August in a Tent

August was the month of the tent. Camping at the beginning and end. Beginning on a campsite in Brittany, surrounded by trees with the sunshine volume turned to 11. Sea views, banks of full bloom hydrangeas and crepes widely available. Pretty much my perfect France.

Camping France

Ending in a field in Devon, frantically packing the tent while strong winds drove rain into every crevice of both the tent and myself. Exhilarating.

In between, I finally sat under the canvas of Giffords Circus and it was every bit as magical as hoped.

Tents are my happy place (even in the rain), I’m not sure if it is a primitive instinct to be outside and close to nature or as an antidote to modern life. Camping slows everything down, the entertainment becomes simple card games, my son plays endless games of football and the background noise is a swap from the radio (endless depressing news) to birdsong.

August is my month to drop off digitally, to enjoy the holidays and give my scrolling thumb a rest. Halfway through September, I’m back here with good intentions for the autumn. This is the place where I record a little of life and at the end of each summer postcard from the holidays.  The summer of heat, here and in France. The summer I swam in the sea of a small beach in Brittany and I never swim in the sea.


We rolled off an early morning cross-channel ferry and into France, this time to Brittany. Wild coastlines, plenty of tiny villages to explore, markets for every day of the week and despite its popularity with holidaying French and Brits – plenty of empty beaches.


French campsites seem to have a pool as standard, which is the basic holiday requirement of my 10-year-old. Wild coastlines suit my other half.  France takes August off and it is peak time for emptying the attic: ‘vide-greniers’.  The French equivalent of ‘car-boots’.  One Sunday, I coached my family around five. It is less the buying and more the event, there is almost always food options; fries, local sausages, mussels, crepes. Wine and beer –  which never seems to be an offer at English car-boots (missing a trick). Mostly, the sheer variety of French junk. Always; kitchenalia, Playmobil, Ricard jugs and everything in between from furniture to religious statues.  Fascinating and absolutely my favourite way to spend a Sunday.



Post-holiday and desperately in need of an injection of magic, on a whim I booked tickets to Giffords Circus. I say ‘on a whim’ but Giffords has been on my wishlist since listening to Nell Gifford speak at an event a few years back. Nell ran away to the circus and after various European adventures set up her own Giffords which tours across the South of the UK each summer. Forget every previous circus experience, this is something different. Each summer there is a theme and this year’s; the 1930s. Glamorous women in sparkling dresses with ‘cut glass’ accents singing Gershwin songs. Performing dachshunds, talking turkeys and breath-taking acrobatics. No other circus will do.

Bank Holiday Camping in Devon

In an urge to eek out every last moment of what had been a perfect summer, we pitched our tent in a big field in Devon on Friday afternoon and celebrated the Bank Holiday weekend with locally caught fish and chips. Seaside fish and chips always taste better than the city equivalent. We spent on Saturday on Saunton Sands, over 3 miles of sand, with limited access, it could never be busy. I’d recommend walking to the sands via Braunton Burrows a beautiful UNESCO bio-reserve of sand dunes and plants, which for a bank holiday weekend, was equally empty of people.

On Sunday we woke to rain bouncing relentlessly off the tent roof and the wind pulling at the awnings. Initially, our attitude was stoic: rain would not deter us. The rain did disagreed. We watched the access to our field quickly become a mud-bath. Cars wheels spinning frantically and engines revving fruitlessly.  The call of home, a hot bath and a quick-boil kettle, became very strong and we fled. There ended summer. From flip flops to wellies and waterproofs in the space of two days.

Other summer highlights

While there is a nip in the air and I’ve reached for a cardi after what seems like months without one, I will look back on this summer fondly. Heat makes for memorable summers. Cracking flagstones is my kind of weather. This summer hit the record books. It seemed that every door and window was open for weeks, still light mornings and long golden evenings.


Shorts and dresses

High temperatures brought out all the summer dresses.  A nation that seems to favour grey and black appeared in bright colours and florals. If not dresses, then shorts. Everywhere I went this summer, women wore shorts, short shorts. The simplest, care-free item of clothing, largely left off of style guides and requiring a bit of ‘leg confidence’. Previously, I had filed cut-offs (the type that stops at the top of your thighs) with teen-wear. This summer they were quietly claimed by all women. Which inspired me to buy my own, less cut-offs, more short baggy shorts.  Not flattering but with a bit self-tan and “it’s too hot to care” attitude, they became the most comfortable item to live in across endless sunny weeks.


Not as much as I hoped, only getting to the end of Adam Kay: This is Going to Hurt. The highs and lows of the NHS a very compelling read and a reminder to value our Health Service.

How was your summer?


  1. Katie

    A lovely post Gemma, and it sounds like a great summer too. I haven’t been camping in a few years now but feel we may need to upgrade the tent before we attempt it again. As much as it is about returning to simplicity, I don’t think the family and the dog would all fit in our basic two person tent any more! Thank you for reminding me of that book, another one to add to the must-read list x

    1. helloitsgemma

      Thanks for your lovely comment Katie. I do hope you up-grade and get camping again. It really is such a lovely thing to do and children love it. Hope you enjoy the book. X

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