The Great Outside

Introducing three new lines of business during one weekend may have seemed over ambitious for Chuffer, but no one could have foreseen the disaster that unfolded

Great news! This weekend Chuffer launched three new business lines: the renting out of his Chinese tent for weddings; a Paleo diet mini break; and an ultra-opulent ‘super glamping’ weekend.

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For the wedding, he signed up a city gent betrothed to a friend of a chum of Daphne’s. The city gent’s wedding party turned up dressed like they were attending a board meeting of Ogden & Carmichael (‘Anoraks to the Gentry since 1749’). The Paleo diet area to the south of the site (“Live like a Neanderthal for the weekend – free food!”) involved basic facilities and one composting toilet between 12 yurts. By contrast, the northern area housed some of the most glamorous yurts ever created (‘Glamp like a Mongol Emperor’). The largest – modeled on the desert pavilions of Khubla Khan – could seat 48 for dinner and had stabling for 30 horses. On the downside, none of the yurts had a trouser press. However, Chuffer had managed to secure bookings for all three by offering an introductory 50% off.

Nobody likes to play ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’, but it was glaringly obvious that launching three brand new products over the same weekend was sheer madness. It was overcrowded for a start. Wherever the ‘Super Glampers’ or the ‘Neanderthals’ wanted to go, they were obliged to get there via ‘the Tent’, introducing the clear and present danger that guests might be forced to rub shoulders with other guests incompatible in social background, gender and political persuasion.

It came as no surprise therefore that all hope of social cohesion rapidly collapsed. The Paleo dieters – who had been eking out an existence on berries, creepy crawlies, roots and giant hogweed soup since their arrival – had been driven to despair after sitting in a cave with nothing to do but read the 48 page guidance notes on their composting toilet, in Finnish in cases where the English language pages had been torn out and used in lieu of toilet paper. They traipsed to the hot tubs through the middle of the pinstriped wedding party (even the bride’s wedding dress was pinstripe), some hallucinating from lack of vitamins and essential minerals.

Meanwhile, disharmonious cliques arose in and around the hot tubs. This was hardly surprising; half a dozen jacuzzis packed with guests bobbing up and down like Halloween apples at various stages of intoxication and with wildly differing senses of propriety was always going to end in tears. Chuffer’s 23-year-old niece, Pippa, slipped into the largest of the six hot tubs wearing a bikini top made, as far as Chuffer could tell, from two pirate eye patches loosely held together with gossamer.

Daphne’s side of the family were more decorous in their approach. Her sister, Brunhild, clad in Black Sabbath T-shirt, Laura Ashley bathing cap, jodhpurs and a snazzy pair of yachting pumps, plunged into Pippa’s hot tub with the grace of a ‘bunker-buster’ bomb, raising a mini tsunami that swept Pippa over the rim, spinning her in eddying swirls into the changing rooms.

As the Neanderthals skirmished with Hoorah Henries, hot tubbers took sides in the Brunhild versus Pippa conflict. Super glampers in adjacent hot tubs — some of whom had paid for yurts so extravagantly appointed that a week at the Waldorf Astoria would have required a drop in standards — were hard pressed to keep their handmade Turkish cigarettes from getting soggy and had taken to demanding that everyone just “Do one!”.

The central, load-bearing mast of the Chinese tent marked the geographical centre of these three warring worlds. Although Chuffer never thought for a second that he’d find the British Standard Kitemark stamped anywhere on the tent, he did come across a faded Chinese ideogram, which he chose to believe was the 1937 Chinese equivalent. Chuffer later Googled the ideogram to discover a clumsy translation: ‘Many-fold danger of deadness’. While proudly walking his turf, Chuffer noted that the guy ropes tethering the great tent had been tightened to breaking point and looked like they’d been chewed by elkhounds.

Seconds later, sounding like the busting of cheap strings on a poor quality cello, the overwrought guy ropes snapped and the tent collapsed. An acre of canvas billowed down over the Hoorah Henries trying not to slip on a dance floor awash with overflow from the hot tubs, while fending off data processors from Leeds dressed as Stone Age nomads and demanding food.

In other news, Chuffer and I both applied for accreditation to a newly formed organisation called The Great Outside. The inspectors will be here in a week or so, so I’ll let you know all about our successful applications next time (the champagne is already on order).

Campstead