IT is said that barbecues bring out the alpha male in men, as they vie for pole position at the griddle, brandishing kebab skewers like swords, and behaving as if they’re running a small country.
The same can be said of camping. Put a man in a field with a tent and suddenly he’s exerting his authority like a lion in the African bush.
We had been on the camp site for no more than a minute when my husband made the observation that another family had arrived at the same time. “We’ve got to put our tent up before they do,” he barked.
This is a man who, thanks to an English boarding school, hates any form of competition. Yet give him a piece of nylon and a few bendy sticks and sudden he’s psyched up like Usain Bolt on the starting blocks.
Camping renders just as dramatic a change in women. Even the most assertive, outspoken females end up hovering on the sidelines, watching their man put up the tent.
I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to help during our recent trip to Sandsend, but was shouted down, and meekly accepted my role to neatly stack the cans of beans and fluff up the pillows.
At home I’d have ferociously fought my corner and insisted on playing a key part, but on the campsite I became a Stepford wife.
Throughout our stay I noticed the same pattern emerging, men erecting tents, women standing by smiling sweetly.
Cooking on the site, my husband started to sound like Ray Mears, trying to pretend he knew how wind speed and humidity would influence his pan-fried tuna. The only difference being that Ray would have caught his own fish with a spear, in a fast-flowing ocean current, while my husband opened a tin.
So what do camping and BBQs have in common to bring out these He-Man qualities? It might be the fresh air, or maybe it’s the use of matches — the naked flame fanning his innermost desire to be a real man and help his family survive in the wild.
Only camping isn’t really about the wild, as it was when we were kids and you pitched your tent anywhere and made a campfire for cooking. Nowadays you have comfy (well, sort of), blow-up mattresses, many people have fridges and cookers, and I’m sure most have Wi-Fi.
We camped for just two nights, which I concluded is about my limit. But as we packed up my husband was just getting into his stride.
I reckon if we]d stayed another night he’d have collected driftwood for a fire, set a few traps in the surrounding fields and skinned a couple of rabbits for a stew.