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Hosepipe Rainbows : How to Survive Camping in a Tent

Updated on July 2, 2017
Photo by Sara.Nel @ Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Sara.Nel @ Flickr Creative Commons

Hosepipe Rainbows: How to Survive Camping in a Tent

(A sub-Hicksian rant about the weather)

Have you ever lived for 6 months in a tent? It's not that bad an experience, I quite liked living in a tent.

Fair enough it was in Northern Italy when I was working on a campsite so the weather was pretty amenable for the canvas habitation.

Usually that is because of course it could be too hot inside during the heat of the day and a bit chilly on clear nights. In fact in early season it was absolutely freezing.

But it was a fantastic time in Italy, I loved it. I was really hard work and it had it's ups and downs but overall the final score was in the high 80's at least, touching on the 90's. An 'A-plus' with distinction.

But not in fahrenheit, not that week, no hot, languid days, no dehydrating afternoons toiling under the midday sun. It was chucking it down, and I mean chucking it down. Pissing wet rain, unrelenting, unremitting drizzle for four days.

Persistently down lying under a heavy western depression

It was Sunday 26th till Wednesday 29th April 2009 and those four days will be drenched in my mind for ever as probably the worst four days of my time out there. We had a long way to go until October end of season.

But I doubt whether it could ever get any worse before then for sheer bloody awful pissin down weather. It rained constantly, incontinently even, for four straight days and nights, I kid you not.

laffy4k @ Flickr
laffy4k @ Flickr

This wasn't the deal, this wasn't part of the grand plan. I was off to sunnier climes, to bask in the glow and heat of the warm Italian sunshine.

It was pissin down!! It was pissin down all the time, it never stopped!!

There was mud everywhere, all over the campsite, there was mud everywhere except where there was puddles.

Huge puddles, lagoons of stinkin brown-stained pools of muddified water everywhere you looked.

There was puddles in the shape of tyre tracks as desperate holidaymakers had flown the deluge to seek the mountains and dry land or even head south to the Riviera.

I'm walking about a campsite in Italy with a polythene bag over me scrubbing boggin caravans.

OK, it was a person-shaped bag with a hood and two short sleeves but it was a poly-bag all the same.

And why are the sleeves short? I can never figure that one out.

Of course they're meant for summer because they certainly don't provide any winter heat, and yes, we all wear short sleeves in the summer.

But surely the bleedin point is that they're supposed to be worn in the rain. I hate having wet hair and wet shoulders when I'm working but where's the fun in having wet forearms.

It makes your arms heavier and when you lift them up to give some arsehole directions the water runs down to your armpits.

In praise of the impermeable for front-line fashion

So I took my polythene bag all the way to Italy as an afterthought, thinking, "I'll never need to use it". But it was small and light so I thought what's the harm, stick it in the side pocket of my rucksack.

But I can't take the wellies. No! Can't take the wellington boots. Too big, take up too much room and I might go over the weight limit at the airport. Nah! Just leave then at home. Won't need them anyway. Won't have any use whatsoever for wellington boots. How wrong can you be?

It was raining, it was raining for four days, it was the Somme, it was Woodstock, it was T-in-the-friggin-Park. Why didn't I bring me wellies?

My fourth pair of socks were wet through and I didn't have a fifth. No point hanging them out to dry because they won't dry. Not in that rain they wouldn't. Unless I hung them over the cooker.

That would be popular, wouldn't it? Nothing better to disseminate the stink of a grotty pair of rancid socks than to heat them up over the hobs and get the molecules excited. Spread the plague, spread the disease.

Hey! why should I be the only one to suffer, have some vicarious misery you scumbags, breath it in, breath it in, my socks are cookin!!.

What was I doing out there?

This was Scottish weather, this was the Glasgow Fair Fortnight with a vengeance.

I might as well be at home for all the good this was doing me. It was still coming down, it never stops.

Why did they fasten the tent roof so tight, it's a drum roll, it's the drum solo from hell, it's worse than Tommy Aldridge.

Beating the skins like a maniacal travelling troubadour

No! hold on, it IS Tommy Aldridge, I had Tommy Aldridge battering on my roof night and day. He'd thrown away the sticks and was doing it with his bare hands.

Get off my tent!! Get off my tent!!

Don't applaud! Don't encourage him, he might start again. He wasn't even in the real Thin Lizzy. Oh Lord get me out of this, end this gig. Stop the rain, stem the tide.

I might as well be home. I could have done this nonsense back home. Pitched a tent in the back garden and listen to the rain torment me for four days, four endless days. I could have scrubbed the house, same job but with a mortgage and no blasted tourists.

No problem, no problem at all. Have a sleepless night listening to Tommy Aldridge, put on my polythene bag in the morning and scrub the stinkin walls of the house. At least the toilet is closer.

