Well, I don’t think I’ve ever camped with more insane weather than the week we just spent at HESFES. The weather was largely responsible for the horrid bits. So, let’s get those out of the way.
The journey there!
This included the following:
Mighty rain storm that soaked Dani and Pearlie as they attempted London cycling.
Bike trailer mishap that slowed D and P in their ride to the campsite from Colchester. This involved diversion to bike shop and buying of bigger spanner!
Two more downpours, through which D and P rode on. Our astonishing P managed to cope with this and the fact that the wiggly route made the ride 16 miles long and the weather made it four hours!
My mobile phone dying unexpectedly at Colchester station – leaving me with only crappy pay phone as means of contacting D on the road.
Misunderstanding which led to friend going to wrong station to collect me and Leo. In the end I piled tired boy into cab and took that all the way to the campsite.
Saturday night I woke to horrendous rain, which was pouring through one of the tent doors. It was also threatening to overwhelm other parts of the tent. Kids were rolling about a lot (probably disturbed by weather) and I ended up sitting in the middle of everyone, crying and vowing never to camp again!
We spent a lot of money at the campsite shop in the morning, buying tape to seal one door, re-proofing spray to encourage the tent to actually repel rain, and lots of rope etc. We lashed our spare tarp (which was supposed to be covering the bikes!) over the tent on the windward side. This helped a lot during the rest of the week, when it continued to…
It rained every day, not continuously, but repeatedly. If someone says ‘showers’ you imagine little tinkly rain, yes? Well, this was big, ploppy rain that could form a little river and flow under your tent door in a moment. Or, it could soak a child’s hoody, or the towel you’d left ‘drying’ on the guy rope. Even better, it could appear just as you crouched over your little camping cooker trying to coax it into boiling water for tea.
Yes, crazy, rattling, tent-felling wind. Our little tent survived, partly as it was surrounded by larger tents, but many people had bowing tent roofs and walls. The last night was scary. I had a wonderfully vivid dream about stupidly bedding down with the kids in a room in a condemned house that was actually falling off the side of the building.
Lack of sleep
See above. There is enough room in a three person tent for all four of us, but not when wind and rain are disturbing everyone. I also developed a ‘don’t touch the sides’ obsession and so would wake in the night to move people’s feet!
The bike trailer
This had a problem on the way (solved) and another on the way back (as yet, unsolved), which meant we had to walk the bikes and trailer through London on the way home. In the end it felt like we had three big, annoying, wheeled bits of luggage, rather than the slick people and gear moving system we’d started out with…
But that is more than enough moaning.
Here are the very, very good bits.
Numerous people helped us over the week. We had an offer of sleeping space in another tent, which we didn’t need in the end, but which made me feel that staying and trying was possible. Leo’s scooter was carried there and back by another friend, which meant he had a vehicle, which he enjoyed a lot. Someone took P’s bike to Colchester station for us, which meant we could all cab it to the station on the return journey (D’s bike folds) and so got home at a reasonable hour.
HESFES vibe and hanging out…
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this, but it was good. Yes, the teenagers do get drunk – but that is what I did at their age, and not in such a mutually supportive atmosphere. And, there was no nasty undertone of violence that you often get when people are hanging around drinking. There was a bit of annoying noise late at night, but they couldn’t really compete with the wind!
The kids were able to find their own level of independence and enjoy it. P spent a lot of time cycling about, finding good things to do. She found out who Andy was and asked if Duck Rock could appear in the children’s cabaret. She bought wool and knitted a scarf. She appeared at the tent with lovely weaving. She joined in with the music workshop and played in the end of week show. She also hung around with friends and watched teenagers doing crazy things, like making an exploding pepsi bottle by adding mentos!
Leo stayed closer to us – which was his own choice. He loved the swingball that someone had brought and got very good at using the scooter to balance and glide. He and I enjoyed bashing metal to make bowls. He was sad to find that there was no keyboard available for Duck Rock’s performance, but he rose to the challenge of singing instead! He’d had enough by the end of the week, but managed the journey home very well, considering how tired he was.
The children’s cabaret
This was one hell of a long night. We got the marquee at about 6.30pm and Duck Rock performed at 10.30pm. There were some really great acts – lots of variety. I enjoyed the whole thing and was heartened by the diversity – everything from poetry recitation to rock bands and little kids telling made up stories to gymnastics by girls in leotards. Good stuff!
Science breakfasts and an astronomy talk
Both of these had the (always pleasing) ingredients of people who are passionate about their subject and a willing audience. The astronomy guy kept saying things that seemed to contradict the science I was sure I’d been taught at school – so that was good for me. Dani particularly enjoyed some of the discussion at the science breakfasts that addressed science as a process and the development of ideas.
I always enjoy beaches – a place to get away from hustle and bustle. Leo would happily spend hours on any beach, especially one with dead crabs...
We managed to catch several sessions between us. I listened to Ian Dowty and was impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things home ed law related. I didn’t take notes, which I should have done, but was left with some useful snippets I didn’t know and some ideas to ponder.
Dani went to the session on the consultation, which was good. Hang on, little announcement needed:
Hey, People! Respond to the Consultation!
Singing round the campfire
I’m not hardy enough to find this enjoyable in the rain, so I missed most evenings, but I did enjoy one evening of singing. A woman with a spine tingling voice appeared out of the night, like an angel, sang ‘Maggie May’ and left. Who was this person??
The end of week show
This was great. P played the drum in the HESFES band, which had tens of members. They played and sang ‘The Wall’ and a new HESFES song, which included the immortal lyrics:
“We know the answer to two times two,
And we socialise fine, thank you!”
So, that’s the summary. It was a challenging week, but I’m very glad we went. We failed to take photos as the weather made it too hazardous to take the camera out of the plastic bag at the bottom of the rucksack, that was in a bin bag, under the spare groundsheet!