sweetie,” I say.
Mayhem stamps his feet. “I am not sweetie. I am Mayhem.”
I wink at Milk.
We are going camping for one night but it takes me two days to pack.
We leave the house.
“Did you just put our entire house into the car?” my husband says punching a pillow out of the way.
“Camping is all about being prepared.” I say trying to bend my leg around two crates of beer.
We drive for two hours and arrive at a field remarkably similar to the one opposite our house.
The boys run around screaming and throwing cow pats at each other, as we put up the tent. My husband crawls around on the grass grunting as he erects the ‘bedrooms’ under the flysheet, while I swear at him for tying the guy ropes into knots the last time we packed up.
I look around at other campers having fun, poking at barbecues, while their barefoot children ride bikes in the afternoon haze.
When we are finished we sit silently on our camp chairs sipping beers, while the boys play hide-and-seek. This involves Mayhem running frantically in a circle, with his hands over his eyes, shouting, “you can’t see me, you can’t see me,” while Milk counts to ten. The game is short.
Milk suddenly drops his trousers and does a wee next to a family eating sausages.
“I’ve done a wee mummy!” he shouts.
“Milk’s done a wee mummy!” squeals Mayhem.
I call them over and explain other people don’t want to look at that while they are eating.
Mayhem frowns: “I’ve got a willy, and Milk has got a willy, and daddy has got a willy, but you don’t have a willy mummy. You have a bum.”
I do have a bum, but I didn’t want the family behind the windbreak on the next pitch to think about it.
When the kids are asleep, we sit by the fire drinking and looking at the night sky, thinking (I assume) our own deep thoughts. My husband leans over to me. I think he is about to whisper something romantic in my ear, and I turn towards his moonlit face.
“The toilets are long drops,” he says quietly.
I stop star gazing. “So we have to crouch over a pit of other people’s poo?”
“Well you wanted to get back to nature,” says my husband passing me another beer.
It seems our children are the only ones in the world who do not get knocked out by fresh air. We are up with the birds, and my mouth feels as if someone has rubbed lemons into open ulcers.
My husband looks at the disposable barbecue and the soggy egg carton on the fold out table. “On the way, just a short drive from here, I saw a… you know…”
“You know… the place we never go to, or talk about in front of the kids.”
I do know. He is talking about a fast food place, which is open early for breakfast. I can almost taste the hot coffee, the crisp hash browns and the breakfast muffin, stuffed with bacon and a perfectly round and flattened fried egg.
“That is not getting back to nature!” I say as I throw him the car keys and shove the children into their seats as fast as I can.