Prescription for Disaster

Monday, 28 July 2014

I don't hate my mother in law, but I did take her camping

My mother in law hath cometh for the summer Part III

I don’t hate my mother in law, but I did take her camping.

So she’s now convinced that I do.

Well, my mother in law is here for the summer, and I’m disappointed that we’ve not had many adventures while she has been here. We have to renew our visas, so we can’t actually take her outside of the UK this time. Home adventures it is, with the odd road-stop toilet mayhem thrown in here and there (let’s just say that Paul is an amazing father and goes WELL ABOVE AND BEYOND for his kids. Shudder.) So, in an effort to at least have a little bit of fun this summer, we took her camping.

We first drove her around Stratford Upon Avon to see the home of Anne something. I don’t know, all of these thatched cottages surrounded by colorful wildflowers tend to look the same after a couple of years. Boleyn maybe. Of possibly ‘of Green Gables’. Whatever – she loved it.

We picnicked in the parking lot of a small airfield at random in the country, watching planes come and go and encountering the largest, creepiest and quite possibly deadliest Australian refugee spider any of us had ever seen, that my mother in law had discovered on her car door handle. And Spiderzilla had moves.

Satisfied and terrified we packed up and headed further into the country to our campsite – none of us saying it but all of us hoping to hell that the spider had not stowed away within the confines of our camping gear and pillows.

The campsite was perfect and so typically British. A wide open field out the back of a country pub and surrounded by stinging nettle – which got Lochie within the first hour and mum within the next. Paul warned Kaitie not to go behind the car, as she would surely trip over the tent guidelines and fall into the stinging nettles as well –

Kaitie:             “I won’t Daddy.”
Paul:                “Yes you will. Just don’t go back there.”
Kaitie:              “I won’t fall daddy.”
Paul:                “Yes you will. You can’t help it. It’s genetic.”
Me:                   Nods in agreement.

Poor Sylvia hadn’t been camping in… well… a couple of years, so she more or less hung out directly in whatever spot that Paul needed to be at the time while reigning back Huar Huar / Cujo / Shaky McFrostyNuts from tearing after the much larger, much meaner looking dogs across the field and by the pub while we set up first our family tent, and then hers – nearly getting clocked in the head by a rounders ball from the family that had laid claim to the whole of the field before we had arrived in the process.

Now, taking mother in law camping with us was a rather last minute ‘let’s go camping tomorrow!’ kind of decision – the kind of decisions I’m best known for. So Paul looked online, found a fantastic deal on a 2-man tent for only £10 at Argos, hit ‘BUY NOW’ and sat back, pleased with his purchase AND the incredible cost savings. We even had an extra sleeping bag and a single air mattress in the shed – she would be completely comfortable!

With our tent nicely set up and finished I went to the communal area to give our dishes from lunch a quick wash – thinking that Paul could get started on her tent and that I would help him to finish it up when I got back. I forgot the dish soap, however, and upon my return was surprised to find them standing around her tent, staring down at it in silence. “Do you need help?!” I called over – nope. He was done.

That was most definitely not a 2-man tent. Not even by Chinese circus midget standards. Well, it was too late to turn back now and she said she was fine with it – it would only be one night, right? The single air mattress fit in there quite comfortably and didn’t quite stick out the end – she would be fiiiiiiine.

The rest of the evening was lovely – coloring with the kids, chatting in our camping chairs and eating burgers with an array of British cheese and crackers – with cold beer from the pub, of course. Tired from the day we called it a night early, got the kids ready for bed and crawled into our tent – first making sure that Sylvia was going to be alright before I climbed in.

Me:                        “Are you going to be comfortable in there?”
Sylvia:                   “Oh yes.”
Me:                        “Are you going to be warm enough? Would you like an extra blanket?”
Sylvia:                   “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Me:                        “Do you have all of your stuff from the car? Water? Everything?”
Sylvia:                   “Oh yes. Don’t worry about me.”
Me:                        “Okay then – let us know if you need anything! Night!”

She didn’t. She suffered in silence throughout the night, only to hold it against me for the rest of my life.

It started right when she went to bed – crawling into her tent like a bear trying to put on Spanx. Thrashing around against the sides and bouncing along the single air mattress like a tiny bouncy castle of violence and constricting wrath.

“Is that thunder Daddy?”
“No Lochie, that’s just Grandma getting into her tent. YOU OKAY MUM?”

But apparently, she couldn't sleep.

We didn’t hear anything else from Grandma that night, except for the terrifying snoring coming from either her or my husband. Or a warthog that had snuck up and camped out beside us – it was hard to tell. It also might have been me, my narcolepsy does weird things.

At about 1am she woke up, regretting that she hadn’t changed into pajamas for fear of having to walk across the public green less than fully dressed, rolling around on the coins flowing out of her pockets.

At about 2am her air mattress, despite its valiant effort, finally died a withering, sad and deflating death. Our choice of rocky field as a campsite was cursed loudly.

At about 3am, she awoke again, sore and cramped from the hard ground and freezing. Her coat was in the car, as was her sweater and the extra blanket I had offered her earlier – but she didn’t want to wake us up.

At 4am the pigeons living in the bushes behind us started their day building a nest directly behind her tent – loudly.

I, however, slept wonderfully curled up with Kaitie on our soft double air mattress and warm sleeping bag. I was awoken by birdsong at around 7am with the sunshine coming through the side of the tent. Groggy with sleep I stumbled out to get my shoes, emerging from the tent to the sight of Paparazzi Grandma with her massive camera lens pointed right at me, sat in a broken camping chair and wrapped up in a sleeping bag – looking miserable and cold, but stroking her camera like Golem and his ring.

She claims that her camera positioning wasn’t revenge related, but we don’t quite believe her.

The day went uphill from there, for the most part, until we got home. The stench of camping was too much for my ‘chemo-nose’ and I attacked the house with scent-destroying chemical warfare, essentially Febreezing my mother in law into a coma to cement her experience of camping hell.

The poor woman actually passed out.

Paul gently knocked on her door, then backed away slowly with a “Ummm… she’ll be fine. But I don’t know if she is going to want to come camping again.”

Touche mother in law, touche.



  1. I can't wait to ask Sylvia for her rendition of this adventure when she returns. I can so see her being perched outside the tent with camera in hand waiting for you or Paul to poke out like a groundhog and welcome the day. Good thing she didn't want to play whack a mole.

  2. I can't wait to ask Sylvia for her rendition of this adventure when she returns. I can so see her being perched outside the tent with camera in hand waiting for you or Paul to poke out like a groundhog and welcome the day. Good thing she didn't want to play whack a mole.