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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Surviving School Camp... Just

My Tent

Part of the recent school camp last week involved actual camping. You know what I mean, the ‘sleeping on the ground with only a veneer of delicate nylon between you and the local bunyips’ style of camping. To say that I wasn’t looking forward to it is like saying that Russell Coight is a bit accident prone.

Two other teachers and I, chaperoned seventeen boys and six girls on the ominous adventure and as we trooped along the track to the camp site, we lugged heavy backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, cooking paraphernalia and a sense of morbid anxiety in our hearts.

Actually, I was probably the only one carrying the anxiety because the two other teachers were young strapping males in the prime of their lives and the kids were all manic with excitement and nothing could dampen their enthusiasm.

Bear in mind there’d been precious little sleep the previous night. 

On arrival, I’d found myself allocated a cabin containing sixteen 12-year-old boys who all seemed to have early onset prostate issues.

They’d been up and down to the toilet every twelve minutes during the night. I’d hear the squeaking screen door whine piteously, then slam with the force of the bomb at Hiroshima and then their heavy feet would stomp along the wooden floor back to bed as if they were trying to make a point of waking everyone in a three mile radius.

If it wasn’t the freezing air seeping through the floorboards disturbing my sleep, it was the thunderous galumphing of nocturnal ablutions at 12-minute intervals ALL NIGHT.

After our dusty trek to the camp site, the teacher in charge assigned two of the girls to choose a spot for my tent and set it up for me. Whilst I was grateful for this kind gesture, I couldn’t help but be alarmed at the position they eventually decided upon for my sleeping spot.

Not only was it set underneath one of the only two trees in the entire area, it was set under the other tree as well.

Isn’t it recommended to never pitch a tent under a tree because of lightning strikes/falling trees/fornicating possums? 

And here I was placed under two very large eucalyptus trees which frankly looked slightly rotten at the base to me.

Also, it was about a ten-minute hike to the Portaloo from where they’d placed me and we all know what a 59-year-old woman’s bladder is like, don’t we? But I couldn’t say anything because I’d already whined about the possibility of snakes and spiders getting into my tent all the way down the track, so I had to just suck it up and not be a princess.

The kids were mandated to cook their own dinner in the darkness by the wispy light of torches.

Guess what they cooked for dinner?

Bean burritos.

Halfway through their dessert of canned peaches and custard, I noticed several boys heading off to the lonely, communal Portaloo across the paddock clutching their stomachs. 

The Portaloo

I needed to get there and do my last wee for the night before the Portaloo was turned into a scene from a lavatory-themed horror movie by twenty-three unstable digestive systems. 

Sprinting across the paddock, images of brown splattered toilet seats whirling around my brain, I suddenly had the urge to just keep running and running, like Forest Gump, never to return. I could run back to the cabin, get my car keys and escape this carnage.

But what would I tell my principal on Monday?

I could say I’d been abducted by aliens, or attacked and held hostage by a Yowie, or that I’d stumbled on a rock and had transient amnesia.

I finally reached the Portaloo panting and spluttering and stood behind Butch Cassidy who was sitting on the step outside the door twirling his Akubra hat in his hands and waiting for Billy the Kid to finish up inside.

“How long has Billy been in there?” I demanded, trying to work out if Billy was doing a number one or number two. 

After a few seconds the smell and noises alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t number ones Billy the Kid was doing. No sirrrreee. Those beans were evacuating through the system with accelerated momentum.

I could hear Billy the Kid humming to himself inside the cubicle. The worst part was that Billy the Kid had gone in without a torch and seemed to be sitting in complete darkness. How was he going to wipe his bum efficiently if he couldn’t see what he was doing? There’d be tan-coloured skid marks all over the toilet seat for sure.

Butch Cassidy let out an audible fart. “Hurry up, Billy,” he called out, hammering on the door. “I’m busting for a poo!”

“Um, Butch, sweetie,” I coerced. “Do you think you could let me go first? Please?”

The notion of suffering the heady pong of two different blends of poop was too much for me to deal with.

“But Mrs Poinker, I’m busting!”

“Well I’ll be quick,” I snapped as, holding my nose tight, I pushed past the departing Billy into the depths of hell.

During the night, I tossed and turned within the confines of my inadequate sleeping bag, kept awake by the unsettling mating call of a randy koala who I estimated was located about three feet from my tent. 

My ears were also pricked for the tell-tale creaking of branches and cracking tree trunks so I reckon I had about ten minutes sleep all up.

I was overjoyed at 4:45 am to finally see the glimmering light of dawn through a crack in my tent. I could hear several boys hooting and kicking a football around the campground already, but I didn’t care.

I’d survived the night.

It was the most horrible experience of my life. It was uncomfortable, cold and I think I have a scrub tick in my armpit.

But I survived.

The Dam