Now is the season for taking in some Nature, the time of year when resolutions to be more active are made, the weather is warmer and thoughts turn to the great outdoors and pursuits beyond the inbox such as tenting, hiking, swimming and sun-lounging. And ‘mindfulness’ − although I’m not entirely sure what that is. I think it means lying around reading a book and tuning out the annoying noises made by your loved ones, in which case I do it all the time. Feels nice.
By far the most popular form of nature appreciation in this country is camping. Just about everyone in New Zealand will have a faded Kodak snapshot of themselves standing skinny-kneed beside a caravan or beneath an awning, holding sharpened sticks or Swingball bats, wearing orange clothing and third degree sunburn. Nearby, drinking beer from a flagon and charcoaling something on the BBQ: your dad, clad in Stubbies that would be illegal now.
Idyllic as this sounds, despite its fashion crimes, there are some who simply do not like camping. People for whom it is not a holiday, but practise for the zombie apocalypse, a lot of hard work housing and feeding yourself in inclement conditions. This sort order their groceries online, fantasise about minibreaks at resorts featuring drinks with umbrellas. Clean sheets. Staff.
The economist sneers at this sort. He grew up with hard-core camping parents, on holidays that had much in common with multisport endurance events like the Coast to Coast (if they were catered by Bear Grylls), and child abuse. Comforts were considered sissy, pillows beyond the pale, and the family motto was ‘never go back the way you came’ − something he’s planning to include in his mother’s eulogy. “It’s the nothingness,” he says, Stockholm syndrome disguised as fond reminiscence, “it’s getting back to nature as God intended, leaving things behind. Camping’s a tradition in my family.” Well, duh, it was a tradition in everyone’s family, until they invented the house.
When we first started dating, the economist used camping as a Girlfriend Suitability Test. Thus I spent many a rainy night sleeping in the back of the station wagon, accidentally peeing on my foot in total darkness, eating cold food from a can (!), parked at various surfing spots the length and breadth of the East Coast. I passed with flying colours, of course, which just goes to show how handsome I thought he was.
However, times have changed, I no longer possess the rubbery spine of younger years and Maslow’s hierarchy must include, as well as self-actualisation, a Posturepedic mattress, hot showers and real coffee. Having suffered twigs in my hair, furry teeth and smoky clothing, I’ve decided being in the middle of nowhere is no good time. Want to escape reality for a few days? That’s what Netflix is for. Tents are harder to put up than self-assembly shelving units, it’s dirty and there are bugs. Know who doesn’t have face-eating spiders the size of your hand? The Langham.
Cooking on those little gas stoves is awful and something vital always falls in the sand/grass/pebbles, meaning you have to eat Nature, too. The woods might be lovely dark and deep but there’s always miles to go before you sleep − on the cold, hard, uncomfortable earth. Insult is added to injury by the dawn, which is extra dawn-y and so full of bird song you can’t sleep in. Worse, hipsters are always looking for places not yet spoilt by mainstream culture, so they’re all over nature with their novelty moustaches and man buns, collecting unwanted old plastic washing up bowls and making them fashionable. Sadly nature proves fatal to many: unable to check Google maps in the wilderness, they are found weeks later, clutching a modified electric typewriter, having fallen off their unicycle.
And this why women invented glamping. Glamping is camping feminine style; good food eaten under the stars, a bottle of wine and the prospect of a fabulous night’s sleep, why wouldn’t the idea catch on? Stolen by luxury tourism operators, its essential methodology remains: less stinkiness, more nice. Nature with vital amenities such as candles and pillows. “Pillows!” yells the economist, his PTSD kicking in.
“Look deep into nature,” said Albert Einstein, “and then you will understand everything better.” So it is that I have found the ultimate in nature appreciation. Glamping at its zenith. Windows, walls and doors, ready-stocked with a dart board and a stack of National Geographic’s from 1964, it is a place to watch nature from behind glass on wet days and pour wine into actual glasses. Rented, begged, bought or borrowed, I call it, ‘The Bach,’ − and it is here you will find me. I’ll be the one who doesn’t smell.