I could even have cheated and sneaked back in to my warm, cosy bed with its double duvets as long as Tommy Aldridge hadn't rented the room upstairs. Wouldn't surprise me.

At least back home I wouldn't suffer trench foot making breakfast in the morning. No need to buy mushrooms for my bacon grill, just peel them off the walls.

There was water in my tent, there was pools of water in my leaky tent. I'm frightened to switch the electricity on in case I lose my hair.

The unending pain of punching a hole in your inners

My top quality, 6-person, comfortable holiday tent was spouting water from everwhere. No! Not everywhere, my quality, 6-person tent was spouting water from only two places, two places and nowhere else. The two bleedin holes I punched in the waterproof groundsheet to fasten my inner sections.

Why did I do it? Why did I do it? You didn't answer me the first time so I guess it's a rhetorical question, right? Why did I do it? Don't answer that cos I don't wanna know. I was warned. I was warned by the maintenance guy Tommy;

"Don't peg your inners Stevie, whatever you do, don't peg your inners"

"Really?" I said,

"Yeah!" he replied, "Fookin water spews through them 'oles"


"Yep! fookin Niagra"

"I see"

"Just let the beds weigh 'em down" he said, "No use putting 'oles in 'em"

"Oh right!" I said

"That's right, don't put 'oles in yer groundsheets"

Trouble is for the first 3 weeks on Montage we'd been perforating the groundsheets. About 25 pegs per tent, some around the edges but a few right in the middle. The tents are waterproof, they certainly are, but only from above and from the sides. But that's not where your water is going to get in.

No! its going to come from below, it's going to flow along the ground and sneak up inside your tent through the bloody holes in your groundsheet, all 25 of them.

I thought I'd compromise, I put most of my pegs on the outside of the sheet but put two in the middle of the tent just to secure the inners, "That won't do no harm" I thought, "Only two pegs down there, that reduces the risk" What an idiot! I should have listened to Tommy.

No! not Aldridge! I had no choice but to listen to him. No! Tommy the maintenance man, "Don't peg your inners" he said, and what did I go and do? I pegged the inners. I pegged the inners and look what happened.

I should've listened, I should've learned, you can't mess with water, look what happened to the King of Egypt, don't screw around with Charlton Heston or you're gonna get trench foot, no compromise, no middle ground, it's all or nothing.

alan light @ Flickr
alan light @ Flickr

Concerto for a rainy day with captive audience

I had two fountains in my tent, I had two little fountains in my tent where I punched those blasted holes.

There was water spurting up through these two little geysers in the floor and I'm getting trench foot.

Hey! I know they're not big-time Las Vegas, they're just little bubbles of water, but they're fountains all the same.

It's just a question of water pressure. Same system, just a different scale.

I'm still hearing Liberace at night, I'm hearing Liberace playing Tchaikhovsky while those fountains are spewing endless waves of diluted mud and slime through my inners. I'm hearing Liberace all around and Tommy Aldridge from above.

What the hell are you doing? There's no drum solos in Tchaikhovsky. In fact, there's just no drums at all in Tchaikhovsky. Get your carcass off my tent!! Go and find some Wagner, go do 'Ride of the Valkyries' on some other buggers tent, the place is full of Germans.

Abandon all hope in the canvas dungeon of despair

Who needs Chinese water torture? Who needs it?

Chinese water torture is for wimps.

I could do that routine for weeks and never crack. One drop at a time, one single drop at time.

I wish, I really wish. Easy, I could do that without blinking.

But four straight nights of that. Four straight nights of never ending staccato, automatic water bullets on my ceiling, it's enough to make the hardest soul crack under the strain;

"I'm going mad!!!",

"I confess, I confess!!!",

"I did it!! I did it!!!"

"I don't know what I did, but I did it!!"

"Where do I sign. I am the Manchurian Candidate, Choose Laurence Harvey, place your votes!!, place your votes!!.

I expected a top quality tent but I didn't think a river would run through it. I should have been issuing permits, that place was known for it's fishing, I should have been setting up business and selling live-bait.

I'd have done great business, I'd be coining it in. I'd have the local fishermen picketing at my zipper door. "Go home Scozzese bastardo!! We gotta make a livin', Leave our fish alone!!"

I had an ornamental pond next to my fridge. I've always wanted an ornamental pond, yeah! really, I've always wanted an ornamental pond, but in the garden. I've always wanted an ornamental pond outside, not inside.

I don't want an ornamental pond inside my living quarters, I want it outside where I can gaze at it admiringly through the window, not step into it in my over-cooked socks. I'm getting trench foot, it's been raining for four friggin days and I'm getting trench foot making my breakfast in my over-cooked socks.

doortoriver @ Flickr
doortoriver @ Flickr

We'd welcome tourists on arrival.

They would look at the grey sky and the rain teeming down on the muddy grass verges.

They would look at the efferevescent splashes of water on the puddles.

