Thursday, 26 September 2013

Camping calamity

“Look at this, Spot!” The Professor called out as he was reading the article in the newspaper.
“There’ s going to be a spectacular meteor shower tomorrow night.”
“We’ve got to see that, don’t we?”
After thinking for a moment, he added, “To get the best view, we have to go somewhere remote. Have to avoid light pollution, houses, traffic… anything.”
“We need to go camping!”
The dog did not seem to object, so the Professor went to dig out his old tent from the shed. After some rummaging around he found it. He dragged the dusty canvas bag onto the lawn. It was much heavier than he remembered.
As he opened the bag he was greeted by a musty smell, a mixture of damp cloth, mould and old material. There was also whiff of rotting wood. Laying out the contents of the bag on the ground, the Professor realized that the tent had seen better days. Much better, in fact.
“Hmm,” he considered, “not sure I’d like to sleep in that.”
Having had his plans shattered, the Professor went back into the house to have good think. Assisted by a nice cup of tea, three lumps of sugar and a splash of milk, he tried to find an alternative.
“Do I have to bite the bullet and buy a new tent?”
He decided this would not be a good investment. He was not a regular camper.
“Why don’t I just make one?”
This seemed a much better plan. After all, the Professor had an inventive mind and he had managed much more complicated constructions in the past. He set his mind on the task of designing the perfect tent.
“Should really get rid of all those strings, pegs and poles,” he considered. “Always end up in a mess trying to put a tent up… and just think of all that tripping over the strings in the dark. Terrible design.”
“There must be a better solution.”
“Putting up a tent ought to be as easy as pushing a button. Hey presto, and there it is.”
“Why don’t you just make it inflatable?”
At first this sounded ridiculous, but the more the Professor thought about the idea the more he liked it.
“There’s no reason this shouldn’t work,” he decided. “And you can make improvements, like having a soft airbed built in.”
He went to the inventing studio to try to put the inflatable tent together. Luckily he had some flexible material left over from another project, so it was really just a matter of figuring out what size and shape the tent should be. He decided to make it small, because it only had to have room for himself and Spot. And the dog preferred sleeping outside anyway.
They arrived at the small campsite late in the afternoon. After parking the car, the Professor unpacked his invention. He laid the material out on the ground, connected the gas canisters and pushed the inflate button. In a matter of seconds the small tent was ready. He secured it to the ground with two ropes.
“How about that?” he exclaimed happily. “Easy as pie!”
With time to spare, the Professor took Spot for a walk in the beautiful countryside.
Returning to the campsite he noticed that the wind was picking up. The inflatable tent looked distinctly wobbly. He decided it would be a good idea to secure it better with a couple of tent pegs.
The Professor rammed the first peg into the ground.
It would have made sense to use only as much force as was required, but this did not occur to him.
It would have made sense to aim properly, but this did not occur to him either.
It would have made sense to be careful and avoid puncturing the tent.
This did occur to him, but by then it was too late.
With an almighty farting noise the inflatable tent shot up in the air, and disappeared over the trees. The effect was the same as letting go of a blown-up balloon, only on a much more impressive scale.
Dumbstruck, the Professor watched as his night of comfort vanished in the air.
The Professor turned to find a man standing behind him, puffing on a pipe. The man was unshaven and looked a bit worn.
“Most impressive,” the man said with what might have been a smug smile.
“What are you going to do now?”
 “No idea,” mumbled the Professor. “Might as well give up and go home, I suppose.”
“You could always stay in our pod, you know,” the man continued. “Just finished building it.”
He gestured in the general direction of a corner of the campsite. The Professor could see a small wooden building. It reminded him of a bicycle shed, but he obviously did not say that.
“Got a real bed and all. How about it?” The man finished.
The Professor accepted the offer. He did not have much of a choice. Beggars can’t be choosers.
The sky was clear and billions of stars twinkled from the firmament. All of a sudden, one of Nature’s own fireworks erupted. It did not last long but it was a breathtaking nevertheless.
It was not until it was over that the Professor felt the chill in the air. Shuddering, he retired to the borrowed pod, which was kept at a nice temperature by a wood-burning stove. As he was dozing off on the comfortable bed, he thought to himself, “Why bother with a tent when you can stay in a pod?”
“Could get used to this glamorous kind of camping…”
And then he was asleep.

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