Miranda Sawyer on the glories of camping

This week, I have mostly been wearing... the same clothes, over and over. We are camping in France, and I have packed optimistically: just the one pair of jeans, one sweatshirt, no waterproofs. Well, it's abroad, innit? It's always hot in foreign-land. Every other one of my garments is designed for the campery you see in fashion magazines. If there was call for swishing round the toilet block in flip-flops, shorts and conversation-topic sun visor, I'd be yer woman. But though I've had a few speculative swing-bys in an interestingly motifed sarong, no one's biting. Except the midges, naturellement. They at least appreciate my inappropriate flesh-bearing.

Still, despite the weather (and it isn't that bad, it's just globally warmed - ie it has the mood swings of a teenage girl), our camping trip has been great. This is because we are not actually staying in a tent but in a caravan. An Airstream, with dinky kitchen, toilet-in- a-cupboard and everything. Breakfast is a sensation in our world. You can reach the Coco Pops from the comfort of your bed. And the milk. You can get dressed while still tucked up. You can open the front door, too. If you're a man, and a yoga ace, you can flip back the duvet and wee in a pretty arc directly into the cupboard bog.

But the really cheering part of our camperama is just how much our son loves it. This past week has been the highlight of his (admittedly short) life. And this campsite isn't even designed for kids. No swimming pool, no child-friendly restaurant, just the two swings. But lots of space for running, enough room for a paddling pool, plus there's a couple of other toddlers interested in competitive shouting. And camping is magic at transforming the tedious routine of everyday life into a game. Cooking tea on a barbecue: hooray! Washing up in a bowl on the grass: top! Drinking wine while flat on your back under the mind-shagging wonderment of stars: bring it on! (NB: If anyone from social services is reading, it should be noted that our son didn't join in that last bit. He was out on the razz with his new French mates, ho di ho.)

This holiday has reminded me of previous camping trips, where I was the child rather than the so-called adult. We went camping a lot, when I was little, to the kind of English sites that are laid out like Brookside Close: every tent in its numbered slot, so the postman/police can find you. There was an awful lot of fuss about the tent, I remember: it weighed as much as a real house and was transported everywhere by specially reinforced roof rack. Getting it up was a whole day's work, involving colour-coded poles, mallets and other dads. But once it was erect (what is it about camping that makes all relevant technical terms sound like a Carry On film?), that tent was fantastic. Three zip-up rooms at the back for sleeping; an open area at the front for foldaway table and chairs; vast plastic windows for watching the rain. It seemed absolutely enormous, though I laid it out the other day (it's been passed down through the generations, a Sawyer family heirloom) and it wasn't all that big. It made me think of my poor mum, a tall woman with a short temper, crouching over the wobbly blue-can gas cooker, trying to heat up a tin of sausages-and-spaghetti-hoops while my brother and I found alternative mallet uses and my dad listened to the cricket on the car radio.

Back to now. Apparently camping is becoming cool; though there's no way that hipness will ever extend past organic-teepee-in-Cornwall to static-caravan-in-Filey, I'm guessing. Cool camping requires pre-bronzed legs, tousle-haired children called Josh and Evie and access to a second home with a meadow. Not a panicky repack due to Ryanair luggage restrictions, resulting in no mosquito repellent and only two pairs of pants.

Still, pshaw to being hip! What's great about camping, on top of the stupid fun, is its relentless democracy. Even the Dutch family with the enormous Chrysler has ended up washing their clothes in the same big sink as everyone else. Camping is great because it's absolutely uncool. And with our midge-chomped legs and towels with big lion faces, we're working hard to keep it that way.

· Kathryn Flett returns in three weeks

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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