You could read their minds, it was in their eyes, the pained disappointed expression,

"What the hell are we doing here? It was sunny back in Amsterdam! The windmills were still and the tulips were blooming. What are we doing here? We'll get trench foot"

The unexplained miracle of the incredible flying tent

One night there was an accompanying wind with the rain, blowing my tent flaps, doors and inners. Blowing them all over the place.

The tent had come alive. It was like 'Ghostbusters' inside there. I thought it might take off, I thought my quality, 6-person tent from hell might take off and leave and head off up the Dolomites.

I started going mad, I started hallucinating. What if my tent sails away in the wind leaving me lying there on my bed staring at the space?

It starts soaring up over Lake Garda and heading for the mountains. I start imagining it's fate, where would it go, where would it land? What would become of my summer home?

By an incredible stroke of good fortune it may have proved a blessed life-saver to a collection of under-dressed, under-equipped idiots trying to scale Monte Baldo in their plimsoles pulling a fridge full of champagne up to the summit.

Yes! Maybe that's what happened to my tent, maybe it did some good for somebody after all:

iwona kellie @ Flickr
iwona kellie @ Flickr

"It's no use I can't go on"

"We're going to die"

"Turn back, turn back"

"Just leave me where I lie"

"Then I'll have to pull the bloody fridge"

"Let's get drunk then"


"My God! Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That! A tent just fell from the skies"

"Give him more oxygen"

"No, it's true, Look!"


"There!, over there!"

"Well! bugger me, he's right"


"It's a sign, it's a sign!"

"It's a 6-person luxury tent"

"And there's only 4 of us"

"God is indeed bountiful"

"Praise the Lord!!"

"We're saved, we're saved!!"

"Phone the newspapers"

Pilrims will rush up the mountain, the devoted will kneel in prayer in front of the 'Holy Tent From Heaven'(retail price £499.99 from Argos stores while stocks lasts)

Frostbite? Nothing!!, I was getting trench-foot in a waterlogged tent, the 'Holey Tent From Hell', because I was such a stupid git for hammering pegs in the inners.

Far from becoming a holy relic of idolatry it was the worse tent in Italy. This one looked like one of those cannibalised efforts that seem to have been put together from the bits they threw away from condemned tents unfit for human habitation.

What comes down must go up

The 'Frankenstein Tent' indeed and to make matters worse it was leaking water like a tugboat sinking on the Clyde. They say that 'water finds it's own level'. Too right it does. It was creeping up my sofa cover, it was creeping up my tartan blanket.

How does it do that? It's bad enough it had been coming down for four days but now it was coming back up. Is it a homing instinct? Is it magnetically drawn to return to the clouds from whence it came? Then why did it leave in the first place?

By the Tuesday I was heartily sick of the whole shebang. The next day was my day off and the weather forecast was rain, rain, and more rain.

How to make you own weather whatever the weather

Why do we need weather anyway, why do we need it? Just build a roof over the cities. I wish they would do that with Glasgow.

Billy Connolly pondered that years ago. What a visionary, what a prophet. People should have listened, don't laugh, just listen.

We don't need weather anymore. We can make our own. There's ice and snow inside your fridge, White Christmas every year, guaranteed.

If it's too hot, turn on the fan, switch on the air-con and make some wind. And if hailstones are your idea of fun then have a gravel fight with the neighbours.

If the sun's not shining then just get under a sunbed and microwave yourself for twenty minutes, but remember to turn over half-way through and stand for one minute before applying the dressing. Maybe pierce the lid to knock some sense into yourself.

I can make my own weather, I can make rainbows, I can make hosepipe rainbows, dead easy. People stand in wonder when a rainbow appears in the sky. it's not often you see a good one.

But what's the big deal? I had a hosepipe behind my tent and on a sunny day all I've got to do is turn on the tap and there you go, instant rainbow.

I am Charlton Heston, I can summon the elements and bring forth a terrible vengeance on the Egyptians. I can part the seas, thousands of Israelites will follow me through the desert and walk unhindered and unafraid between the mighty waves.

I can't stop the monstrous rain. There is no promised land.

But I can make rainbows, 'Roy G. Biv' right there in front of me as I live and breath, created by yours truly for my own pleasure and enjoyment. A little mini-spectrum of dazzling colours and even the bees get an added bonus.

Why don't you try it at home? If it's sunny, drag out the hosepipe from the garage and ask your kids;

"Hey! You wanna see a little rainbow? You wanna jump through a rainbow?, Yeah? Well come on out into the garden". Because it's that easy, just turn the tap and create your own little miracle right there in front of your eyes.

And remember who reminded you of this little sideshow. A neurotic, brassed-off, Scotsman with trench-foot, lying drunk as a skunk in a tent in Italy convinced that a dead pianist and the ex-drummer with 'Thin Lizzy' were out to ruin his day.


Photo by fdecomite @ Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by fdecomite @ Flickr Creative Commons

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