“Can we fit this bucket in?” my husband asks as we squeeze the last child into the car.
‘Only if we remove the wine and beer’, I say. ‘Or one of the kids’.
We set off a little reluctantly with all the kids, heading towards a weekend of camping with friends. It’s the sort of place where you have to say goodbye to your car and transfer your tent and all your belongings in wheelbarrows. We like it because it eradicates anyone who would not want to do that.
Two minutes from the campsite Midnight groans. ‘My tummy feels wonky, mummy.”
I turn around and he vomits across the back of my seat.
We pull over.
“I don’t like camping,” Midnight wails as we strip him and flick sick onto someone’s driveway.
Midnight sits in his pants until we get to the campsite. Our friends arrive moments later and seem remarkably relaxed about the fact there has been vomit.
‘I’m sure it’s just his driving,” says my friend, nodding towards my husband.
“You’re probably right. He’s never sick when I drive.” I reply, pleased with the logic.
We spend the next two hours wheeling all our belongings across a meadow and sit down to eat at 10 pm. We manage to drink a bottle of wine next to the fire and see the international space station – or possibly a very slow aeroplane. Or an alien spaceship.
My husband and I creep into our tent. Midnight is snoring softly next to me and I drift into a wine soaked sleep.
Later, in the darkness, there is a noise. It sounds like water gushing onto the floor. I’m afraid we are being flooded but I realise it is actually something more terrifying.
A child being sick in the dark. In a tent. With no bowl.
My husband finds the torch and we discover Milk throwing up into the hood of his sleeping bag. The rest of the sick is flowing, like a yellow river, at an alarming pace towards our piles of clean clothes.
“Shouldn’t have pitched on a slope.” My husband sighs.
The scene repeats three times and then, before we can close our eyes, Midnight announces it is morning and he and Mayhem wriggle out of their sleeping bags to find a chocolate croissant.
Milk stays curled up inside while we eat bacon sandwiches and drink coffee.
“Did you sleep well?” I ask my friends as they stretch on the damp grass.
“I have never been so cold in my life, where is the nearest hotel?” my friend grumbles shivering in his shorts and shirt.
‘He didn’t bring anything else to wear.” His wife adds with a smile.
“No coat? Or hat? Or thermals?” I say.
“It was sunny!”
We all stare at him not knowing what to say. He seems to thaw out as he huddles over his coffee so we tell him about Milk being sick.
“Maybe we can just keep him in the tent?” I suggest.
“For the whole weekend?” My friend’s wife raises an eyebrow.
“Yes. Away from everyone. Like they do in E.T.”
“He’s not an alien.” My husband shakes his head at me and sighs.
“I meant the kid. Not E.T”
“Oh well we’re not doing that. I will have to take him home.”
I see a golden opportunity. “If he goes, can you take that one too?” I point at Midnight.
Midnight has been particularly gnarly. He has already kicked Milk in the head in an effort to rouse him from his vomiting stupor, and after telling him off, I found him swinging a mallet around his head behind the tent.
“Please don’t let go of that Midnight. It’s a really important thing.”
Milk calls to me, he feels sick again. I rush back to the tent and when I return I find Midnight chuckling to himself.
“Did you let go of the mallet?”
“Yes I did mummy! It’s in there. You won’t find it!” and he laughs like a mad scientist as I poke about in the nettles.
Milk emerges from the tent like a white jelly baby and throws up in a thicket.
My husband is in agreement. Number one and number three have to go. He promises to return to help me pack up the next day.
The rest of us are a little relieved that the sickly ones have disappeared, and we go for a walk across the fields and feast at a cafe in the sunshine. The children play with chickens and gallop through the woods and are exhausted. By the time we get back to camp Mayhem is wilting.
‘Maybe he’s had too much sun. He’s been up since 5am, they’ve been playing all day…” My friend’s wife kindly suggests.
Mayhem and I spend the next 12 hours taking it in turns to throw up over as much of the bedding as we can. At one point I have to fight to get out of my sleeping bag, while retching, cheeks bulging with puke, I reach the tent door, unzip it and projectile vomit across the grass in front of me. As I hang from the zip, I notice there seems to be a party going on with a thumping base. This is unusual as it’s a no music campsite. Later I find myself throwing up to several 90s songs, which I’m sure I have thrown up to before.
Half way through the night I make it out of the tent, forget about my own sick just outside the door, slip on it and puke over the cool box. I lie there as Come on Eileen screeches through the night air. It’s a happy song I think as I clutch the plastic lid. I just need I will Survive to come on but it doesn’t and I fall asleep next to Mayhem with the last sick free blanket draped over us.
The next morning I tread wearily over to my friend’s camping spot and I know from their faces their kids have it too. I need to run away but I can’t run so I call my husband.
“Save me from this hell. We are all infected, we are killing each other.”
“I think you’re a bit tired.” He says, sounding bright and cheery after a night at home.
But he does come to the rescue, and he does take down the sick tent and load the entire car and wheelbarrow everything across the meadow twenty times, while Mayhem and I groan on the grass.
We say goodbye to our friends who will probably never go camping again or at least never tell us they are going camping again.
We climb gingerly into the car. It doesn’t start. The battery is flat. Mayhem says he feels sick.
“We should have packed that bucket” I say, and close my eyes.