Tuesday 17 September 2019

Heading for the backwoods

By David Medcalf

Deep down, you could say that I am a real backwoods man, hewn from leathery pioneering stock.

Strip away the quilted Oriental smoking jacket and the Brown Thomas slippers to reveal a model of out-in-the-jungle self-sufficiency. Knock aside the Waterford crystal whiskey tumbler to find an intrepid explorer, at home where the horizon is broadest and the wilderness wildest.

Be advised that no two sticks are safe when I am around, ever keen to rub them together and stoke up the old campfire. I will tell you tales of how the constellations twinkling above our heads got their names as we pass the billy-can of moonshine around our companionable circle of desperadoes. I will trap a rabbit with my bare hands and skin it in less than two minutes, ready for the pot. I will navigate my way across featureless mountainside…

Yes, Hermione, dearest, most luminous, adventure loving Hermione, has confirmed that we shall once more go camping. The family outing under canvas to the lakes of Killarney last year was deemed a success by all involved. This summer the plan is that we shall pitch our trusty tent somewhere coastal, venturing to the seaside near Tramore.

Ah! I hear a call of the wild, a summons to the wide blue yonder.

Eldrick and Persephone have a tendency to respond 'no' or even 'no way' whenever plans are tabled to drag them from the comforts of home. But selling this particular expedition to often reluctant offspring has not proven a problem. It seems they are at heart real chips off the old outdoor loving block.

Our teenagers proved keen to link up with cousins who will also be tangling with guy ropes and sleeping in bags at the County Waterford resort. Once Eldrick was assured that Wi-Fi is available at the campsite and once young Persephone received a promise that no rabbits will be killed or injured in the course of the excursion, the holiday was given an enthusiastic green light.

Hermione informed me that she has hidden the old billy can, knocking moonshine is off the menu. She also advised that my two sticks will not be required as she has taken the liberty of purchasing a portable gas stove. So there will be no cooking of game on the spit over a pile of glowing embers. Still, yarns about the stars above our un-roofed heads will surely remain in order. And I may smuggle a few cans of rough and ready beer into the boot of the old jalopy for the trip.

Then Hermione dropped the bombshell: 'By the way, I have invited my mother to join us.'

Her Majesty in a tent? This surely cannot be.

This must inevitably mean that there will be no room in the car for beer, no room for anything much. If the mother-in-law is coming to Tramore, then I expect that all available space will be given over to the royal paraphernalia.The royal parasol. The royal chair. The royal barrel of fortified wine. The royal porcelain dinner service. The royal walnuts to be passed around after dinner. I hate walnuts, though I have never had the nerve to mention this to Her Majesty.

What was originally conceived as a casual outing into the countryside is likely to have all the spontaneity of a State funeral. When HM comes to visit, the red carpet is rolled out. We will have to transport the red carpet in a roof box.

Given notice of her arrival, Medders Manor must be polished in advance to the point that the children and I don elaborate sunglasses to combat the glare. The place assumes the air of an Elton John fans convention. We may presume that she will expect similar standards of comfort and hygiene while on the road. We shall have to explain to her that air-beds do not come in four-poster format.

But what comes here?

The royal Cinquecento has pulled up the drive and the Her Majesty has emerged - Her Majesty as we have never seen her before. Gone is the twin set to be replaced by khaki leggings and a Bear Grylls tee-shirt, with matching bandana. In her hand is a lethal looking hunting knife and on her lips a Tarzan yell.

I never doubted her for a moment.

Wexford People

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