I went camping in a random forest with a few friends a few weeks ago, and unintentionally got away with doing absolutely nothing but sit and watch while the others set up the fire/tents/cooked and all that good stuff. I hadn’t been camping in a really long time and I loved it!
But here on Life on Mars I rarely focus on the positives, so here we go with a bit of complaining. When I think about camping I think of the worst things that can happen to a human being: sitting on the hard ground, being forced to sleep on it, frosty moist dampness, that nasty condensation inside the tent, sleeping bags, water infiltrations, all topped with the inconvenience of an 18th century Europe public restroom.
Perhaps the various family camping trips in desolated camping sites I went on as a child left a permanent mark on my psyche, but the truth is that there are lots of beautiful campsites that don’t resemble a camp of Persian soldiers at the gates of Thermopylae.
The night I came home from my recent camping experience, I went on Pinterest and saw the most beautiful camping site I have ever seen.
The camping site in question is located in Slovenia on Lake Bled which is a wonderful alpine lake that has all the characteristics of magical land: a small island with a fascinating legend, a lady, a castle, and a slice custard cake as a welcoming treat.
Right next to the banks of the lake there is a beautiful camping site that Slovenians have called Glamping, and that is made up of two different types of wooden chalets: small apartments or single houses with a sloped roof that resemble actual tents. Both solutions have glass walls all round that overlook both the lake and the forest of sleeping while literally being immersed in nature but in total comfort.
The entire campground is based on an ecological philosophy of being fully environmentally sustainable. The chalets are built using local larch wood, thermally insulated and heated so they’re available to stay in all year round.
Already in the early age of elementary school I began to understand just how unfair life could be: chickenpox struck me and shortly after the dark violent fate of nearsightedness befell upon my eyes. My glasses forever in my backpack cause wearing them made me feel very little fashion & beauty.
Luckly, however, other things mad eup for those woes: my sense of taste never had rivals and, lately, I’m also refining the sense of smell due to the practice of smelling perfumes.
But during one of those rare moments in which theory prevails over practice, I made a shocking discovery. If we set aside the poetry evoked by things such as ‘rose water’ and ‘bergamot’ all it takes is opening Wikipedia to understand that perfumes contain unspeakable and quite disgusting things:
▶ Castoreum: yellowish substance produced by the beaver and secreted by glands located between the anus and the sexual organ.
▶ Moss: and we’re not talking about the green velvet of the woods also used in Nativity scenes at Christmas, but rather of hormonal pellets deposited by the male musk deer (Asian ruminant of small size) during the mating season to attract the female. This ‘moss’ is used for Chanel No. 5 (hello Marilyn) and Shalimar by Guerlain.
▶ Civet: other secretion of perianal glands, this time belonging to the animal’s namesake. When diluted in alcohol and into the ether it releases pleasant floral and aromatic hues. Wow.
▶ Ambergris: after moss, here’s another substance that has placed me in front of my boorish ignorance; I thought it was a variant of coniferal fossilized resin, a waxlike substance that originates as a secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale, found floating in tropical seas (half a kilogram costs 60.000 euros). Those of you who own Dior Poison now know what you’re spraying on yourselves.
▶ Hyraceum Stones: crystallized urine of South American hyrax rodents.
I’m still very bewildered about the whole thing, but to conclude I only have one profound question:
It’s been months since you last saw your family in 3D, at the very most you’ve seen a couple of relatives through Skype (if even). But now it’s the Christmas holidays, and, as tradition goes, you’re back at home with the family. So you come back, anxiety rising, not so much for the imminent meeting as much as for the effort of the journey.
But the return is no less traumatic than the expectation of the return itself. So while you were lost in a day dream your train pulled into the train station, your family has arrived and is ready to bring you home. And the trauma begins.
#1 The fumes of the fabric softener coming from your duvet will knock you out since you’re no longer used to it.
#2 When you open the fridge you feel like crying because, for once, all that food doesn’t belong to your roommates.
#3 Relatives start interrogating you on how the semester went and you desperately come up with an excuse to escape the situation.
#4 You start eating on the evening of the 24th and you don’t stop until the 6th.
#5 During the toast all your relatives suspiciously control your attitude to alcohol by measuring how long it takes you to finish the champagne flute.
