167. Blue, blue, my Elsan’s blue…

“Is Mrs Vestibule coming to camp?” asks an Elfin, over the washing-up.

I’m at the other end of the trestle tables, in arm to arm combat with a hefty pan which is coated with industrial quantities of baked bean sauce. So the question is picked up by Brian’s mate, Graham, who has taken a week’s leave from pen-pushing at the Civic Centre to be here, washing dishes in a cold, wet field with the Woodcraft Folk.

“No, she’s afraid of camping.” The entire rota group stops to gawp at this news. As does Sheila.

“Afraid of camping? I didn’t know that,” she says.

“Oh yes. She has a pathological fear of tents, in fact. It’s quite disabling, as you can imagine. A complete nightmare if there’s roadworks.”


“Heavens indeed.” Graham adds another squirt of washing up liquid to the bowl. “But Mr Vestibule has organised some treatment for her, so it is hoped that she might be able to come in the future.”

“Really?” says Sheila.

“Really,” says Graham. “It’s a sort of desensitisation programme. She starts with visiting a Big Top, then has to spend a night in a marquee and then a mess tent. If she’s up to it, she might then be able to handle a large family tent, like yours.” He nods over to Sheila’s pied-a-terre at the far side of the circle.

Sheila has an impressive floral number with awnings and curtains, in which she is planning on taking her own family camping, later in the summer. For some people, the fun never stops.

“Who knows,” continues Graham. “By next year, Mrs Vestibule could be tucked up cosy warm with Mr Vestibule in a wee orange Vango.”

“Just like ours?” asks the Elfin.

“Just like yours,” replies Graham, finishing off the last of the spoons. “Now, my work here is done.”  He shakes his hands dry and scans the field for the next job.  And strolls, whistling, across the field to help the Pioneers chop up wood for that evening’s bonfire.

Brian’s mate Graham.  So generous with his time and energy.  So economical with the truth.

Here’s to all those good people who have given up chunks of their summer to camp with young folk. May your bonfires be warming, your star-gazing awesome and your toilet tents securely pegged down.

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