After a full and reasonably debauched life, there is little left that can provoke an audible gasp from the author of this humble blog. But as dawn broke over Cardigan Bay, a gasp was followed by a few tiny tears of joy.
Camping is always a mixed pleasure. The connection to Gaia via a sleeping bag and a ground sheet is a penitence of dubious value and discovering rabbit droppings in your flip flops is not the best start to a day. However, lower back pain and a stiff neck are inconsequential when compared to the benefits of communing with nature.
There are those that enjoy the extreme “survivalist” style of camping and there have been times, long ago now, when the hippo resorted to the woods armed only with a ball of string, Oxo cubes, a frighteningly long knife and a squirrel cook book. Those days are, mercifully, long gone but the skills required to fashion a temporary shelter from bracken remain. The Winnebago experience has also been tried but 99 channels of TV rubbish and a freezer full of vichyssoise and lobster thermidore was more luxurious than the family abode and hardly a green education for the younger hippos. A compromise between hardship and convenience had to be found for a short and spontaneous family get-away.
So, off we trekked to the Welsh coast to pitch our camp on a commercial campsite that promised stunning views and excellent facilities. Approached by a causeway which is covered by the tide twice a day, the views are indeed stunning. A simple and efficient reception process highlighted the excellent facilities and we raised our flag as far away from the snack bar and games arcade as possible. Perched atop a low cliff at the very edge of Gwynedd, we gazed out across a shimmering Bae Ceredigion with Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri at our backs and Harlech Castle to the north. To the south were huge sand dunes and a flat, golden beach. Stunning was not an exaggeration.
Our settlement was established as Great Backed Black Gulls and Common Tern patrolled the shoreline, Sandpipers and Curlews cried, finches bustled in the almost blooming wild roses and marsh orchids. Skylarks ascended above our encampment. They were joined overhead by Hawk fast jet training aircraft from RAF Valley on Anglesey. They came in fast and low over the sea to practice strafing runs on the decommissioned airfield just across the estuary that separated the island from the mainland. Ironically, the airfield was last used to test Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the drones currently being deployed over Libya, and was operated by Serco. Small world.
The Royal Air Force, however, were not the only ones to break this pastoral idyll with loud noise. Our decision to pitch far away from the excellent facilities in the hope of securing peace and quiet seemed to be rendered futile by the arrival of two car loads of potential neighbours, their radios blaring what sounded like an industrial jack hammer accompanied by an air raid siren and an imbecile shouting at the top of his voice. They stopped briefly to swear at each other, throw some recently emptied Special Brew cans out of the cars and allow two Staffordshire Bull attack dogs to crap close to our tents. The hippo growled and they thankfully moved on.
Having regained control of the prairie, the hippo nation consolidated the reservation with an essential clothes drying line, a raised fire and cooking tripod and, unusually, a structure to provide shade from a gloriously hot sun rather than from the wind and the rain. Sun block administered, the afternoon was spent foraging for Doritos and hunter-gathering the wherewithal for a passable corned beef hash from the campsite mini-mart. A trip to the excellent facilities introduced us to the fellow travellers we were destined to share the island with.
Sweet Jesus, Holy Mother Mary and all the Angels, some of these people were fat. So fat that walking was a problem. Some had to take a breather holding onto a wall before taking the next drag of their cigarette. Cans of beer seemed tiny as they lay cradled in gargantuan fists. A child so vast that he deserves a dedicated flag on Google Earth, became breathless from the effort of lifting a burger to his face. His parents, equally immense, could find meaningful employment as flood defences. On the beach, Greenpeace inflatables were trying to drag some of them back into the sea.
A newspaper, picked up from next to the out of date Fanta and BOGOF Jaffa Cake offers, reported the slim thoughts of our slim leader David Cameron. Apparently, he does not wish to pay his taxes to support the obese, the addicted and the alcoholic through Incapacity Benefit. Perhaps he should first encourage his party donors and his Chancellor to pay their taxes before pontificating about government support for the vulnerable. With complete disregard to actual facts, Cameron has again attacked those without a voice to respond. First it was people with disabilities, then immigrants, now it’s everybody else. Cameron may not have the charisma of Hitler or the dress sense of Mussolini, but the message is the same. Identify and isolate the weakest and then turn on them by inciting first distrust and then hatred. The abrogation of compassion and basic humanity is high on the agenda of this bastard coalition government. Maybe “call me Dave” had this statement from Mussolini in mind:
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
As for the corpulent society with their addictions and garish tattoos, if you can’t run you can’t fight and that’s exactly where this bunch want you. And the trainee RAF pilots pretending to take out Welsh airfields and facing redundancy? Their time would be better spent practising bombing raids on Whitehall, Downing Street, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. Cameron, Clegg, Osborne, Gove and Lansley are the enemies of the people.
It is remarkable how quickly one adjusts to life under canvas on an island. The sun and the tides dictate the day rather than the appointment diary, the internet or the work of fiction that is the train timetable between Walsall and Birmingham. Up and about at dawn and in bed an hour after nightfall after some rough cider harks back to a time before the human race became domesticated.
One morning, up before God was awake, a fat hippo addicted to cigarettes and alcohol stood facing the sea as the sun roared up from behind Snowdon. As the sun warmed the bay, a sleek shape broke the surface. About 30 metres off-shore, a dolphin was looking for breakfast.
It seemed that we were the only creatures alive at that hour. It was a sight that deserved an audible gasp and, given the state of our nation, a few bitter tears.