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Go Camping28 August 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
I have done it all, a stay in a villa in the Dordogne, in luxurious hotels in Barcelona, Paris and Madrid, or in a palazzo in Florence. This makes little impression these days. However, when you announce that you have been camping in Luxemburg, people look at you as if you have been visiting the North Pole in your swimming trunks.
I have indeed just returned form a camping holiday in Luxemburg with my sister. ‘Really, a camping holiday? In Luxemburg? With you sister?’ reply my friends, having spent their vacation in Tuscany. ‘Are you sure you are all right?’
The campsite is located in a nature reserve, at the bottom of a narrow valley carved out by a small stream. It is an idyllic spot. That is why its name should stay a secret.
Let’s call it ‘Anna’s campsite’. I first went there forty years ago with my parents and sisters. The farmer’s wife Anna was its owner. She is still alive today, but the campsite is now run by the next generation. Yet since 1968 ‘We’re going to Anna’ has a special meaning in our family.
The holidays during 1968 to 1974 were the happiest weeks of my youth. On arrival my rubber boat had to be inflated first of all, before anything else could take place. I even ate my sandwiches in my boat. My mother insists: ‘You ate your evening meal in it too.’
During these holidays everything was special. My father, who went camping in his plus fours (also worn by Edward VIII and Tintin and four inches longer than knickerbockers), would for example bring back a whole salami from the campsite shop, which at that time was still located in the old farm house. He would wave with the salami in the direction of my little boat and shout: ‘This is an absolutely unique salami!’ I know it may sound strange but this always turned out to be the case: the most special salami ever.
So after forty years I was back camping in the deadly quiet valley. The only sound was made by the water rushing in the stream. Actually, heavy rainfall during the first 36 hours prevented us from hearing this sound. I can recommend it to anyone who has problems urinating.
Rainy weather greatly encourages the use of zips. ‘Quickly zip up the tent!’ At one point I couldn’t stand the sound of any more zips. I even developed an aversion to zipping up my own fly.
The big advantage of camping is that, once you have put the whole palaver in place, there is nothing else to do apart from sleeping, reading, talking and cooking. Luckily, even at home I prepare my dishes on a one-ring cooker. My sister was very impressed. If there was a MasterChef for cooking on just one ring, winning it would be a doddle for me.
We phoned our mother every day. She would have joined us in person if this had been possible by telephone. She is now too old to go camping but from the moment we uttered the phrase: ‘We’re going to Anna’, she started making lists and getting things ready. Suddenly she looked forty years younger.
My recently purchased heavy duty flip flops combined with wet grass culminated, after five days camping, in an inflamed big toe. So for some time I resembled Quasimodo when moving around the campsite until the sun came out in some style.
This prompted our right hand neighbour, a rather creepy Belgian, to go about in what resembled just a string. Even so we were not at all put out by this. During the last three days our heads acquired quite a formidable tan.
After returning to The Netherlands I read that Dutch people are camping less and less. Still, I have the feeling that I am ahead of a new trend. Fossil fuels are running low. Flying is getting very expensive. In the future everyone may well return to a currently quite empty Luxemburg.
I think of my father in his plus fours. He has been dead for the past twelve years and yet he joined us. Just like my mother who stayed at home in The Netherlands. That is what we both admitted: ‘And yet they are really with us.’ I believe this is what you call happiness. After forty years it was again within my grasp.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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