Lisa Reiter’s latest prompt (http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/bite-size-memoir-no-5-camping/#more-926) is on the subject of camping. We didn’t camp as a family; probably because Mum had rheumatoid arthritis and her joints wouldn’t have appreciated all that damp and bending. But looking back I think it was because camping is quite an intimate occupation. There’s no privacy. We certainly weren’t a family that exposed itself to one another; the idea that men and women might be different underneath their clothes hadn’t occurred to me by the time I went on my first camp with the Boy Scouts.
And so some things were explained. Why then? Why not at my primary school or at some friend’s house? As I say camping is intimate; it’s in the air, in the environment. We all dressed and undressed together; we took early morning swims; we stood at the side of a huge latrine and invented the light sabre with our urine long before George Lucas.
Of course it’s there, in the language, if you look for it. The erotic component of camping. The tents had a ‘bell end’. You ‘erected’ them. They were held down by ‘guy ropes’. Coming from a repressed household where anything sexual was ignored or tutted away, going to camp was my initial sex education – unstructured and confusing as it was. I suppose it is no surprise that my memories of camping reflect that oddly inconsistent awakening.
Camping it up
My mind turns to sex when camping is mentioned. My earliest memories are as a Boy Scout (bear with me). I was ten; the talk in the tent was all about boy’s trains going into girl’s tunnels and wet dreams. I laughed a beat behind everyone else.
We camped in Wales, near Lampeter. I was twelve. The older boys did a night hike and were still asleep at noon even though the tents were baking. One boy, seventeen I guess, lay asleep by the tent door, naked. My first sight of pubic hair and an erection. I was still staring, fascinated when Gerry dropped the lit match. How quickly the fire took hold; how visceral the scream; how fast we scattered. Even now, I can’t help but smile if someone says ‘bush fire’.
And the first female nipple I saw on the movie screen was Barbara Windsor’s in Carry on Camping.
Sex education has come a long way since the sixties.