Holiday Reading (Within Tent)

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




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