A camp site.

Every week Frank Leavers our man with the dirty Mac and half empty glass of inexpensive vino is looking at what lies just below the sophisticated gloss of island life. Come on folks; tell our Frank what’s really happening in Majorca.

Isn’t it funny how - as the years go by, a person’s view of life can and does change considerably? At first it’s your children that wreak havoc in your well ordered life, then if you are lucky enough - and reach a certain stage in life when grandchildren change everything, and for once I will not draw you a picture to confirm that premise. Suffice it to say that whereupon at one time I would be highly vexed about being in Blighty at this time of year; nowadays I’m not, because I’m here. After listing a number of activities with various elements of our extended family, it was suggested that we all went camping together for a weekend. Cue panic! What to do? I hate camping, always have, always will. There I’ve said it. And yet my whole family are enthusiastically embracing the concept of a weekend away - under canvas - in some godforsaken corner of England; but how do I dissuade them from this course of action without appearing a solid-gold wimp? If you’ve never been camping, I can tell you now - it hurts, it really hurts. That is, unless you go for one of those fancy ‘Glamping’ breaks, whereupon your tent is not really a tent at all, but a luxurious version of life under canvas with all the mod-cons one might expect in an Algerian knocking shop - or, so I’m told. Yes, I am not designed to sleep in some stupid sleeping-bag on rock hard ground and pretend to enjoy it, because I don’t. I never liked it as a Boy Scout nor as a very short-lived Army Cadet (khaki was never me!) where you didn’t even have a choice in the matter.

When my son was young and impressionable, he persuaded me to go on a Lads & Dads camp when he was in the Scouts. It could best be described as a total unmitigated disaster with knobs on. After singing songs around the campfire for what seemed like an eternity and with my arse numb and covered in nasty looking ant bites, I decided that I would remove myself to the local pub which was also a noted local B&B. This did not go down at all well with the lads, some young feller called Akela - or the other dads come to think of it Anyway, happily I’ve managed to head off a potentially agonising camping trip with the family as I have volunteered to treat my lot to a long weekend at one of those activity park places where we will all sleep in a big wooden chalet on comfortable beds with running water and toilets that work. I fear it is going to cost me a small fortune - I suppose it serves me right.

If it appears that I’m having a bit of a whinge in today’s column, there is one British institution that I do approve of and that is the humble charity shop. Now then, as an expert in this area can I point out to you that, as with a potential purchase of a property anywhere, including Majorca - it’s all about location, location, location. So looking for a quality bargain at a charity shop in Bristol, Birmingham or Bolton is not the same as seeking one out in Cheltenham, Chester, or Chipping Norton. You will get served by a lady who is posher than Her Majesty the Queen and she will look you up and down so as to make sure that you are not ‘riff-raff’ and then proceed to buy a genuine Harris Tweed jacket that has only been worn once, quite possibly by the local lord of the manner - for ten quid. Only in these locations could second-hand clobber be described as “Previously Loved.” Anyway, has anybody else noticed that charity shops have volunteer staff that are, ahem - how do you put this? Slightly odd! The other day I was in such an emporium, when a magnificent lady assistant asked me three times if she could help me. “Just looking” - I murmured, in that time honoured fashion - as if to say - “Get lost will you?” Not to be put-off, she shadowed my every move, either to generate an unlikely sale, or more likely to ensure I couldn’t and didn’t nick anything. As we left the shop, I asked Julie if I looked particularly shifty, or somehow criminal? “I suppose you do a bit” was her considered reply!

Highlight of the week apart from being stalked in a charity shop? That would be my visit to Edgbaston Birmingham, to watch the second day (Friday) of the 1st Ashes Test Match between England and Australia with a brace of brothers, a brother-in-law, and a spare nephew. As we sat in the Hollies Stand amongst The Barmy Army (a rather eccentric and loud group of England cricket supporters!) we witnessed a great day of Test Match cricket, that alas was all for nought as the Aussies triumphed three days later. NOTE - Can you imagine a new game being introduced to the sporting public that could take 5 whole days to complete and at the end of it could be called a draw? Furthermore, how civilised can a sporting encounter be when the players themselves take time out to have luncheon and tea and if necessary to call a halt to play if it should rain or become dark? I do know however, that for many of you reading this, who have yet to succumb to the charms of cricket this will mean absolutely nothing, but I assure you that for some of us cricket is up there with a fat-boys-breakfast the first cold beer on a long hot day and tantric sex. Pip Pip!