Part 1 found here
So there we were, The FH and I, camping. Sat outside our little blue tent, talking about what a good team we were and how well we put the tent up.
"Yeah we didn't need to do a practice run like it suggested" he said
"Actually when I was reading the instructions, it said we only needed to do that so we would be prepared to put up, and dismantle, the tent in "adverse conditions", I think we're safe in North Yorkshire in August” I chuckled.
When Little O woke, stiff and confused, I took him off to the play area. Our tent was pitched nearest to the woodland and the whole site was on a hill, with the campsite shop at the top and us, the play area and a few other pitches sat on the bottom rung. It took us minutes to get to the play area. I sat in the background, whilst O mingled with the campsite riff raff "Ya got any brothers like?" a boy, claiming to be three, but who was head and shoulders bigger than O, asked him.
"I have a brother, who is asleep in the car, and another brother in my Mummy's tummy who makes her tired and slow"
That was pretty much the end of that conversation.
Meanwhile, lots of little flies were using my forehead as target practice. The adventure play area was nestled in amongst the woods and it seemed to be midge paradise. I sat it out as long as I could, but started to get the uncomfortable itch that midges create. "Come on Little O we've got to go" I said removing the flies from eye sockets as if were mascara goop.
"There are loads of midges over at the play area." I said to The FH as we returned to find him swatting the air around his head.
"There are lots here too" he said, slapping his arm and then his leg.
"Ooh dear. I'm sure they'll calm down in a bit."
Next thing I know, I’ve lost all self-control and I’m fleeing from the inside of tent. “Look in there; it’s infested!”
"Fuck me - where'd they come from?" The FH panted, running from the tent and then diving into the car, he emerged with a canister of... Dettol.
"It''s all we've got" he explained to my puzzled face. "I'm going in"
Five minutes late, he emerged, coughing, spluttering and swatting his shaven head, whilst zipping the tent firmly closed.
"Gone?" I asked.
"Well I don’t think they liked it. They are even dead or very clean. Shit! Now I'm getting bitten to death out here!.
"I'm OK" I said, as I watched him swat the air with one hand and slap his ankle with the other.
"Really?" he asked taking in how tightly I had tied my hoody around my face and how I had put a pair of leggings on under my dress. "Because they are really getting on my nerves" he continued through gritted teeth and swatting hands "and to be honest, I’m already wondering if I can stay"
"Oh come on” I scoffed “You get midges on most campsites." While I said this I was trying my damnedest not to show that I felt like I had ants crawling on every part of my body
"What about the kids?" he asked.
I looked across at Little O and Fearless, who had been playing catch, only pausing occasionally to pull at their ears and scratch their heads.
"I think they're handling it better than us" I said. Then suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to itch and peel all my clothes off I spied the washing up bowl full of dirty dishes. Craving the protection of stone walls and a sealed door, I made a run for them "I'm just going to do the washing up" I said over my shoulder, picking up the pace.
"Not so fast" The FH butted in, grabbing a child under each arm and following me, who in turn, was followed by a dark cloud of flies who had picked up his scent.
"Quick shut the door" he said as we all clambered in on top of each other. "Is it shut tight?"
"Yes it's shut"
We stood there, panting, scratching and sighing. "Ooh it's nice in here" I said.
"Great, shall we stay in the utility room all night?" he asked, sarcasm dripping from his lips.
"So what do you suggest we do? Pack up and go home because of midges? - We'll never hear the end of it." I was sure the threat of humiliation would help him to man up.
We washed the dishes. Little O helped dry and Fearless destroyed the utility room waste bin. We made a plan. The FH was to go to the campsite shop and ask the campsite manager for some advice and then buy whatever products he had on offer. We would then have something to eat and head back to the coast for the evening. Then, on returning to the campsite we would hope for either the wind to have picked up, or the temperature to have dropped, and the vicious midges to have retreated back to their stagnant bog of breeding.
He paused before opening the door "Ready?" he asked.
And then when I pushed him out said "Will you be ok?"
"It's only some tiny little flies" I replied arrogantly.
When he got back from the shop he found the three of us locked inside the car watching Toy Story on the portable DVD players.
"Shut the door! Shut the door!" I screamed when he climbed him. "Oh you've let some in" I sighed.
"Just some little flies eh?"
"They're not flies, they're devil spawn"
"I don't like them flies" Little O piped up from the back seat, trying to swat the ones on the car ceiling with his wooden sword. "I'm gonna kill them with my sword"
"Well I got this..." The FH brandished a can of fly spray.
"Is that it?"
"He said he had some really good stuff, but it was 7 quid a tube and when I asked him if it could be used on pregnant women or children under 5 he just shrugged."
So there we were, the four of us, camping, locked in-side our own car, with a can of fly spray as a weapon.
I looked around, fellow campers were sat outside their tents, the student campers were having a game of footy, and children, with exposed flesh, we're playing a board game on the grass. "Is it just me, or do we seem to be the only people who are bothered by them?"
"I know I was thinking that" said The FH scanning the campsite. "And you know, up at the shop, I didn't notice them at all"
"Right let's stick to the original plan. The kids can stay in here, I'll make their dinner. We can grab a sandwich on our way out. You spray. "
We fastened our hoodies around our foreheads in synchronization, The FH grabbed the fly spray and together, we ran from the car towards the tent.
There were more.
