Nevertheless, the break was welcome and much enjoyed by all concerned. I will gloss over the various mishaps, including:
Lighting a sky lantern to celebrate a friend's birthday. We've done this on previous camping expeditions with no problems, but this time, due to a slight miscalculation about where to light it, we caused a small, (but, we judged, insignificant) hole. The lantern lifted off slowly, hanging in the night air, while we all held our breath waiting for it to sail off up into the sky.
However it didn't ascend.
It hung, apparently motionless, before erupting in flames then slowly sinking towards the roofs and awnings of some caravans on the other side of a large hedge.
We exhaled a collective NOOOOOOO!!!!! and two of our party sped off down the path to try to intercept the now flaming Hindenburg-like lantern. Fortunately there was no breeze and it plummeted onto a patch of grass by the side of the path, where it was hastily stamped out.
Disaster thus averted, we all regrouped back at our day tent, where someone innocently enquired as to the whereabouts of one of the dogs, who had last been seen moments before the conflagration which threatened to burn the campsite to the ground. The person who had been holding the lead was quickly interrogated and we then all ran off in different directions into the night to try to retrieve the dog, who, incidentally, is blind.
Thankfully he hadn't wandered far, and some passing campers alerted us to his position.
Knowing that things always happen in threes, we were chastened into behaving like adults for the rest of the evening, and the following day, until someone suggested that we assemble the unicycle and give it a go.
Yes, I know.
I don't know WHAT we were thinking.
Not only did the infernal machine require building, the instructions were written in German. I did German to A-Level many aeons ago, but I confessed I was stumped as unicycle assembly hadn't featured prominently in either the everyday conversational German, or the poetry of Goethe, both of which I had studied in some depth.
I was also disconcerted to discover that the instructions made liberal use of BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks to a degree that did not inspire confidence.
Undaunted however, three of the team set about putting the thing together. It shouldn't really have taken as long as it did. I mean, there is only one wheel, an upright frame, two pedals and a saddle so it wasn't exactly rocket science.
Whatever was possible to do wrong, they did. The saddle went on backwards, then skew-whiff. The frame was either too high or too low. The inner tube was subsequently over-inflated and bulged out of the side of the tire. The pedals went the wrong way.
Eventually, after much discussion, it was declared ready to ride, and a
I must admit, I've seen people unicycling and it always looks quite easy. I can't be the only one who has thought "that doesn't look too hard. Just a matter of balance....."
I can now testify, hand on heart that it is completely impossible to just get on a unicycle.
You can forget getting it to go. Just getting ON it is completely impossible.
In addition, any hope of maintaining even a modicum of dignity or decorum should be put firmly from your mind.
You will look like a complete numpty.
Even when 'safely' supported on either side, the wheel is always resolutely either two feet in front of your centre of gravity, or two feet behind it. The nanoseconds when your body is exactly centred over the wheel hub are fleeting and rare.
Needless to say, I did not volunteer to mount it. My balance is precarious enough at the best of times so I had no desire to add to the general hilarity our antics produced. A nearby group of campers, shouted encouraging suggestions, the best of which I judged to be "you might do better if you'd had a drink". I was on my way to do just that thing when I met PP striding purposefully towards the arena, with a very determined look in her eye.
After the latest would-be unicyclist dismounted and hobbled away, she took a firm grip of the machine and waved away the two helpers. I remonstrated that if the experience of any of the previous attempts was anything to go by she was being a tad optimistic, but she declared that she would be fine and that having watched where everyone else had gone wrong, she was confident that she would be able to just 'get on and go'.
Well part of that prediction was spot on. She certainly did go. Sort of up in a graceful arc, then backwards, then very swiftly down.
With a thump.
Thankfully, the experiment didn't result in concussion and/or broken bones. After being checked out and helped to her feet, she wobbled around for a minute or two before retiring to the comfort and safety of the day tent, for some liquid refreshment.
I've just re-read this post thus far, and it occurs to me that I haven't actually glossed over anything.
Except the provenance of the unicycle. Which is hardly standard camping gear, even for the most adventurous wild camper.
Apparently it had been languishing in the capacious storage compartment of our friend's big motorhome for some time. Bought as an inspired birthday present several years ago and never assembled due to its recipient having to undergo spinal surgery. Having seen it in action, I can confirm that if she HAD used it she would have had to have the surgery even sooner.
PP has suffered no ill effects from her brief encounter with the unicycle, despite all our assurances that she would develop a large bruise on her derriere. The bruise has not materialised, and PP's back problems have not resurfaced either. Perhaps she inadvertently jarred something back into place.
Small Dog, usually in the thick of any misadventures, was remarkably well-behaved and sensible throughout. Unless you count her rolling in something disgusting while she was out on a walk.
So, all in all, not a bad weekend.
There is, of course, both photographic and video evidence of the shenanigans, but they have been forcibly suppressed to protect the guilty. Also they might come in useful as a bargaining tool in the future.