The Sahara was exotic, no doubt about it. Think dunes, dust, camels, goatherds, souks, prickly pears, mirages. But the bit that made me laugh most (in retrospect) isn’t exotic at all, in fact it’s not really suitable for polite company. But here goes anyway:
We spent three weeks sleeping on the roof tent above our Land Rover, which was mostly incredibly comfortable and I slept like a log. But once a night, regular as clockwork, I had to answer a call of nature and go balancing down the ladder and out into the desert. Some nights there were stars all over the sky which lit up the scene like the Blackpool Illuminations. But one particular night it was pitch black. That evening, my son had pointed out a camel spider doing the rounds – a big hairy thing with pincers. There were also scorpions ambling about which were so huge and black that they looked like novelty rubber toys (but really, really weren’t). And I didn’t want to tread on anything that didn’t want to be trodden on.
So I borrowed C’s headtorch and set off into the night. The torch shone through a comforting red filter, and I picked my way around the camp beds of those who were sleeping under the stars and went far out into the dunes to find the perfect spot, neatly avoiding anything that scuttled. When I got there, I tried to switch the headtorch off. But it didn’t go off, it switched into blinding spotlight mode and when I looked around in confusion it shone straight on the camp beds, the inhabitants of which started making waking up noises. In panic I switched the thing again and it turned straight into alarm beacon with a flashing on/off mega bright light that said “HERE IS SOMEBODY!! TAKE A LOOK!!”
In the end I had to stuff it down my pyjama top, where it kept on flashing but with a rather attractive muted floral glow.
So there we are, not an exotic holiday tale, but cautionary in it’s own way: always use a headtorch you know and trust. Now I’ll try and think of the things that happened that are far from normal experience in the Wiltshire countryside, and which I could repeat in the most refined circles.