I’m so glad that the clocks have changed now and we have a bit of light in the evenings. I was beginning to get a bit grouchy and grumbly but I feel like my mood is beginning to lift now, and I’m really trying not to moan and complain. It’s a bad state of affairs when you get tired of listening to yourself complain, and so it was last week when I was in the midst of a bitter tirade about my (justifiable) hatred of “Harlem Shake” videos featuring middle-aged office staff gyrating, each one more wacky than the last, and the accompanying email that says “LOL, you’ll love this” from a friend that really ought to know me better than to not just think that I would love something so utterly repellent but additionally to use the term “LOL” in any correspondence with me, that the revelation hit me. I am becoming middle aged.
Middle age sort of sneaks up on you. It taps you on the shoulder when you are kicking off your stilettoes with a sigh of relief and taking the flat shoes out of your handbag. It sniggers when you decline a coffee because you “don’t want to be up too late” and don’t go to festivals anymore because you can’t bear the thought of camping. It laughs and points at you when you book a cruise holiday.
Okay, so I’m not actually at the stage of booking a cruise holiday. But it has to be said, I really do despise camping. My husband’s family all absolutely love it, and inevitably when we all get together they will try to encourage me to join in with the camping fun. Knowing how much I love good food, they often try to lure me to go camping by trying to tap into my passion, which usually involves making bold statements like “You know Steph, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been round the campfire” and “You haven’t tasted sausages and beans until you’ve had them cooked on a camping stove”. Fortunately politeness also comes with middle age otherwise I would point out that neither of these statements is even remotely true, and tactics like this are nowhere near conniving enough to get a dedicated opponent of camping culture to even contemplate sleeping in a tent never mind sample the world’s best sausages and beans from a plastic bowl with a spork.
Another twist on camping that I really loathe is the way that the more devious camping enthusiasts will try to sell it to me in a different form that they believe makes it less repulsive to non-believers. This sub-genre is referred to as “glamping” – the ingenious merging of the two mutually exclusive concepts of glamour and camping. I didn’t buy it for a second – nonetheless I politely enquired what was involved. It seems that “glamping” involves shoving an awful lot more stuff into your vehicle including camp beds instead of roll mats and foldaway chairs that are “as comfortable as an armchair” (another lie). Basically glamping sounded exactly the same as camping except considerably more expensive and backbreaking. And despite my hatred of normal camping, I feel there is an honesty about it in that you know exactly what you are signing up for rather than unfolding the world’s most comfortable chair to realise it is nowhere near as comfortable as your sofa at home and in the absence of a widescreen TV there isn’t even anything to point it at.
Anyway. I have managed to get out of the annual camping trip for quite a few years now so I have reluctantly accepted that there will be camping in my future. And in the interest of trying not to grumble anymore (I can see the irony in that, reading this back) I have made the decision to at least give the illusion of embracing it. Or rather, open some wine on arrival, buckle down and pray for daylight. So I have been wondering what would be the best wine to accompany my camping trip.
Back when I started buying wine, one of the major supermarket chains had recently brought out a selection of wines labelled “Great with…” Not having much of a clue about wine, myself and fellow students gravitated towards them. “Great with pasta”, “Great with chicken”, etc. And you know what, for approximately £4, they really were pretty great on a student budget, and they suited the food well enough. I know it was just a gimmick and I don’t think they even exist anymore but these were useful wines. With my camping dread in mind, I wondered whether there might be a natural extension to this range that took into consideration not just food, but also activities?
My “Great with camping” wine would work on so many levels. My fellow campers would have it with their sausages and beans and happily remark that “it really does go with camping” while I troughed sufficient quantities that I would forget my surroundings and ensure a relatively pleasant drunken night’s sleep on the dreaded camp bed.
But this could be just the tip of the iceberg – there are all sorts of other social occasions that people hate that could be enhanced by a carefully-selected wine that naturally compliments it. “Great with pantomime”. “Great with the school nativity”. “Great with the hen party of someone you barely know who will be strangely offended if you don’t attend”. And so on. Maybe this could be extended even further and the wines could accompany emotions… “Great with remorse”, “Great with existentialist angst”, etc.
I haven’t developed the idea any further since this initial brainwave, so I haven’t given much thought to what the contents of the bottle would be. But the idea cheered me up quite a bit so instead of trepidation and a sense of impending doom, I’m going to approach my camping trip with good humour, proper cutlery and wine glasses, and a mixed case of very strong Zinfandel…