Inconceivable though it may seem, I have secretly been harbouring a desire to go camping. Naturally, you may chuckle at the idea of Gamine going camping, as has everybody else I have probed on the subject. The reason, of course, being that it would seem to be an aesthetic impossibility. However, my qualms are not with the countryside, no, I am simply too sensitive for the usual nylon, polyester, Goretex and synthetic fleecing, (though I have no objection to rubber).
However, four years ago, outside an apartment block on the Rue Blanche, somebody abandoned a bundle of interesting apparel: a nineteenth-century chinoiserie embroidery, an immaculate crocodile-skin handbag and a convertible camel-coloured sleeping-bag, with what can only be an ostrich feather lining. These things I kept as a souvenir, and the sleeping-bag has been transported from home to home along with the romantic notion that I may one day go camping.
Other equipment found its way to me in a similar fashion, a Regency copper kettle, an azure blue, double Calor-gas stove, a brilliantly-striped set of iron chairs, which miraculously fold into their own table, which itself has a handle, thereby disguising it as a rather cumbersome briefcase. These I have surreptitiously hidden away in a secret compartment in the boot of my Series 1 Jag.
Since then, I have approached, in confidence, a number of discerning friends concerning the conundrum of where a suitable tent might be purchased. Disappointingly, they all gave directions to various camping outlets failing to recognise the fact that I haven't shopped in shops for years. Oh, I have tried, of course. (Although my wardrobe is flawless I still have urges, as is only natural in a girl, for the thrill of acquisition. When this lust has taken hold of me, in acts of desperation I have now and then ventured out to ordinary shops, but the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré is relentlessly feeble, there is never a thing on Fifth, and Bond Street is a bore.) So the last place I would look for a tent would be a camping shop.
Ordinarily, if one is Gamine, whatever whim or trifle takes one's fancy is handed to one on a plateau. Nothing had ever been so hard to get and, although it is unladylike, I began to get rather impatient. What I desired was an archetypal bell tent, the kind our young men took to war with them in '38, the sort that The Famous Five would have erected upon a mossy knoll in '53 or that Julie Christie might have canoodled in with Terence Stamp in the early sixties. Apparently, these existed solely in my mind, and in reality had all rotted away, to be replaced with the lightweight, nylon sacks we call tents today. I had even considered commissioning Christo to create something that, if not ideal, was at least functional. Divine intervention is the method I normally rely upon for solving quandaries, but it was nowhere to be seen. How my faith floundered. And how, after today, ashamed I am to admit it. For, as I strolled along a perfectly disreputable street in my neighbourhood this morning, resting atop the hull and debris of a skip was an army-green oblong bag which was unmistakably containing my tent.
Upon shaking out the contents at home, the wondrous emerald hue of faded canvas emerged. When it was held out, it had that sublime, mystical, bell silhouette which represents 'tent' in the European psyche. Already feeling blessed, I looked closer at the label stitched to a corner and it read 'The Nelson' (Nelson being, of course, my faithful bodyguard and poodle). The pathos of this event, dear readers, is clear, I hope. Without wanting to turn this happy anecdote into a homily, however, never lose faith and never enter a chain-store with the belief it contains the stuff of one's dreams because it cannot.
Understandably you will now be expecting extracts from Gamine Goes Camping. Not ones to disappoint, we shall record the entire thing on Super-8 for your delight, my dears.
Now, please excuse me, I must start packing.....