Thunder woke us and we could see lightning brighten up the sky, even through the canvas. The first few drops of rain bounced off the taut material, slow at first then faster, heavier, until individual splatters were no longer discernible. Our tent had a built-in floor, so we were laid on a nylon flysheet rather than mud and grass. It felt like a safe place, somewhere nothing could get us and we could pretend.
The tent wasn’t very far from everyday life, pitched as it was in our back garden. We pleaded with Dad to let us spend a night on the Rec or in the forest, but he said no, it wasn’t safe on our own and he couldn’t stand Josie’s snoring all night to come with us himself. So the garden it was.
I think it rained most nights that summer. Mum had a rule, no going out if it was wet before we went to bed, but if it started overnight we could stay outside. If we got wet, even a bit, we’d never dry off in the tent, she said. Josie stuck her head out one night, right out into the dark, and got her hair all wet on purpose. It was cold she said, but that was all. And when we woke up in the morning, it had dried, just a bit frizzier than usual.
By the time we were going back to school, we were both ready to move back indoors. Neither of us wanted to admit it. Dad said we couldn’t sleep outside on school nights and it would be too cold soon anyway, so after a pathetic show of resistance we agreed. Dad knew the score and said we could have crumpets for supper to make up for it and if we missed it too much, we could have sleeping bags on the floor of our bedroom.
Rain on glass doesn’t hold the same affection for me as rain on the material of a tent roof. For days I didn’t sleep well after we came inside. The rain was soothing and I still find it calming 20 years on. Josie said she it just made her want a wee.