The FH disappeared inside the tent. I grabbed a tin of ravioli, some bread and cheese and started cooking. I was crouched over the stove, hands swatting around my face, trying to spot if any of the little blighters had opted for a dip in the orange goop. It was one of those moments, as a parent, where you think "you know what, if they eat a midge, it won't kill them". As The FH emerged from the tent, for the second time, coughing, spluttering and slapping his arms and legs, dinner was ready to be served. I decided to head further up the hill to eat; blanket under arm, a plate of gourmet delight (tinned ravioli and cheese sandwiches) in each hand and two little hungry boys at my heals.
I found a spot, put the blanket on the grass and sat them down. I tried to spoon-feed Fearless, but he was having none of it and insisted on grabbing the ravioli squares by hand. I ran back to the tent for some kitchen roll and returned, breathless, and... SCREAMED! The FH came running over and where once our second, blonde-haired, angelic faced child had been was now an orange faced child with a head full of black flies. He was crying and slapping is orange gooped hands around is face in irritation. Meanwhile, his elder brother was sat on the floor, swatting the air above his head crying "They're 'fusing me. They won't let me eat my dinner."
I grabbed Fearless and a towel and ran to the wash room. The FH put Little O in the car, with his remaining plate of ravioli, telling him “Don't worry if you make a mess, your grandparents will understand".
When I returned with a clean, towel robed, still screaming, Fearless, I asked The FH to look at his face. He looked like he had chicken pox, his sun kissed skin was covered in red spots where the little suckers had had a field day.
"Get him in the car. Let's get this tent down. We're going."
So operation dismantle began. The well-oiled team sprang into action. He dived into the tent, whilst I stood outside waiting for instructions. He returned with all the sleeping bags and their sleeves and asked me to put them away. He then disappeared back inside the tent. Next the air beds came flying out the door. I guessed I was in charge of deflating them as well. So I sat on the floor, rolling sleeping bags and using my underestimated brute force to manipulate them into their sleeves. All the time, the mist of midges surrounding me seemed to be increasing. The FH came out "Are you alright?"
"There in my eyes. MY EYES!” as I spoke, to distressed to cry, I spat soggy midges from my mouth.
"It’s horrible, fucking horrible" he said, dancing around the tent, pulling pegs from the ground as if they were blades of grass.
I pulled the last draw string on the sleeping bag and sighed. Right. Air beds. I had the slight problem of trying to use the car pump to deflate them without letting any of the little bastards into the car. But I managed to create just enough of an opening in the window and sat deflating the beds, whilst standing as a force to be reckoned with in front of the window gap. My children were in there. The midges would have to eat their way through me first.
The car air pump does a very good job of deflating, but there is only one way to get the last bit of air out - squash it out! This entailed me folding the air beds into a square shape and lying on top of them. I was aware of how ridiculous I looked. I had my hood tied like a Inuit, I was sporting a 5 month pregnancy bump that rivaled most 7 month pregnancy bumps and I was lying face down, doing the caterpillar (or worm if you prefer) on top of a deflating air bed. I looked up to see The FH, creased in laughter as he dismantled the tent, also sporting the Inuit look. I was pulling midges from my eye sockets, my nose, my ears and my mouth. I heard laughter behind me and look to see the students are happily kicking a ball to one another, can of beer in hand. "What is wrong with you?" I scream in their direction "Who are you? Deet Robots!"
They didn’t respond. Deet robots rarely do.
Airbeds - done! The FH threw them into the boot, along with the rest of our stuff. There was no time for placing equipment and sensible packing. Open the boot, throw them in and slam it shut!
The final task was to get the tent and all its fiddly components in the tent bag and zip up the bag. This was a two man job...
So there we were, The FH and I, dressed like Inuits, in August, lay on top of a tent bag, trying to zip the fucker up! A cloud of flies were hovering around our heads, every other second one, with a sharp set of gnashers, dived in to take a bite at our exposed cheeks and hands.
"This is like horror movie" The FH said, between grunts. Then surveying the campsite "But we're the only ones in it."
"What’s going on? How can they not be bothered?" I gasped
"It must be some sort of initiation. You know 'cos we're new" he laughed.
"Oh yeah. They'll all be laughing at us. Look at the newbies, running away from the midges" I started giggling, we were on the verge of hysteria. "Yeah - take your midget windbreak with you, you amateurs."
“Seriously though” he asked “What have they done - bathed in Deet for a week before they got here?"
The zip wouldn't budge; the hook was caught on the inner tent. If we pulled it, either way, it was going to rip and our little blue tent would be ruined. We looked around the campsite, which was carrying on as normal; no swatting, no panic, no discomfort.
"This place is weird. Something's not right. Fuck the tent." he said picking it up and chucking in in the boot "We're not staying here another second"
We got in the car, fastened our seat belts, and looked round at the boys, contently watching their DVD, their faces dotted with red spots. The FH started the engine.
"Well I guess we can tick off dismantling a tent in adverse weather conditions" I said as I closed my eyes, tipped my head back and sighed with relief. Slowly, I opened my eyes and saw the black mist that was clinging to the car ceiling.
"Don't. Look. Up “I whispered.
"Arrgggh" he screamed "And put his foot down so we roared out of the campsite. "We're gonna take them back to Saltburn. It'll be Midges 2- The Revenge"
Rumour has it, that a week later, they claim to still hear our screams, and see our arms swatting the car roof, as we raced off down the country lane.