(A report from the TAGB Southwest Summer Camp aka Our Family Holiday)
Eight nights under canvas, six days of Tae Kwon-Do training, weather most obliging.
Saturday: arrive, sign in, pitch up your tent.
In summer Cornish roads are squished. Caravans bounce off hedges. Even motorcyclists get wedged, with steam squeaking out of leathers. Bored children cry, throw up brightly coloured sweets. Tracks over moor lands pulse with headaches of lost families and Satnavs advising turn around, turn around, in every direction. Even with the advantage of local knowledge it is such relief to reach the open field, kick off shoes, pace out under the pine tree edging. We raise our tent easy: those less practised are spotted and offered help. Boy and I are training this year: Mr is injured. He will be cooking and playing in the sea (not simultaneously.) Forays for supplies are made. There's a fish and chip van in the village and decent coffee available from the Post Office. At eight pm the camp meets. This year's t-shirts are azure, a popular choice.
Curfew for the week is 11pm: sleep is needed for training!
Sunday morning: meet on the field for team selection and beach training, 7am
[What to wear: running gear, sun protection. What to take: water. Some people bring a towel or extra layer.]
Teams are chosen to be a mix of grades, genders, geographies and abilities. Through the week teams will compete for points. This first morning we all run to the beach together. At home my running is consistently difficult: here I am chatting the whole way… We unlace our shoes, peel off hot socks, store water bottles in shady grass, line our teams up on the sand, facing a sparkling sea. Beach training commences: fabulously physical: anything to make our arms and legs and core feel pushed: if adrenalise could be a verb, it could describe how this affects. Cartoon words: pee-yow, ka-boom: they also offer insight here. Frequent sea dips and clever stretches keep our muscles fine.
To round off this first session the game is for each team to carry between them, back to the campsite, a bucket of seawater. The fullest bucket wins. We mistakenly believe that time is a factor and rush. Spillage occurs. But this is shortly followed by breakfast so nobody is disappointed. Mr is poaching eggs for Boy and I: other people take advantage of the menu options at the clubhouse. Please note, your eggs will be fried or scrambled, not poached.
Sunday afternoon: 5pm training on the field
[What to wear: traditional white training suit and belt, bare feet. Water bottle may be left at the edge of the cricket pitch.]
Here we filter out into grade groups, all the better to perfect our patterns. The sun shines, bounces off the white cotton. Clouds drift, also white, as though our reflected brightness has taken form.
After training, socialising occurs, although lounging around reading, stretching, or getting ridiculous amounts of sleep are all good options. A nightcap is a good thing but eleven pints is a mistake and has been known to cause some queasiness the following day.
Monday morning: teams to meet on the beach at 7.30am
In previous years this journey has been a race. This year a new format is trialled: we may run, walk, roll, as long as no one is late. Camping out on the beach is considered cheating and will from this point be banned.
For the way back each team picks a fastest runner: they race, we can walk or run or skip behind. Boy is a runner. I choose walk up run down (flat is rare land in Cornwall) with a flashy sprint finish. Boy reports he also sprint finished and vomited into one of yesterdays buckets. (Not lager related.) I'm proud that he found a receptacle. His ability to scoff breakfast is unaffected.
Monday afternoon: training on the field, 5pm.
Unexpected change to schedule caused by the arrival of Master Dew, Eighth Degree Black Belt, who just happens to be passing by and we all put our azure t-shirts on and have a big photo taken and then even the Instructors get Instructed out on the short cut grass with the sun ablaze. The word Epic is almost worn out but it is a perfect fit.
Tuesday morning: on the beach for 7.30am
This morning's beach training keeps the tradition known as 'Abs Tuesday' which is why I can currently ping a cannonball off my stomach. If you are going to make an effort it's good to know it will have an effect. On the way back Boy once again is a runner and he takes a longer route and he is not sick. Barely a sweat after the sprint finish! We are proud and guilty of calling him a git.
Tuesday afternoon: training on the field, 5pm
No special guest today. We are still spoilt though, with so much excellent tuition and clear sky. It's peculiar that being absorbed in the details of landscape; this line of dark pine tops, graduations of shade in a backlit cloud, how the light wind lilts; one can yet be mindful of one's own actions. And if you don't know what you're doing, simply ask.
