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The Ferris Family Archives

The

DribblingSand

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One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow. One man and his dog – Spot – went to mow a meadow. Two men went to mow …

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en-a-mowing, green bottles sitting on a wall and people in bed when the little one said: ‘roll over, roll over’ … this is what I remember: long trips with rounds of car-songs interspersed with eye-spy. Quite coincidentally, introducing children to camping and escaping from the high-tech, gadget-driven world in which we reside receive several mentions in this issue. This led me to reminisce about my childhood camping and travelling experiences. Since I recently had another birthday (apparently I’m now well immersed in the ‘new 40s’), I figured the recall of my five-year-old bush and beach romps might need the combined recollection power of my parents. Mother (An English immigrant who never went camping until she married my father at 21): ‘I don’t have any particularly good memories of camping! I was pretty unimpressed by tent camping: trying to wash cloth nappies in a creek; no running water; washing up with two hands in the bowl while having ten million flies crawling in my eyes. You were very small when we went tent camping at Johanna [Victoria], so I can’t remember that

much. One good thing was that I could legitimately ‘cheat’ on the cooking and have Deb potatoes and open tins of braised steak! We had fresh-caught rabbit stew, which was always nice. Nothing sticks out in my mind apart from the problems of nappies and washing and the freezing cold coming up from the ground through the Lilo – no matter what you put under it. ‘Tent camping was the only holiday we could afford then. We went whenever your father had a holiday. You kids were happy as pigs in mud. Later, when you got older, we went in the caravan. You did have fun, particularly at Inverloch [Victoria]. You got dirty, played around the campfire – the only thing you weren’t allowed to do was bring sand into the van – that was a pain, washing you down before you came inside. Usually camping felt like too much work because it was harder to do the same things [I did at home], but I enjoyed ‘relaxing the standards’. You kids really had a ball though.’ Father (Aussie born and bred; taken camping by his parents from the time he was a baby): ‘When you kids were very little we had a 14-foot Evernew caravan – a plywood-sided van with an

aluminium roof, towed by a 1958 Ford Zephyr, which I modified so it would pull the caravan! We mostly went to Gippsland; as far as 90-mile beach, Inverloch and the other way [from Melbourne] to Barwon Heads. You loved going to the beach. I taught you kids how to fish and you loved to be Me, dad, and my little sister, Bronwyn catching fish at 90-mile beach circa 1967.

around fishing. I grew up camping: I was taken camping in a bassinette! Camping to me was just part of life and I tried to transfer some of the enjoyment of camping to you. I was always grateful to my parents for introducing me to camping and I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve always been comfortable camping and sailing as I always felt at home with my self-sufficiency – that’s what

The Ferris Family Archives

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The Evernew, the Zephyr and dear ‘ol dad at 90-mile beach in East Gippsland, Victoria.

camping does. I taught you how to light fires because I’d been in the Scouts. We always had a fire and I had fire irons that I made. You were young and it was all about playing – building sandcastles – I taught you how to dribble wet sand on the castles to make little ripples … ‘In the early to mid-60s caravanning wasn’t overly popular. A lot of people hadn’t got themselves back together after the war. Caravan parks didn’t really exist. Generally, councils had a designated camping and caravan area with no or few facilities. Barwon Heads was just a sandy strip along the river. I loved it all.’ My parents are in their mid-seventies now – long since divorced, both hale and hearty. Apart from a twelve-month campervan trip around the country with my sister in 1980, mum hasn’t set foot in a tent or caravan since 1980. Dad, on the

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Go Camping Australia Editor andrea@vinkpub.com

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other hand, has rarely stopped travelling: sailing around the world, and tripping about in various motorhomes since retiring thirty years ago. My younger sister and I embraced the great outdoors with gusto. She now raises deer on acreage near Bathurst (NSW) and I’ve lived gypsy-style all over the country – complete with horse! If I don’t remember to say ‘thanks’ mum and dad, I’m remiss. My life has been shaped into something resembling ‘great’ by my travels under canvas (or nylon these days). I’ve never been afraid out there – even on my own with no-one around for miles. I can light a fire, catch a fish, name the constellations, avoid poisonous plants, identify night-sounds, read a compass, and put a name to many birds. Perhaps you didn’t teach me all these things back in 1967 – I was just a little

kid – but you instilled in me a sense of adventure and a quest for knowledge and for that I’m forever grateful. Dad’s right. Self-sufficiency is the key. When you take kids camping they learn to ‘make do’ and ‘live without’. While this was clearly difficult for mums in the sixties, modern camping gear – and disposable nappies – make a sojourn in even the remotest bush relatively comfortable. However, when there’s no local shop, DVD, playstation, smartphone or computer on hand, kids have to learn to make their own fun – go dribble some wet sand on a sandcastle if you don’t believe me! In these pages Barry Lyon tells us how he took his family to the remote Bullshark Camp on the Wenlock River and observed how they unwound from the tangle of their daily existence. Cathy Finch continues the saga of how she took her partner on an epic whitewater adventure on Tasmania’s Franklin River to disconnect him from the 21st century, and Lynne Tuck shares a number of novel ways in which her youngsters amuse themselves in a tech-free camp. 

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G o C a m p i n g A u s16/07/13 t r a l i 3:30 a |PM7


Editor's Column Go Camping Australia August 2013