There was something about camping in a field in Wales. The joys and wonder at seeing the milky way again, of seeing shooting stars briefly slash the sky before burning out, the peace and quiet. But these fade away as distant memories once the fire has died down and everyone has unzipped and then zipped themselves into the sleeping bags that never quite seem to dry out. It’s about three in the morning. I am regretting that last cup of coffee. Not because I am awake. Sleep is a rare experience, no it’s the pressure on my middle aged bladder. I am going to have to get out of my sleeping bag and go for a pee.
The nearest official toilet is a five-minute walk away up the hill to a shack, cobwebbed and full of spiders waiting to ambush me. The hedge a few metres away seems a much more attractive option. And if I kneel down, then of course I will be able to minimise the noise and so not disturb the other campers and alert them to the furtive pee that I am having.
I trip, shuffle and stagger out of the tent. Struggling to undo the zip on the flap quietly, I disturb Lilly our Collie who looks up from her cosy snug, rug covered corner and gives me a disapproving look, and then lowers her head on her paws and curls even tighter into a warm ball of sleepy fur.
I wrestle the flap open and on hands and knees peer out into the black. It really is inky black. Up above the stars have disappeared behind cloud. Nothing stirs. I reach instinctively for a pair of shoes that I have left just outside the entrance and slipping them on get to my feet and edge my way around the tent.
Remarkably I manage to avoid tripping over any of the ropes and lines of string that hold the tent up, and reaching clear ground stumble towards the hedge.
Once at the hedge, I glance around to make sure that there is non one about. There isn’t, not that I could see them of course. But I check. I always do. I kneel and once I have made the necessary adjustments to my pyjamas, start to pee. There is a rustling in the hedge, I glance up and look in the direction of the rustling. A pair of eyes glare at me. I glare back. The eyes or rather what they are attached too, give a snort and without any attempt at delicacy or quiet, a badger crashes through a few feet from me and with a remarkable turn of speed for such a clumsy looking animal disappears towards the path to the beach and woodland.
A badger! I have seen a badger! In my excitement I forget to make the necessary adjustments and leap to my feet. Later the dog will sniff the damp patch on my pyjamas and give me an approving look. I briefly think about following the badger. But I quickly realise that this is pointless.
Instead I return to the tent, intent on sharing the fantastic, exciting news. A badger. Right next to me.
I reach the flap to the tent and stop and turn round. Already there is just the faintest glow on the horizon. We have left chairs outside and finding one I slump into it. Now is not the time to share my good news. The snoring and low rumbling from the inside of the tent, the quiet of the campsite, the simple physics that determines the way sound travels, all taken together convince me that now is not the time to share my badger news.
Instead I sit for a while and ponder, watching the sky lighten in the gloom. I will save the news of the badger till later. I stand up from the chair and kneel down in-front of the tent flap. The zip sounds like I am ripping up the very ground. The campsite stirs and a few tents away a dog barks.