Camping 1950s style
Morris and Flick are camping beside Traprain Law in East Lothian in two single ridge tents. These were common in the 1950s. I think I saw some larger versions up in the area near Jedburgh a few years ago when some Scouts were camping in a football field. But you wouldn’t be likely to see many of these tents now, so here’s the low-down:
1 They were made of canvas, just less than a metre in height, so you couldn’t stand up in them, and most children would have to stay in the centre or their heads would touch the canvas where it slopes down – and that makes it leak when it rains! They were less than 2m long and just wide enough for one person to sleep.
2 The tents had something called a ridge pole along the top of the roof. Guy ropes were joined to what you might call the gutters, and if you pulled these out sideways and pegged them into the ground, your tent made a house shape.
3 Then you had to lay a groundsheet inside. In those days, the groundsheet was not sewn in, so spiders could (and did) crawl in. A loose groundsheet was quite good in some ways because you could lift it out to dry in the sun, and the grass underneath would get unsquashed for a while and dry out too. Wet grass tends to go yellowy coloured after a while, like Chinese bean sprouts!
4 There were no zips in most of the tents in 1950. The door was tied with short lengths of tape. That’s why Morris fumbled to get it undone the night the nightdragons came back – the dew at midnight had made the tape wet, which is then very hard to untangle.
5 You didn’t have loo blocks to go to. You put up a tiny rectangular tent round a hole you had dug. The earth you dug out of the hole was left beside it so that you could put a shovel-full back in after you went to the loo over the hole. That’s probably as much as you want to know about going to the loo on a campsite in 1950!
6 Most people had fun lighting a fire made of kindling (dried leaves and twigs), branches and a log or two. You balanced your kettle or billy can over the flames. Some people wrapped potatoes in foil and laid these in the hot ashes to cook. Others stuck lumps of dough on a metal skewer and held it over the flames till it went brown. Torching your food or keeping warm by a log fire was not too different to how Scordril and his kin lived!
If you want to read what happened after Morris saw the nightdragons returning, you can find Scordril here. The main website is here. Six hundred people are now reading about the Lothian Dragons – we hope to introduce some more people to them on Wednesday 18 February at Silverlink Borders in the Newcastle area.