"I must admit," I said smugly, while slowly unpacking the food, "we've always been very lucky with the campsites we've found." This had been the fourth site we'd tried that day and not only was there loads and loads of space, but in our opinon, it was the best one of the lot. We had pitched our tent in an almost empty field, far enough away from other campers, within earshot of a charming brook bubbling happily beside us, in full view of the mountains and - to the delight of my son - a stone's throw from a series of rope swings which had been strung up in a nearby copse.
It couldn't have been much better. That evening we walked along the local beach - a massive sandbank stretching as far as the horizon - watching the sun set behind Cricciech Castle and after a reasonably restful night, spent the following day glorying in the architectural and natural delights of Portmeirion village.
Planning to have a barbeque on the beach that night we rolled up to our tent in good spirits, only to find an encampment of five tents pitched in a circle, slap bang in front of ours and blocking our view of the hills. The shock no doubt registered visibly on my face. "Great!" I muttered through gritted teeth. Moments later a car drew up and two women came out carrying crates of beer and shouting loudly to a group of corpulent men splayed out on some chairs placed in the middle of their tent corral. One of the women then turned on a child - the only child in the group - a sweet looking girl of about five with blonde curly locks: "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!" she shrieked in the girl's face. "GIVE ME BACK MY POTS!"
We sighed gently to ourselves in a polite middle-class way - rolling our eyes and silently wondering what the hell we were in for that night. And as expected, by the time we came back from our barbeque on the beach, the 'party' was in full swing. As if to compensate for the noise, we got ready for bed especially quietly, piously whispering to one another and hoping to God that the noise would not go on too late.
10.30 pm: time for quiet according to camp rules. Conversation at the corral was loud and relentless. We learnt that the loudest woman (the one who had screamed at the child) was called Ange and her long-suffering husband was Ian. Ian worked in a factory and Ange - inexplicably - was in customer relations. With almost every sentence punctuated by what my kids refer to as the 'f word', they engaged in the most mind numbingly boring exchanges with their friends, mainly on the subject of food. How to cook and eat f-ing eggs, how Ange and the others like their f-ing bacon, how much one of them loved cheese, but how another had a less favourable view of it: "Cheese is what killed my father!"
Midnight. My daughter had to put in earplugs and the rest of us lay there listening to more of the same lacklustre conversation. "I CAN F-ING SIT BY THE POOL ALL DAY, I CAN," came Ange's dulcet tones. "Oh I can't," contributed another, "I'd get f-ing bored." Then Ange started to complain about the chair she was sitting in and how uncomfortable it was. This threatened to develop into a full scale row as Ian pointed out that she hadn't complained last year - "If you had," he reasoned,"we could have got another one!!" Ange countered by taking a different tack; "AND THE TENT BETTER NOT BE F-ING COLD! THAT HEATER BETTER F-ING WORK!" And we all prayed hard that it would.
Though there were many other characters in the party - Ange was the life and soul. If anyone else on the campsite came out of their tent, Ange would yell out "HOW DO?" almost daring them to answer, and if they said nothing she started swearing at them. "WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?!" she'd yell in self-righteous fury. "Careful Ange," said a quieter male voice on one such occasion, "You'll get us kicked out again." That set her off. "YOU'D ALL BE BORED IF I WEREN'T HERE! I'M THE ONE THAT KEEPS THE PARTY GOING, YOU ALL LOVE ME! YOU'D ALL BE F-ING BORED!!!" Clever-dick sarcastic responses danced silently over my lips as I shifted position once again to try to drown out her voice. My husband developed a passable technique to mute her out, but I couldn't get it. Instead I just hoped and hoped that she'd just f-ing go to f-ing bed.
2.30 am. The noise of more cans being opened, more coffee being offered around and more brandy with the coffee. At one point, one of the party told Ange to keep the noise down as people were complaining. "WHO COMPLAINED??" Ange yelled so that the entire campsite could hear. "WHO THE F DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?? WHY F-ING GO CAMPING IF YOU CAN'T TAKE A BIT OF NOISE?!! TELL THEM TO COME OVER HERE! F-ING C-S!!" Thankfully the others admitted that no-one had complained and they were winding her up.
3.00 am Ange sounded as if she was going to bed. But that was by no means the last of it. The tent wasn't f-ing warm enough of course and the f-ing bed was flat. "IAN!!! GET OVER HERE - THE F-ING BED IS F-ING FLAT!!" Sounds of a foot pump ensued followed by Ian trying desperately to mollify the outraged Ange. Then: "WHERE'S MY F-ING TOOTHBRUSH?? I DON'T F-ING BELIEVE IT!.....Oh, here it is." We listened as ASBO Ange (as we'd later call her) brushed her teeth and had a wee by our tent - her bum lit up by the torch of a cheeky member of her party: "F OFF!! - NO-ONE WANTS TO SEE MY BUM!!"
Too right Ange.
More complaints about the bed followed, more calls for Ian, more re-pumping of the bed. As Ian slunk off to have yet another beer, dearest Ange took exception. "OOOH STOP PRESS!" she shouted, "IAN WANTS ANOTHER BEER! IAN WANTS ANOTHER F-ING BEER. WHATEVER! F OFF BACK TO F-ING WREXHAM!" Oh if only they would.
Having badgered Ian into complete submission, he finally came to bed - probably around 4.00 am. Silence. Then moaning from Ange. As we lay there listening to Ange and Ian having noisy sex followed by Ange graphically describing how she was wiping her 'doo-dah', I really thought it couldn't get much worse, but that was before Ian started snoring. He had one of those snores that I just cannot get my head around. Periodically he would make a whoop and a snuffle at which point it would be quiet for a second and then Ange would scream at him to shut up.
6.00.am. Unbelievably Ange was up, shouting at everyone in sight letting all of us know that she hardly had any sleep thanks to the f-ing bed. "I don't know about you," my husband whispered, "but I'm not staying here another night." We debated whether to move to another part of the site or move site altogether - it was Bank Holiday weekend and we'd be lucky to get a space anywhere else. Luckily, our mind was soon to be made up for us. While I slowly packed up, my husband had gone to the office once it was open, asking if we could move to another pitch because it had been noisy last night. Unfortunately, the campsite owner came and told Ange that someone had complained BEFORE we'd had a chance to move.
As the barrage of abuse poured out of Ange's mouth, we looked studiously at the ground, slowly packing everything up as if butter wouldn't melt. Then as quickly as we could, we put it into the car and drove out of that campsite for good.
Once we had driven a good distance away we shouted: "WHO THE F DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?"