Though the intoxicating scent of honeysuckle in the evening garden and the comforting whiff of fresh, clean bed sheets are so good to come home to, there’s really nothing to compare with the eclectic aromas of a camping holiday at its best.
Most of us have a good nose for camping. There are few other experiences that can transport me back so quickly to the camp holidays of my youth, as waking up to the unmistakable smells of freshly mown grass, the earthy dampness of nearby woodland and the enticing aroma of a cooked breakfast frying in the open air. One sniff and I’m there – lying in my sleeping bag on an ancient rubber air bed listening to the site come to life and feeling free as a bird.
The kit may have improved over the intervening years and the bones may be a touch creakier, but somehow the smells are the same. They still conjure up thoughts of long, slow summers full of days jammed with sunshine and laughter; they instil in me the same zest for life, the same boundless appreciation of this country’s beauty and the same sense of inner peace.
And the bacon… ! Being the first to awaken and get cracking with the breakfast remains a triumph above all others. ‘Wake up you sleepyheads’ – smell this once and never forget it! I watch them appear, the children first. They push their heads out to catch the day’s first moments, eyes instantly alert, noses twitching. Then then the father’s hair askew – resigned to the fact that all thoughts of sleep must end right here. The battle is on and these sleepy eyed generals must lead their forces to breakfast… It makes me smile.
What is it about camping that sticks in my mind so indelibly? What special quality makes me yearn to go back and allows me to use these smells, the simplest of all transports to cross the years? I can only think that it is the wonderment I felt then. And that perhaps it takes one sense to evoke another; the sense of smell to rekindle the sense of wonder.
Whatever it is, I’m glad for it. Long may it survive. Camping rules as the kids might say. Or maybe they wouldn’t… But one sniff of bacon and we’ll all be there…