The minimalist guide to camping – set up your site in five simple steps

1. Arrive at campsite and park under shady tree.
2. Unfold camping chairs.
3. Open bottle of wine.
4. Decide on red or green Pringles. Mmmm.
5. Sit back and watch the proper campers next door wrestle with tangled ropes and inadequate foot pumps in the midday sun. If you’ve got any left, maybe offer them a Pringle.

And so began our first trip in the campervan. It’s probably not a purist’s view of a camping weekend but (in our limited experience) a brilliant alternative.

We took the ferry to North Stradbroke Island – the second largest sand island in the world and a beautiful spot. It’s very accessible from Cleveland so we’ve been lots of times, but this was the first time we didn’t have to rush for the last ferry home.

Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island

We stayed at the Adder Rock campsite, right next to the beach near Point Lookout. Surprisingly, ours was one of the only campervans amidst an entire village of tents – and these were not your average two-manners, but mini canvas empires with dining rooms and adjoining corridors – all very swish. And a few metres from our pitch was Home Beach which is just lovely: a small bay which is perfect for swimming and then a sweeping stretch of white sand.

Home Beach, Point Lookout

Once we’d sussed out our surroundings and entertained ourselves with our new toys (an ergonomic broom for the wooden floor being the highlight) we were quite content to just kick back and enjoy the afternoon sunshine.

Yes our awning would have been very effective.. if we’d parked the other way round. Tsk – amateurs.

Our very subtle Christmas decorations (particularly subtle when compared with our neighbours’ fairy light extravaganza and lifesize inflatable reindeer).

We were very taken with our little van. It turned out we had heaps of storage, and lots of nooks and crannies so that everything had its place. The seats were comfortable (hurrah!) and the bathroom was fabulous. Unfortunately the gas wasn’t connected due to our plumber going awol the day before, so there were no cups of tea this trip – a bottle of bubbles stepped in at the last moment to toast our maiden voyage. And it was so hot I don’t think anybody (i.e. Paul) even noticed I served the same trio of salads for each meal. As soon as the stove’s working though I’ll have to consult my campervan cookbook and try to conjure up some cuisine worthy of competing with the other delicious aromas drifting around the site at 6pm.

We’d planned the weekend as a kind of test run to see how everything worked and whether another trip to Bunnings was required (it usually is) … but all I wrote down was ‘more bin-bags’ so it turns out we were quite organised.

View from the car ferry on the way home.

We were only away one night but it felt like a proper break – apparently that’s the start of the camping bug. Since we returned we’ve surrounded ourselves with maps and brochures to decide on the next destination. All recommendations welcome!

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A sewer’s guide to being pragmatic (while still making beautiful seat cushions)

Pragmatism. noun 1 the art of dealing with things in a practical rather than theoretical way. 2 the art of embracing campervan cushions as a practical seating application even when the corners are theoretically lop-sided, sticky-out or have a tiny hole in the middle.

I started off with a rather romantic notion of making these cushions; being holed up at my sewing machine on a Sunday afternoon with a nice cup of tea, radio on and the heater warming my feet. When I realised I was actually quite good at sewing in a straight line, I was already converting my desk into a sewing table and planning all sorts of ambitious projects.

The vision was shattered as soon as I reached my first corner. The general idea with a box seat cushion is to have a top and bottom panel, a side strip that runs around three sides and a back panel with a zip. None of this sounds too complicated, but whichever method I try to sew the side strip around the corners, they look completely different.

I have dusted off my library card and tried four different patterns. Through the wonder of YouTube, I’ve had lessons from Darlene in Detroit and taken advice from Barry in Texas. I’ve tried the meticulous ‘pinning and pressing’ method and the more kamikaze ‘just snip and pivot’ method (that was Barry) and nothing seems to work consistently. Every time I think I’ve cracked it, no sooner have I made a celebratory brew than I line it up with the opposite corner and realise it’s two centimetres lower.

Hurrah!

Aaaaaaarghhh!

So after several frustrating weekends at the sewing machine growing increasingly despondent, I came to the conclusion that imperfect corners would just have to do. I would take a pragmatic approach and just get them finished. Shamelessly seeking reassurance that my corners were, in fact, brilliant and I was being way too hard on myself, I showed Paul a selection and asked for his honest opinion.

And in the next moment, in a brief memory lapse when all the rules that had been carefully instilled over the last 12 years were inexplicably discarded, there was a pause. A frown. A very close look at the seams. And then, ‘Hmmmm. Yes, I see what you mean.’

Followed by a look of complete surprise when a fine plume of smoke started escaping from my ears.

‘But, you said you wanted…’

‘I DIDN’T MEAN IT! I WANTED YOU TO SAY THESE ARE THE FINEST EXAMPLES OF CUSHION CORNERS YOU HAVE EVER SEEN AND WHY HAVE I NOT JOINED BARRY AND DARLENE ON YOUTUBE WITH MY OWN SERIES OF SEWING VIDEOS’.

‘Oh.’

So that’s that. It’s back to the drawing board. But, having relayed the whole sorry story in a long teleconference, Mum has come up with a new plan of attack, which requires sewing no corners whatsoever. Round cushions! Actually no, that will be a very last resort, but I will try the new method this afternoon and report back. Meanwhile, the heater’s on and the radio’s blaring, but I may add something a little stronger to my tea cup.