An Acquired Taste

Itís all in the details; the meticulous planning, the time spent with map and calculator working out how long each individual activity will take, right down to the last minute. With my left arm tucked into my not-so-waterproof jacket I hunched over the handlebars and stared hard at the glow-in-the-dark hands proving that my calculations had been more accurate than I could have hoped as my front wheel met an oversized root. Unable to free my left hand the handlebars twisted in my right and my rear wheel took the lead as my saddle hit the ground shortly after my spine. Two hours before dark my watch told me. My eyes didnít need to argue they simply picked out the thin red line that marked the end of the day on the edge of the blackness that echoed my mood and engulfed my half drowned family as they watched me writhe in the mud. As I tried to ďverticaliseĒ the horizontal, the moss on the root undid my plans and I returned to the earth with a splash. I donít know if it was the comic motion or the shocked expression that triggered the response in my youngest, but, despite his best efforts to look miserable, he laughed. My oldest boy let loose with a responding hoot, closely followed by a chuckle from my spouse. As the huge icy raindrops pummelled my face, pride and dignity dissipated and some ridiculous basic instinct took charge of my brain and laid me flat on back roaring with laughter.

With this particular holiday now securely saved in memory banks to be recounted often in future, my long suffering partner took the lead, with my broken pedal in my pocket and twisted front wheel in the air I brought up the rear. Before the good humour could be completely dragged from our shivering bodies by the wicked wind, or the saturating rain could penetrate our hearts; the cry went up at our successful return to the lake we were temporarily calling home.

Two colourful ridge poles of abandoned tents marked the edge of the campsite. Our trailer tent the other remnant of the bank holiday weekend exodus to the country. With raised beds we were able to strip out of wet clothes and climb into dry sleeping bags. A supper of crisps and biscuits raised the boysí spirits and they were soon practising the telling of my ever more elaborate collision with nature.

Will I go camping in Ireland Again? Probably: my memory is not what it used to be.

G Nellins

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