#6 You can’t convey to your parents the college rule according to which when someone goes off to his/her room they do not want to be disturbed. That also goes for earphones.
#7 Your grandmother, thanks to her sixth sense, is able to find any open wound (college, love, friends, …) and painfully questions you on it.
#8 After each meal you want to escape to your room or laptop instead you remain stuck at the dinner table as though you were Buñuel movie.
#9 You’re forced to stop mid-anecdote to make the story suitable to a family audience.
#10 On January 2nd you realise your study plans jumped out the window.
#11 You have to dribble questions like “When will you find a boyfriend/girlfriend”, “When will you find a job?” “When will you stop not doing shit all day?” the same way Maradona dribbled the entirety of the British defence during the ’86 Mexico World Cup.
#12“Eat, you’re looking too skinny!” – quote MOTHER
#13 You rejoice in the fact you don’t have to cook , but after months of bland couscous and take away pizza your stomach can’t tell the difference between sweet or salty.
#14 Everyone (mum, dad, grandmother, grandmother’s hairdressers, random family friends, …) feel the need ask “But are you eating?” with a troubled expression on their faces.
#15“Don’t drink too much.” – Mum.
#17 Enjoying using as many plates as you want cause there’s a dish washer anyways.
#18 The first day you’re happy to be back home, the second you remember why you left.
Late night thoughts. After this post, saying that I love the cold, Christmas and all its derivates would be a major understatement; in fact, I love a very specific period, which goes from mid-September to New Years.
After the New Years mark, I start liking winter a little bit less; there’s nothing more to look forward to to justify the cold, and it just becomes depressing, bland and grey.
October and Autumn in general should last eight months. Eight months in which I would never get tired of: falling leaves, morning breeze, shades and shades of orange, roasted chestnuts, cozy jumpers, candles, spending evening wrapped up in a blanket, dark red lipsticks, ginger bread spiced coffees and creating weather appropriate Spotify playlists.
I don’t understand people who dislike Christmas, perhaps they were beaten with a candy cane while their siblings unwrapped Christmas gifts or instead of watching Home Alone they were made sit through Christmas Evil.
I don’t think there are any rational explanations to not love Christmas except an unvanquished childhood trauma.
Sure, maybe not doing the following things could make Christmas a universally loved celebration.
1. Excessing with the Christmas decorations
You lost the last bit of good taste when you had to go out and buy neon pink christmas balls to hang on the bushes.
2. Mortifying your single cousin/ sister/ random relative
Don’t do it. Stop with the “when will you get a boyfriend?”“I have a friend I want to introduce you to”. Just mind your own business. Don’t fuel these type of conversations, cause next year it could be your turn!
3. Going to stores that commit the crime of selling red glittery lingerie.
This social affliction will never end and I believe it is one of the major causes that push people (or women at least) to hate Christmas.
4. Eating disproportionate amounts of food.
I know I said that since we’ll all be wrapped up in a large Christmas jumpers you can eat away, but after the third serving the situations just becomes awkward. Not to mention: food coma.
5. Christmas chains on Whatsapp
It’s almost 2016, chains about joy and emotions should not be legal. Do not give in, do not be overcome by a fit of goodness driven by a glycemic peak and say NO to chain letters.
6. Instagramming everything
There’s a good chunk of the population that only resorts to Instagram twice a year: while they’re on holiday in August and Christmas. The rest of the year is a complete desolation. To correctly use instagram I’ll refer you back to this evergreen guide.
7. When they told you recycling was important for the environment they didn’t mean Christmas gifts.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time a friend of mine -spoiler me- received a questionable gift. I’m pretty sure it was a book that I wasn’t keen on. This girl, believing she was being sly, tried to carefully re wrap the gift. After the meticulous work, she realized there was no gift note, but didn’t think anything of it assuming she must’ve thrown it out. The girl then proceeded to hand over the gift to a friend bearer of bad taste. When the gift was unwrapped before her eyes, she discovered where the gift note was gone: “For Laura, Happy Christmas”.
The moral is: you can always tell when a present isn’t sincere. It’s better to not give anything at all.
8. Turning the front of your house in a representation of Las Vegas
Perhaps ESB sends you home a basket of gifts every year, but some people need to be told that there’s a difference between a suburban house and the lobby of the Cesar Palace in Vegas.