The long week-end would inevitably start by packing the van and go camping. We have most of our photo albums packed with camping shots. We finally got it down to an art form. In the days when our children were young, camping was big. Especially down and up from Sydney. The bush was still bush and it wasn’t till caravan parks started to spruik up that camping was pushed in the background and bush-camping lost its charm. Now camping grounds are controlled and camper vans and caravans are parked neck-on neck. It is like going to the local Drive- In of yesteryears. Watch Quo Vadis with a 2 kilo pack of pop-corn. The kids and mum dressed in pyjamas, ready to hit the sack after driving home.
This week-end we had the grandsons staying with us after mum had them all week. School Holidays used to be the worst time for mothers, the stuff of nightmares. Now, of course with the average family of 1.9 children it should be a much easier ride for mums. But is it? Sipping a coffee with our grand-kids yesterday I noticed the grimly-faced mums walking the Bowral streets with kids in tow. There was an air of resignation but also of a hope springing eternally. Another couple of days and all will be back at school. Order again, and bored kids getting what they deserve, an education.
In the fifties and sixties camping shops were big business and tents used to be put up on show. Parramatta road had huge camping shops and one would go there as an outing, feel inspired by stakes, axes, pocket knives, foldable water containers and mouth watering port-a-loos. Tents were made above those shops by Hungarian experts or strongly calved ex Austrian mountaineers. We loved camping and used to hack away the Lantana to clear a spot for our tents. With bush-saws we would cut a dead tree and sit around the camp-fire drinking cheap hot wine spiced with cloves. The headaches next morning were legendary and have till now never been surpassed.
All this has changed. On the highways enormous double bogey vans are being pulled along by equally enormous multi storey vans. There are air-condition units on top and at the back of the van. At times a smaller car is being towed along and multi layers of canoes with mountain-bikes strapped on top. I am not sure but I suspect that multi electronic devices are being held by those that are not driving. The selfie sticks at the ready and even while driving, images and selfies are instantly being beamed around the world by the kids sitting on the lower deck of the SUV.
Our camping days are over and I could not imagine crawling out of a tent with a bad headache and then having to cook porridge on a dead fire. This week-end no camping, instead I got up early and prepared the pan-cake mixture with the butter milk bought the previous day. It is the least I could do and the kids love it more than camping. Things have changed.
After a few days with us and before the mother came to pick them up I had promised them a bit of a gourmet supper. Apart from pancakes, the kids have also been, by sound grandparental grooming, encouraged into liking sea-food. If there is one thing I wanted achieved, is for them to enjoy the delights of herrings and mussels. Even during the grimmest of times, a good herring or bowl of steaming mussels would pull me through during the blight of my suburban youth! It does no harm to kids and is as good as camping. I bought two kilos of mussels and after steaming them up in some white wine, crushed tomatoes and lots of garlic, were consumed by a fervour not even experienced during their much earlier discovery of the I-Phone.
It was a great week-end. One of the best really.