Nothing to do with politics here, although I see things have been happening while I've been away - not that I thought things would grind to a halt mind - indeed, on my return to 'work' this morning, colleagues took great pleasure in letting me know they now expect a dip in productivity.
Anyway, I've been away for my summer holiday - camping as it happens.
No, not like that.
Our annual Scout summer camp took place last week at Hawkhirst Scout Centre, its a great site, lots of water-based activities on Keilder Water with instructors who seemed to have misunderstood the purpose of a 'safety boat'. You would think such a craft would be for picking up children & leaders who'd fallen out of their canoes (say) and into the reservoir. Instead though, in a physician-heal-thy-self fashion, the safety boat mostly caused said children & leaders to fall in. Since I have a pretty high regard for any activity which brandishes two fingers at stuffy rules and a slavish adherence to silly dogma - I thought the people piloting the safety boats were rather wonderful.
Living in a tent on a field underlines certain things we take for granted in everyday life. I'm not talking about things like electricity and all the marvels it powers or indoor plumbing and the cleanliness it affords, its even more basic than that. No one stands in their kitchen and wonders what life would be like if the counter top or kitchen table was set at a 20 degree angle, yet that is a reality if the field you've chosen isn't even remotely flat.
Preparing food or hot beverages that disappear if you turn your back, waking up in the middle of the night to find you've slid off the bottom of the camp bed you thought would be a hell of a lot more comfortable than it actually was. After a couple of days of it, all we really wanted was to be living on the flat again, it seems like such a trivial thing but it isn't really - it affects everything. We take an old table tennis table to camp which acts as a dining table and general work surface. Dependent on where you sat; your meal would either end up in your lap, in front of the person or persons down hill from you or just plain making a bid for freedom down the middle of the table. Each meal saw some poor child wearing their food - like a starved Chihuahua staring at a pork chop - you couldn't take your eyes off your plate for a second.
Another aspect of camping is as already mentioned - plumbing. Our nearest toilet block was a five minute walk away. At home, you'd just nip to the bog - not when you're camping though - it requires planning. If you're going to go, you may-as-well capitalise - take your toothbrush and shower gel, but try to ignore the wild life infesting the shower cubicle - on more than one occasion I had to wait for frogs to finish their ablutions before I could start my own. Since scouts is now mixed, you can no longer nip behind a tree lest you end up in the papers - so even the most basic evacuation requires a ten minute window.
And finally although not leastly (which isn't even a word.) The Midgie, more commonly known as the Scottish Midgie - although we were just over the border in England, (it turns out this is where the Scottish Midgie takes its holidays.) Also known as Culicoides Impunctatus or Really Fucking Annoying - some of the kids really suffered, I get bitten but they never show up, some of the kids however looked as if puberty had come early and with a vengeance.
Sitting back at my (completely non-sloping) desk, even now I'm telling myself it wasn't so bad, and it probably wasn't. I maintain, volunteering your time to work with kids is a selfish act, anyone who tries to invite praise for doing so deserves a slap. Being able to take part in the kind of things you always enjoyed but so rarely did as a kid, which you now no longer do because you're an adult - is a fine thing, I just wonder why more folk don't do it.
Kids have a unique ability encapsulated in one word which adulthood often takes away - fun. They know how to have it - and as an old bufty - I get to tag along, and some of that unfettered joy rubs off.
We like to think of these events as learning experiences too, so what did I learn? Well, I've always known I'm not keen on water - especially if I can't see the bottom - deep water scares me quite deeply. Turns out some of the joy mentioned in the previous paragraph did rub off to the extent that I decided to jump into the water during a raft building activity. I mean it was planned, I held my nose and checked my buoyancy aid was secured. This fear isn't irrational, I don't think for example that I'm the only human who'd sink while wearing a buoyancy aid (although I will admit to being concerned about being harpooned - a while ago some environmentalists tried to push me back out to sea on Portobello Beach - I'm just saying it could happen.)
That went well enough but a wee bit later on, I actually fell in, no time to plan - I just went in head first. Turns out I don't have the instinct which tells the human psyche to stop trying to breath when immersed in water - I basically (and stupidly) tried to drink myself to safety, which in layman's terms is called drowning. However, the children were kind (they pointed and laughed) and I was never in any real danger.
The safety boat was nearby capsizing some canoeists.
For now though, plenty catching up to do... For work I mean... Probably have some emails to delete or something...