"Rico wants to go camping," I said, gloomily. "But I don't."
"Oh," she said, "don't you like camping?"
"I love camping," I replied. "Or, at least, I did, last time I did it. I thought it was great. I mean, okay, last time I did it, Margaret Thatcher was still in power and there were still, as Rico puts it, two Germanys. But I loved it, I really loved it. I loved having an old-fashioned type kettle to boil the water in; you know the kind I mean? They whistle. And I loved eating my cereal out of a plastic bowl and I loved the taste of milk that had been made out of powdered milk. But I don't know. It's been so long. I don't know if I'd still like it."
"I kind of had you down as a camper, Jacinta."
"You were right! I am a camper! I am basically a camper! Like, if I had to choose, I would immediately align myself to the camp... camp."
"So why don't you go? If he wants to? Over Whitsun."
I chewed on my bottom lip politely.
"I dunno," I said. "I'm not the kind of girl who goes camping without a man. You know? I need a man to build a tent. If I had a boyfriend who was into camping, I'd totally go."
"I went camping with my son, when he was Rico's age. We hiked all the way to the Ostsee. I carried the tent on my back in a rucksack. At night we cooked beans in a tin saucepan over an open fire. We didn't even pay for campsites. We just went swimming in the sea. You should do it. It'll be fun."
"Hmmm," I said.
"You can't just sit around, passively, waiting for your boyfriend to ask you to go camping with you."
"Oh, I know," I said. "That's why I had this brilliant idea."
"We're going to go to Tropical Island! They put the tents up for you and everything! It's going to be brilliant!"
My Very German Friend sniffed at me disapprovingly. I don't blame her really, to be honest. But fuck, we had fun. Tropical Island is this fake Biosphäre/tropical paradise out in Brandenburg, and it's fantastic. Okay, okay, it's hideously expensive, and they're really naughty for charging you extra for shit – fairground rides and going down a fucking water slide – like what the FUCK – it's a fucking waterslide, you mentalists – especially when it's so much to get in anyway, and it's tacky as fuck, some of it, crappy techno music blasting out all through the night, and basically, it’s a hugely overpriced Hallenbad but still. The best customer service I have ever had in this country – i.e. service staff who speak to you like they don't think your middle name is Cunt! And really, it's physically impossible not to have fun when your kids are enjoying themselves SO much – and kids don't give a shit about stuff like how unhealthy the food is or how ghastly the techno music is. Or how much money you're spending. And I think swimming with Rico through the Strudel at eleven o'clock at night, while they shone neon disco lights onto the water, might well have been the happiest moment of my life.
However, next weekend I'm going proper camping! Proper, proper camping. Proper, proper, proper camping! Spreewald. It's okay. My Very German friend is coming with me. She's gonna put the tent up and everything. Thing is, if you don't have a boyfriend who's into camping, a Very German Friend will do, too.