IT took just three little words to drive a wedge between my partner and I.
"Let's go camping." I'd said it before I even knew it - and he looked instantly appalled.
"We're middle-aged. I've got a bad back. It's not a good idea, love," he said, in a quiet voice.
"But I used to love camping. It's fun," I started to say, but by then even I knew it was futile. Of course he was right. Camping, like going to the opera, is one of those things that sounds better than it actually is. At least at the opera you can fall asleep in warmth and comfort, without rain pelting down inches from your face.
I spent most childhood holidays under canvas. It was the Seventies, camping was taking off and my parents embraced it with gusto. We'd set off for weekends to the east coast or the Dales, our orange tent folded up on the roof-rack, and in the summer we headed for France; long, hot drives to what were in those days pretty basic camp-sites where a cold tap outside the toilet block was something of a luxury.
And I loved it. I loved the gentle hiss of the gas lantern in the evening as we played cards on our fold-up table, the frenzied sound of zips being pulled as we wriggled into sleeping bags, even the patter of rain on canvas in the night, albeit accompanied by my dad's panicked cries of: "Don't touch the sides or the water will come in!"
I still think camping is a great family holiday, and some of my most cherished memories are of our tent, even the time we pitched up in a peaceful field in North Wales, only to discover it was directly below an RAF flight path.
But camping in middle-age? I'd like to think it would be fun and romantic; cooking dinner on a camper stove, opening a bottle of wine and chatting beneath the stars. In reality it would be bouts of bickering, despair and seething resentment - before we'd even unpacked the tent poles.
Camping as a child was great fun, both with the family and on Guide camps, when even eating dehydrated mince, half-cooked and tasteless, in the rain was a laugh.
But camping changed when I started going to festivals, enduring tiny tents on bumpy slopes next to stinking cowsheds. Unless you're knocking back fizz in a Winnebago in the VIP enclosure, you have no chance of comfort or anything resembling basic hygiene. You queue for an eternity to use a toilet so gross it causes post-traumatic stress; grime is ingrained, possibly permanently, in your skin; you're frazzled by lack of sleep and dehydration (because if you drink anything, it means those toilets again); then you climb into your tent one night to find it contains a spread-eagled stranger with rolling eyes. Worst of all, everywhere you look there are stilt-walking jugglers in fluorescent body-suits.
Maybe glamping is more my style, now I'm a certain age. Pitchup.com's latest collection of luxury glamping sites in France include "transparent stargazing pods" in tranquil woodland, each with a private terrace and hot tub; romantic geodesic domes with king-size beds, mood lighting, complimentary slippers and gourmet meals on delivery; and floating microlodges on a lake surrounded by vineyards and castles.
Or there's the mobile home option. My partner's retirement dream is road trips in a motorhome - all the adventure of camping, with a roof over our heads and Radio 4 to accompany us on the open road.
Sounds appealing, but not for a few years yet. In the meantime, what was that about a floating microlodge..?
* WITH Game of Thrones star Kit Harington filming in Saltaire and Keighley, and the Peaky Blinders crew descending on Bradford city centre this week, the district continues to draw big name productions.
Bradford's City of Film team has worked hard to attract film-makers, and with everything from period dramas to romantic comedies made across the district in recent years it's paying off.
When the first Peaky Blinders series was filmed at locations including Bradford Club and Undercliffe Cemetery, I went to the set to watch a scene and interview some of the cast. Sitting opposite Cillian Murphy and his piercing blue eyes, I blushed like a schoolgirl and was barely capable of speaking. To this day I have no idea what he said - but he said it beautifully.
* WHENEVER I get a card in the post, I can tell who it’s from before I've opened it. I know the handwriting of people close to me - it’s as much a part of them as their voice or mannerisms.
According to Pen Heaven (www.penheaven.co.uk)
handwriting is good for combating stress and depression. It's a skill we should practice daily; even just scribbling a to-do list. A few minutes of handwriting helps us remember key facts, yet a survey claims the average Brit hasn’t written by hand for 41 days, and some schools are dropping cursive handwriting from the curriculum. How sad if we lose such a special part of our identity.
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