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The Art of Camping

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The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars, Matthew De Abaitua, book reviewWhen Father Ted presented her with a machine that would ‘take the misery out of tea-making’ TV’s most aesthetically challenged housekeeper Mrs. Doyle lamented ‘some people enjoy the misery’. It’s more or less the way I feel about camping; I certainly don’t camp for any pleasure I derive from it, rather a belief that it’s somehow character building and morally robust. I’m certainly not the first to think so and in The Art of Camping Matthew de Abaitua takes us on a trip back in (fairly recent) history to look at those people for whom camping was a means to rehabilitation or a way of instilling certain values, using socialist in principle.

Part history, part memoir (though happily much less so than Emma Kennedy’s ‘The Tent, the Bucket and Me’, a recent book about remembered camping trips in the 1970s that was so awful it set my teeth on edge) The Art of Camping:The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars reminds us that while a camping can be a much needed tonic from the irritations of modern life, a way of getting back to nature and temporarily forgetting the rat race, the practice has also been (and continues to be) advocated by extremists and oddballs.

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