Here’s a recipe for a bad night’s sleep: an estate car, an inflatable airbed, a double duvet, a remote Peak District car park, a hot summer night and a rampant jack russell terrier. Why do I never learn?
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. I was heading for the Peak District for the bank holiday weekend, had forgotten to book accommodation and have a deep-rooted hatred for tents, so I had a brainwave… car camping!
The plan went something like this. Pump up my trusty old inflatable airbed, drop the back seats in my beloved estate car, wedge the makeshift bed in there, load it up with a warm duvet and a couple of plump pillows and hey presto: a travelling hotel room.
I’d be able to park wherever I wanted, watch the sunset while sipping malt whiskey from my very underused hip flask, then fall asleep feeling smug about how adventurous and clever I am. I was convinced my car camping plan was bombproof. Completely flawless. So perfect, in fact, that I decided to invite someone else along to join in the fun. His name is Mario, he’s 12 years old, furry, toothy – and an absolute nightmare.
The first part of the plan went well. I arrived in a warm and dry Peak District just before 7pm on Friday night, demolished a pepperoni pizza, then located my parking/camping spot overlooking the beautiful Edale valley. I chugged a bottle of local ale as the last trace of light flickered from the sky, took the dog for a celebratory walk, then settled down in the back of my car, legs dangling from the boot and generally feeling very pleased with myself.
I pulled the boot shut, crawled under the duvet, then remembered something. My dog is an absolute nightmare to spend a night in bed with. Never mind a night car camping with!
Now Mario and I generally get on pretty well, but we most certainly don’t make good sleeping buddies. And for some reason I always forget this quite important bit of information. The little devil likes burrowing under covers until he’s so hot he’s about to internally combust, then tries to cool himself down by licking any exposed human legs within striking distance.
He then rages out from under the covers, growls at thin air for 5 minutes, tears around the bed like a maniac, then burrows straight back down and repeats the process over and over again, until everyone involved is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Panting, drooling, snoring, growling, licking – it’s relentless. And it goes on all night.
That comfy airbed became extremely uncomfortable very quickly, then stayed uncomfortable for 8 long hours. At 6am we both finally emerged from the back of the car, bleary-eyed and very far from speaking terms – but then we looked at the view and realised it had all been worth it. Sleeping wild can be a pretty grim experience, but the rewards are usually anything but.
On a Saturday morning like this, with just a golden sunrise, spectacular hills and suspicious sheep for company, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t do it again for a while. Because I need to catch up on my sleep and let the tortuous memories of that night fade from my mind. But next time I decide to do it I know I’ll be just as excited as I was last Friday afternoon.
Because despite the crap night’s sleep, and the nightmare dog, and the complete stupidity of the whole experience, I love doing stuff like this. And I can’t wait until my little boy’s old enough to start doing it with me.