He was four the first time, she, not one.
Our first time under canvas. What a lark!
We’d saved on the equipment, double duvets
for the grown-ups, cot for her with lots of blankets,
one sleeping-bag for Patrick and no beds
but inch-thick quadrilateral foam instead.
I can’t remember packing books for me
but Patrick worshipped Noddy, so I took
four sixty-five page long (one longer) books.
I thought they’d last the week; how wrong I was!
The first night, and the ground was hard as rock.
Each time I turned, the duvet came apart
exposing all my back to that cauld blast.
Baby kicked her blankets off, and so
I wrapped her in my duvet, safe and warm.
Patrick left his bag to have a wee
and couldn’t find the way back in, but lay
beneath it, shivering. John took him inside
his duvet, and we finally dozed a bit.
A cockerel crowed at dawn. I’d barely slept
but could have slept again. Instead I heard
an eager voice. From next-door he enquired:
‘Is it morning yet, Mummy?’ ‘Not yet, dear. Back
to sleep.’ I should have saved my breath.
The cockerel crowed again. Once more the voice:
‘Is it morning yet, Mummy?’ Once more I told him: ‘No’
entreating him to try to sleep. Fat chance.
Before the cock crowed thrice, I’d heard him twice
and, fearing he would wake the girl, gave in
and dressed us both in wellies, tops and coats
then opened up the car. We clambered in.
The clock read five and, what’s more, so did I:
65 pages of Noddy at the seaside
65 pages of Noddy Goes to School
65 pages of Hurrah for Little Noddy!
65 pages of Noddy and Big Ears
God knows how many in the longest book.
By then, half six, the radio went on.
He wasn’t interested, and so, at seven
I gave up and we went inside the tent.
Every morning, a repeat performance
till I was glad to journey home and park
the kid before the TV, if he woke
again at five and nagged me for a book.
He’s twelve now, and the baby’s nearly eight.
We all have sleeping bags and mattresses
and each one has a torch to read at night,
though one chapter is all we seem to manage
before, fuelled by fresh air, much fun and beer
the grown-ups snore, and one book lasts all week
First published in Reach