Easter 2015 was the time that Hearth-Mother decided it would be a Good Thing to have a camping adventure in the garden. The little people had been looking for a good excuse to set up their 'dens' and there would be space enough to pitch a proper tent close by. It might even be considered 'glamping' given the proximity and availability of electricity, heat and lighting. She reckoned without the chickens, the commuters on the A29, the three-year-old's tantrum, a snuffling retriever and a Chinook helicopter.
Two sets of our friends are camping this Easter, and reluctant to join in since our last outing two years ago when I had to be chipped from a block of ice in the middle of the night, I thought a garden expedition would be a happy compromise.
It took one evening to pitch the tent so that everything was ready for the following night. Youngest, Eddie, came home from nursery in the filthiest, blackest of exhausted tempers, and refused to wait for his campfire supper. He fell asleep in a stroppy huff on the sofa. One down. Not the holiday bliss I had imagined.
Three of the chickens had 'escaped' from and were careering round the garden doing what chickens do, which is mostly to poo everywhere. Hearth-father thought it was time their wings were clipped again. My less rational explanation was that the sight of a large purple canvas erection next to their coop was enough to send them on the run.
Kempton got over-excited and got in to the bin, so that as well as chicken excrement, our campsite was also now littered with a week's worth of decomposing rubbish.
We cooked beans and sausages on the campfire, followed by marshmallows. In a fit of guilt at all the fun we were having I decided to wake up Eddie to see if he wanted to join in. Big mistake. The pre-supper tantrum was just a warm-up for the screaming and relentless sobbing all over the garden he had planned for the rest of the evening.
Just as we got all three sleeping (and overcame the difficulty of Eddie getting his bottom all the way into his sleeping bag) a pair of helicopters decided to circle low over the house with searchlights, so that we felt like we were in the middle of a James Bond film at the very least.
By the time we settled everyone again the roaring traffic of the A29 was just about to begin for the morning rush hour. (Or so it seemed!) I was under this strange illusion that we lived in a rural area, but it transpires that our main road is more like the M1 first thing in the morning. The over-efficiency of the heater meant that the previous year's defrosting wasn't necessary; in fact we all woke up with a bit of a sweat on. One that had absolutely no relation to the amount of red wine I felt it necessary to consume in order to sleep five in our four-man tent.
'Again, again!' said the kids in the morning, like demented Teletubbies.
But that nonsense is all over for another year, at least.
(Although I do, inadvertently, appear to have book a yurt for us all to stay in for the Hay Festival next month. Whoops...)
Currently reading: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh