A first date with Monica

It’s early morning and I’m in a unique situation.  Whilst I’ve blogged from a tent several times before, this is the first time I’ve done it over a Wifi connection.  And moreover, my own home Wifi!

Yes, I’ve never camped in the back garden, and thought it was time I did so.  I had an ulterior motive of course – I felt the need to test my new tent, before I take her out to the hills for adventures together. So having sorted her out in the afternoon, we had our first date.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, as before I did this I had to make her ready for it.  She came to me with her seams unsealed – standard practice, rather than some defect in workmanship – although I could of course have paid for her to be sealed before she was sent.  But Tarptent would probably only have sealed the main seams, and I knew I would have to add some additional grip to the bathtub floor to stop my inflatable sleep mat slipping about.  So I reasoned that I might as well do the whole job myself.  So I got myself some McNett Silnet seam sealant.

Yesterday, after a week of colder weather that deferred the start of spring a bit longer, the sun finally returned to south Essex and I was able to get out in the garden to do the dirty deed.  I pitched the tent and mixed up the Silnet with some white spirit to make it a bit easier to apply.

Fly pitched in the garden
Outer fly pitched in the garden ready for her operation
In the maintenance area
In the maintenance area for seam sealing

I then painted the silicone over the 4 main seams, the roof vent stitching and the stitching either side of the pole arch.  I also daubed a bit on the corners where the guy ropes are attached because of the stitching there and the amount of stress that part of the tent has to bear.  While I left that to dry, I then moved inside to paint spots of silicone on the inner’s bathtub floor to give me some nocturnal grip.

Putting some grip in my bathtub
Putting some grip in my bathtub

I left her in the sun to recover from her ordeal while I went about the rest of my Saturday afternoon. Later on I popped outside to see how she was getting on. The silicone actually set a lot faster than I expected and even the big dollops on the floor were done by tea time. Excellent.

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So now she was ready for action, and I thought I might as well christen her by spending a night inside her. Now the garden is quite a safe pitch by wild camping standards. I’m pretty sure that the landowner won’t mind, there’s a clean water supply close by and I can get away with out digging any temporary latrines. But this pitch also lacks a decent view and I’m going to have to wait for a spectacular sunset/sunrise situation, as it’s obscured by the fence. It’s also noisy.

Now I knew it wouldn’t be the quietest pitch, so I left it late before heading out. Even so as I lay there, a symphony of distant traffic on the M25, punctuated with the odd racing driver passing the front of the house, the last planes of the day heading upriver to London, all topped off with the percussion of late night revellers, took the edge off the enjoyment somewhat.

But this noise kept me awake a lot less time than I thought it would and I drifted off. A nearby alarm woke me at 3am and a roar of traffic kept me awake. It really seemed as though the local speedway track had a night race going on. The garden seemed to be encroaching on the tent in the light from a streetlamp outside the house and I steeled myself for an attack from the Triffids.

Of course having woken up in the night the one thing I try, and pretty much always succeed, to avoid happened. But at least I hadn’t needed to dig the latrine. I fought it for as long as I could but eventually surrendered. I emerged from the tent carefully and quietly hoping to sneak past the Triffids. It was actually a lot darker out than it had seemed inside the tent.

Back in my sleeping bag, it took ages to get comfortable, and more worryingly warm. At a forecast 10 degrees celsius it should have been fine, and I’ve kipped close to zero in this bag. Is it giving up the ghost ? Hope not as it’s served me well, although it was ludicrously cheap for how good it’s been. But I’d brought a blanket from the house which helped.

In my non-somnolent state, it occurred to me that the tent ought to be christened in another way.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time with this tent, and I can’t keep referring to her as “the tent” or even “the Scarp”.  It seems so impersonal.  And she seems to have shown some of her character already.  She seems to be very particular about how she is pitched, so as to get her as taut as possible, which is at least possible unlike my old tent.  She’s clearly going to be quite a fussy girl, and is going to moan at me if I continue to do a slapdash job or not put things in their proper place.  So Monica seems like a suitable name for her, after the control-freak character in Friends.

I announced this to the tent, and she seemed ok with it, stirring gently in the few wisps of light morning breeze.  I took that for a nod of approval, and the name was official.

I got back to sleep but the birds, having started around 3, were in full flow by 6 and the cuckoos in particular were giving it some welly. It’s always bloody cuckoos. Those birds have no consideration. So I’m lying here in Monica drafting this entry before I go in and get some much needed coffee.

So how did Monica and I get on with our first date ? Well she’s still standing, but having got her nicely taut in daylight I was surprised how much more pulling she needed when we retired for the night. One of her guys is a bit awkwardly twisted in the locking puller thing, so I need to sort that out. Luckily I also pegged out the groundsheet in the centres of the long sides to help paint the silicone on the floor, and this helped keep everything in place too. Inside she’s really spacious, particularly her length and there were no troubles fitting in. My one concern had been porch size. She has two porches and I think I’d ideally rather have one that’s twice the size rather than two. But that’s possibly because I’ve been spoilt with my old tunnel tent and in any case it’s a small gripe as on a big trip I can simply use some of the extra room in the inner sanctum.  Overall, although she’s officially smaller inside than my old tent, she feels bigger, which is probably a reflection of the fact that the space is all usable space.  But the vestibules together are technically bigger than the old tent, although much of the effect is lost because of being split into two separate areas.  The important thing is she feels bigger overall and more sturdy than the old tent, which is what I was after, so it’s all good for now.

All tents suffer from condensation to some degree and Monica’s no different, so she’s having a lie-in as the sun comes out and the temperature rises to help her dry out.  Then it’s back into the stuff sack for her.  Having had a taste of the outside, I hope she’s not going to give me any trouble over that.  But she’s due to come out to play again next month, so she’ll have to wait until then for our second date.

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