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Mad about our family camping
Sometimes life flashes before you like the opening scene of an episode of Casualty.
Disaster is imminent and you’re holding your breath waiting for the gruesome incident.
Saturday night was our annual family camp out at Casa Rees. Being from a family large enough to match every European football team in the World Cup, there are few opportunities to get together in the same space, and so once a year we organise a camp out in our back garden.
A small piece of Essex comes to Henley and for 36 hours organised chaos reigns supreme.
Preparation for the mini-festival started weeks ago with the stockpiling of bunting, fairy lights, garden decorations and general party paraphernalia and thanks to our local Scout group we had a beautiful blue canvas mess tent as the HQ for what has become affectionately known as Mad Camp.
With numbers approaching a half century, we called in all manner of favours to get our hands on enough tables, chairs and glasses and warned anyone living within a 500-yard radius that they may want to consider a weekend away if they needed a good night’s sleep.
Feeding the troops for the camp is no mean feat and if it is possible to own shares in Tesco, I would have trebled their value by stocking up on burgers, sausages and bread rolls and enough tomato ketchup to sink a ship. As the cars arrived, spilling out my Essex homies by the dozen, the excitement mounted.
Kids were feral within seconds as shoes and clothes were cast off into the nearest bushes. The men stood around looking bemused at a big pile of tent poles until the sisters took over and sorted it and the tents were habitable. Just. After an afternoon of sports races culminating in an egg throwing competition, which was always going to be messy, and a newly invented game of five-a-side tennis.
We barbecued the meat section of Tesco and set about building a camp fire in an adjacent field, which having been freshly mown, was covered in a lovely layer of bone dry grass. Cue the scene from casualty. Thank goodness we narrowly managed to avoid inviting the South Oxfordshire fire service, and toast a few marshmallows in the process.
My health and safety brother-in-law took control and we managed to save burning down a small piece of countryside and solve the problem of what to do with the grass cuttings in the process.
By midnight, enthusiasm was still going strong and with a large boy contingent, we watched the sugar- fuelled children charge around the garden with Nerf guns in manoeuvres that would put the armed services to shame.
One small child was found asleep in a flower bed and several grubby toddlers could be seen sporting the traditional Wells family full-to-bursting nappy. With children collapsed exhausted in whichever tent they dropped, we soon discovered who snores. Between that and being woken at dawn by a bunch of crows wanting to join in the party, not a great deal of sleep was had by anyone.
After a breakfast to rival any top hotel, clothes and shoes were tracked down and the huge tidy-up swung into action. No event like this could cope without my brilliant Mum who thankfully organised operation clean-up with utter admiration.
As Mad camp was dismantled and the date set for the 2015 rematch, we were all feeling the love as well as the need for a decent night’s sleep. Big families are the best, especially my lot. It’s crazy mad chaos but a whole lot of fun. Next year, I just need to work out how to top it. Cheers to the Essex Massif.