A few weeks ago, something rather unpleasant happened while we were camping on Islay. I’ve not talked about this much. I found it quite disturbing at the time, and — because it happened in a place I am very fond of, while engaged in an activity that I love — I’ve not really wanted to mention it here either. I didn’t want to put anyone off either Islay, or camping. But, thinking about it, I realise that anyone who likes either the place or the activity isn’t likely to be put off.

We were camping here.


It is a great spot. We camp here every year. We occasionally see other tents, and it is a familiar and accepted place for wild camping. We are always quiet and considerate of the wonderful environment we camp in. But on our last night on the island, three local lads saw fit to hurl stones at us from the top of the outcrop that you can see on the left.


Here is one of the many stones they threw. As you can see, it is not a small stone, and if it had hit either of us it would have caused serious injury. We were lucky that the only injury was to our tent.


While Tom went to find the police, and to stop what was going on, the lads continued to hurl rocks at the tent and me. I could hear stones thudding, and fabric ripping about me. I’m sure you can understand why I found the whole thing quite disturbing.

Now, being predictably geeky types when it comes to outdoor equipment, we have decent gear, and our tent was a decent one. It was badly torn in many places. We are waiting for our insurers to replace it. Meanwhile, we have a trip planned. I had to fix it. To be frank, I have been putting this off — I didn’t really want to examine the holes those stones had made too closely. But this afternoon, I steeled myself for the task, and repaired it.


I cut out patches from the bag that holds the tent (made of the same waterproof rip-stop fabric as the tent itself) stitched them securely behind each tear with a double seam, and then carefully oversewed the sides of each tear to its corresponding patch. I found myself in immense sympathy with anyone who has to stitch textiles in any sort of industrial quantity for for a living. Feeding something this size through the machine is no fun at all. I had radio 3 on, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra were playing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The whole thing felt a bit manaical.


But after a couple of hours, several broken needles, a lot of swearing, and some sticky wrestling with a tube of seam sealant, I have managed to recreate an eminently serviceable tent. Hoo-fookin-rah! I honestly feel appreciably better. I was never angry at the stone throwers — what they did was silly, it was senseless, and it was quite dangerous too — but all one can say about that is that the young are often senseless. However, I did feel bad on the tent’s behalf. Perhaps it was doing some of my hurting for me. In any case, repairing it has certainly had a restorative effect on me too. As in many other situations, there is a lot to be said for the therapeutic powers of stitching. So we’ll be off again in a few days time for some walking, and some wild camping. I’ll see you in a week or so.