Tuesday evening: Quiz Night 8pm
I rarely know anything that can win a quiz. Luckily this evening it seems I am in the majority. We had an accountant in our team who got the maths question more correct than the quiz master. Also the Cornish Rex is our national cat, so I scored a whole point there.
Wednesday morning: meet at 6am on the field
[What to wear: walking gear. What to bring: water and energising snacks.]
Today we start with a coastal walk. We start early, so it's not too hot. The coastal route is arduous and gorgeous; so gorgeous the arduous is barely registered. Everyone is delighted, once they've crawled from their tents, into the early orange gold, watched the sky pale and the sea, luminous, rise and fall like breathing.
Wednesday afternoon: training on the field, 5pm
Made comical as most of us have napped and not stretched sufficiently. The warm up is noisy with creaks and clicks but it does make for rapid improvement. We can start training as humans not zombies.
Thursday morning: meet on the beach for 7.30am
Thursday is Sports Day. This year our teams compete in sprint races, discus, leap frog, long jump and the fastest to fill up a bin with sea water (without being allowed to drag the bin to the sea.) We are watched by a bleary family who had camped out last night on a beautiful quiet beach…
Thursday afternoon: 2pm on the field for more sports
Games continue: this year we have volleyball, blanket volleyball and rounders. My team don't make any finals so we sit around cheering indiscriminately. We were in third place on the leader board yesterday so we have had a touch of glory.
Thursday evening: optional training at 5pm
Most chose to train. Boy learned some weaponry but I preferred the more traditional stuff. Patterns are puzzle boxes, I can't imagine being tired of discovering. And still sunny!
Friday morning: meet on the beach for 7.30am
All teams meet, unofficially on the green, in fancy dress. This year's theme is convicts: much black and white stripes and arrows, some penitentiary orange, one train robber style Hawaiian shirt, one military guard (aka Boy.) Locals that are used to us, wave. Holidaymakers are less certain. Striking hide poses behind foliage confuses them further. On the beach some costumes prove less robust than others. After some splendid exercise and singing we round off our beach work by each team building a sandcastle that relates to their team name. Every year this is the point where we remember we should have picked a team name that was easy to explain in the medium of sand. We are the 50p team, in memory of the village's now closed charity shop. Our attempt is a sand table laden with beach junk, priced 50p, and a 50 pence piece featuring a fabulous shell profile of the Queen. After being judged Fifth (apt number) we all jump in the sea.
Friday afternoon: training on the field, 5pm
Or it would have been, if the rain had only waited a few more hours. We have to use the clubhouse instead, and while it's not the same as outdoors, we still have a concentration of awesome Instructors and focussed training partners.
Friday evening: the last meet: 7pm
In which we gather and find out which team amassed the most points, which male and which female students have been considered the very best (an award of no small prestige) and we say thank you to our Instructors, to the breakfast ladies, to the barkeep, to the weather; we're all tired and sad it's over. Outside the clouds seem to have burst. Curfew for today is midnight: sleep will be required for tomorrow's packing up and journeying.
Sensibly eschewed the beer pong but there was also brandy. Fell over a bin on my way back to our tent. Because it was dark, you understand: because of forgetting the torch batteries.
Saturday morning from 7am onwards: breaking camp.
The sun comes back, dries out the tents. One gazebo has drowned. The least favourite bit of this week, folding and wondering how all this nonsense ever fitted in the car, is alleviated by a full English breakfast in the clubhouse.
Boy relates his evening tales of moderate rum consumption. The bar staff named him Captain, leading us to reflect that he is old enough to pay his own bar tab, he has trained like the clichéd trouper; is perhaps not so much a boy anymore. We take the decision to award him a new title. Henceforth he is to be known as The Chap.
Once packed the protocol is to circle the site, hugging everyone who has shared in our glorious week. Only one thing we should like to change: so next year we will ask for better recycling facilities. Colour coded bins, perhaps, and tucked out of the way so people travelling by night with deficient torch batteries don't trip over them.
And then we drive away, head full of hilarities, new resolutions, scenic moments, up the A38; the A30 is still a seasonal squash.
See you next year, Summer Camp!