I’M NOT a happy camper. For this reason, I’ve never been to T in the Park or any other summer festival where the closest thing to staying hygienic is making your packet of wet wipes last four days.
My children are festival diehards but the stories they bring back only confirm the wisdom of my decision to stay at home and watch the highlights on telly. They may have cashline machines and quinoa but the toilets are still hellholes. My youngest sent me a postcard from Glastonbury once. There was no message. Just a smear of crusty mud.
When they were wee, I allowed their mum to persuade me to go on a camping holiday to France. “It’s not like a tent at all,” she said, “it’s more like a house.” When we arrived, the camping rep showed us to what would be our “house” for the next week. She unzipped the front and pulled back the flap. There was a little black shrew running in frantic circles round the plastic floor. Inside were six camp beds – most sloping backwards because our “house” was pitched on a slope – and one wooden chair. There was a small fridge, completely empty and, er, that was it. “This isn’t like a house,” I said, “it’s like a tent.”
Camping is for the young. When I was 18, I lived in a tent on a hillside above a Greek island beach for a month. We drank beer round a campfire every night. It never rained. The murmur of the waves lulled us to sleep – well, that and the alcohol, a cheap retsina called Demestica (kills all known Greeks) which tasted like own-label mouthwash. We moved once, after scouting the island on rusty scooters. Our new beach looked bigger and better so we made camp. The only other sign of life was a little wooden hut. When we investigated, an old man with a face like a walnut and no teeth came out. He hauled tables and chairs into the open, started slicing tomatoes, cheese and bread and uncapped big bottles of Fix, the local beer. He threw a switch. Music started to play and strings of fairy lights brightened the scene. We partied for the next four hours. My how the Fix fixed Paddy, my sleeping companion! I heard retching noises in the early morning and said “You’ll feel better after that.” I tried to lie back and sleep then I realised the floor was damp. He’d been sick on my head. I had to walk a mile to find a stream to wash my hair. When I got back, Paddy was standing outside the tent in his purple Y-fronts. Standing around him was a circle of Greek soldiers with machine-guns. Their captain gestured that we should pack up and leave. He could speak a little Italian, same as me, so I was able to find out why his men were here. There was a threat of invasion from Turkey so they were mining the beach. “No camp,” he said and that’s been my motto ever since.
Moved to get fit
Two of my favourite people just moved into one of the flats below ours. George and Pauline Kerr run the Club, probably the friendliest, most relaxed gym in Edinburgh and they’re my new neighbours so I’m going to have start looking a little sportier. Maybe put on a pair of trainers or something. The only time I did manage to shed a stone was when Pauline showed me how to get fit. I’ll be chapping her door again soon.
My ginger nut can’t stand heat
I am a ginger. I have a Justice For Gingers T-shirt. I call fizzy juice “ginger”. I put ginger in my smoothies and eat ginger with my sushi. Gingers are the master race. We have more fun than blondes. We get freckles in the sunshine and freckles are so damn cute it beats me why there aren’t freckling salons and why girls don’t get fake-freckles instead of fake tans.
Because I’m ginger, my best mate calls me Jamheid, which I love. It reminds me that his nickname is Helmutheid because of the coal-scuttle haircut he had at school. It also reminds me that all his jet-black hair has now fallen out. Ginger baldies are few and far between.
On a Mediterranean beach you can see a proper ginger a mile away, thanks to our milky-white skin. We like to accentuate our pale uniqueness with lashings of Factor 30. Gingers cannot understand the rest of the world’s preoccupation with lying in the sun turning brown like a leathery old lizard. Do you really want to look like one of those losers on The Only Way Is Essex? Gingers are resilient too. Years of abuse like “ginger heid, carrot nose, pull the plug and away he/she goes” means we are tough and able to take care of ourselves. Is it true that gingers are hot-tempered? How DARE you even ask such a personal question? Do you want some? DO YOU?
After years of research, it turns out that gingers have only one weakness. We can’t stand heat. This is why there are so many of us in Scotland and Ireland where summer is over in three days. Yes, we have pavement tables outside most of our cafes and restaurants now. But if you’re a French or Spanish couple just off a cruise ship docked at Leith, don’t be fooled. We had zero al fresco dining places until the smoking ban came in. You may see some brave natives gorging themselves on plateaux de fruit de mer washed down with chilled rosé on the Shore. They’re not living the dream, mon ami. They are living a lie. The food and wine are an expensive pretext. Those Ray-Bans on their red faces are there merely to keep Embassy Regal smoke out of their eyes once the plates are cleared and the carafe is empty.
The only truly happy souls at those cafe tables are the gingers. Our ideal ambient summer temperature is around 15C. It is for this reason that I am dreading my impending visit to Budapest. It is the most beautiful capital city in Europe. It has the best music festival. The best architecture. The coolest/hottest outdoor spas. The funkiest bars. And the most beautiful women. But oh, the suffocating, eye-melting, tarmac-bubbling heat!
Last week, temperatures hit 37C. This was followed by a biblical downpour. The roads turned into rivers. The cars turned into boats. And the down escalators in the Metro became waterfalls. This brought the temperature down to a tolerable 17C – for one day. Now it’s back up to 30 and rising.
I am inadequately wardrobed. I have just one pair of cream linen trousers to drop chilli sauce on. I cannot abide flip-flops unless they are Reef flip-flops which have a beer opener in the heel but cost 70 quid. I am not a fan of fans. They simply circulate the hot air. Even my better half who is Hungarian, cannot sleep unless she has a cold wet towel on top of her nightie.
My only consolation during this hellish holiday will be the fact that
I AM GINGER!