A humorous look at the Brits on holiday (title contributed by "the bloke in the tent next door")
Miserable weather is something we Brits have learned to cope with. We have to. Apart from rainforest, we get more rainy days than virtually any other country. Sure, we get more sunny days than rainy ones, but we don't quite know what to do with ourselves on those. Either we burn or we hide in fear.
In fact, virtually any weather can bring the country to a standstill. Rain floods the roads, snow makes them lethal, and sun fills them to overflowing with opportunist holiday makers. But as ever, we can trust rain to be the predominant feature of any planned holiday.
The West coast of Britain is lush and beautiful, making it a favoured destination for many. But most forget that it is that way for a reason. The Atlantic donates a great deal of water to the clouds. Whatever Ireland fails to remove, the mountains of the West British coast grab hold of and hurl into the valleys, directly onto whatever campsite has been carefully selected for this season's holiday. It is well rehearsed and well known, but we all feel that it is a personal insult that we should complain about by any means at our disposal.
Ever wishing for the tourists to return, probably to laugh at them once more, wherever you are, the locals are always quick to come out with lines like; "It's been lovely until just before you arrived", "It's not normally like this" or "Well, it is the rainy season ... in the middle of August!". And they feel the need to goad you with pictures that prove that the sun does sometimes shine, just not whenever you are there.
Well, we chose Cumbria, and the beauty of the Lake District, where the tallest mountains in England drop into the longest, largest and deepest lakes. As we left, Wales was just recovering from the after effects of a Florida destroying hurricane. However, as we found out to our cost, in Cumbria, not only does it rain more, but it rains even more than that.
In Cumbria, the weather taunts you. If the sunshine makes you think it will stay sunny, it throws a sudden rainstorm at you, just to remind you that you are not the one in control.
We've taken to washing up far too regularly. The washing room is the warmest and driest place available on the site. No-one here bothers to shower now. 40 shower cubicles are all empty. People stand outside their tents, put various cleansing ointments on themselves and let the rainfall do its job. Those who brave the real showers trudge through so much mud to get back to their tents that they immediately turn round and go back to the shower again. Lather, Rinse and Repeat as needed ...
Since we were in the lake district, we decided to go boating on one of the lakes. We hired a small motor boat (with a cabin for when it rains) and began trying to catch the wake of the speedboats. As we were turning to head back to the marina, a severely heavy rainstorm hit. The surface of the lake became a silver shimmer, with the raindrops dancing over it. The coast and surrounding mountains all disappeared, and the darkness swept over us.
Annoyed at not having a camera with me, I bought a disposable camera when we returned to shore, and waited for the rest of the day for the next rainstorm to hit. After several hours, it finally arrived. I ran to the end of the jetty, and lay down in the pouring rain, taking pictures. Some holiday makers, refusing to be deterred, were still hiring out rowing boats and attempting to row. After just five minutes, I was totally soaked but satisfied.
A local village got swept away, my clothes were carrying more water than a bathtub, but people were still determined to enjoy the lakes the way that lakes are meant to be enjoyed; gently rowing your loved ones around so that you can all appreciate the beauty of nature together.
OMG, some people can snore!
We picked a relatively dry day to head over to the neighbouring Northern Dales National Park to visit the White Scar Caves. Our daughter is obsessed with them, and the show caves are a safe way to introduce her to them. The water would be powerful, but we could enjoy it from a safe distance.
At the ticket desk, they told us that my 2½ year old daughter was too young, as the water levels were too high. As a serious caver with over 12 years experience, training other cavers for the last 10, I have never felt so patronised. What did they think would happen? The sound of the water would scare her to death? That I would sue them for irreparable mental damage? Sorry Americans, but this sue-your-friend-for-farting culture you have exported to us really sucks. And please don't sue me for saying that.
Well, suffice to say, I could not let her down, so we headed to the Long Churn "real cavers" caves. She could walk through the dry passages, and happily tell me about the thundering river flowing through the stream passages beside us.
Since we were in the area, we decided to visit the immense dry waterfall of Malham Cove, and the equally immense triple waterfalls of Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss. The whole area was alive, with water bursting out of the ground everywhere you looked. Half of the local campsite had all-but disappeared under floodwater, but ever undaunted, the visitor centre was reporting record business. You just cannot stop the Brits going on holiday.
Standing in the shelter of the campsite toilet block, staring at the small area of torrential rain being lit up by the night-time lighting.
A shape appeared out of the gaps between the raindrops, protected only by a child's "Harry Potter" umbrella. It covered just his head and shoulders, pouring all of the water down his back.
With a slightly sarcastic smile, he shook it off and said "Never known Harry Potter to be so useful". "Pity you can't magic it a little bigger", I replied.
"Good old England, eh? We're from Wales, and they say it rains there, but I've never seen so much". In fact, even having witnessed a Nepalese monsoon, I doubt it was as bad. "Been here since Sunday, it hasn't stopped since". "Same as us" he said. Then half asking, half stating "Still staying here though". "Of course", I said firmly, "We're British!".
There is always one camping casualty. It's tradition. On our last holiday it was a - dare I say; attractive - student. Her tent was looking very sorry for itself. The single pole was clearly broken, and several pegs were missing, some replaced by bamboo sticks. Add the rain, and there was no way she would be able to sleep in it.
Some of the other campers (having watched her struggle with it for hours) told us that she had been loaned the tent by her sister to do a week's coastal walk, without the pole and most of the pegs. She had no transport and had walked to the pub feeling miserable. Since we all came from the same city, they were going to leave their beach tent pole for her, which she could return later. We had broken one pole from our beach tent and were going to throw it away.
Instead, I fitted the remaining pole to her tent, and sorted out her pegs. When she returned, she was so thankful that if my wife had not been there, it could well have been a chance to get lucky. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions from that.
On this holiday, we returned to find this holiday's casualties. One of the neighbouring tents was now under six inches of water. I would help them to move it once they returned. As it happened, they were already in the tent, and were staying put, in the water. After all, what's six inches between friends?
A second tent (whose owners, incidentally, failed to heed my warning) suffered the same fate, and the whole micro-community mucked in together to pull them free of the rising sludge.
Passing the time by sadistically cursing the new arrivals; "You may be laughing now, but you wait. In a few days, you will be as miserable as the rest of us. Your clothes will all have turned to brown goop from walking across the field. That peg you put in parallel to the guy rope instead of perpendicular to it will pop out. That 'firm ground' you put your tent on is actually an overflow channel for the stream, but you are noisy, and I have decided that I don't like you already, so I'm not going to tell you, am I?!"
So as I, the Chef, sit here and sip on my Pot Noodle, I ask you; who here is living like a king? I will say it is me, once the rain clears enough for me to inhale ...
Thankyou Cumbria, thankyou.
And yes, that is what we in Britain call 'sarcasm'.