Expect the worst if you're away from home

ROSEMARY MCLEOD
Last updated 08:26 02/01/2014

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Rosemary McLeod

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OPINION: There is a rule about summer holidays and it is this: disaster lurks.

I'm doing my best this year to avoid the horror movie by staying home, where the horror - eviscerated birds and rats and happy cats - is more familiar.

So far I'm delighted, while thousands of feverish outdoorsy people, and many scouting kids, have gone camping.

As always happens, many have had to be rescued from floods. People like to camp close to water, and this is what happens. Annually. 

Which reminds me that Russell Crowe is about to star in a horror movie as Noah, the biblical patriarch who, in an act of epic cruelty, let everyone but his own family drown in a great flood.

I can't relate to people who trill that they're going to pitch a tent in the wilderness and have a wonderful time.

I imagine campfire ditties sung shakily at night, in pitch darkness, to drown out the sound of cattle breathing, or - worse - other people breathing. 

This will be where I Whistle a Happy Tune would be useful, as sung in The King and I, but you can't fool me. 

I've been camping twice, and once was enough.

I woke the first time, with a plague of earwigs crawling over my sleeping bag, to a grey dawn and a yearning for hot showers, toast and, above all, plumbing.

That would be a true horror movie, one based on the whole world losing its plumbing overnight, forced to be happy campers fulltime in high-rise apartment blocks.  

In the second excursion I camped among counterculture people, stranded in nowhere while I waited for a lift home. 

Opening the tent flap the first morning I nearly fell into a Francis Bacon painting, a slaughtered goat hung in a tree, dripping innards.

This was getting in touch with nature, I guessed, as were the trips with a spade to find somewhere to nature-ise as a toilet.  

Nature is best seen at a distance. The nearer it gets there are fangs and claws, blood and bad smells, and we've all seen Deliverance.

There's also Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. They give fair warning.As for Peckinpah there was, one summer, a few days in what was supposed to be idlyllic countryside, just a few minutes from a famous beach, said the online ad.

That wouldn't be as bad as camping, I thought, especially as it was quite expensive. 

The cute farm cottage turned out to be miles from civilisation and close by a shearing shed, where the smell of sheep droppings rose briskly in the heat. At night, flying huhu beetles, insect helicopters to rival Hitchcocks's The Birds, flew inside if you unwisely left a door or window open for fresh air, revolting things dead or alive.

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The place was, it turned out, at least half an hour's drive over narrow, unsealed roads from the sea. So much for the countryside: some people choose to live in it, but we're under no obligation to linger.  

Here's another horror movie title for the summer season: Home Stay. Bangalore actress Shirin signed a contract in October for just such a movie, which she described, fittingly, as ''full-on horror''.  

I've never tried actually staying in someone's home this way because I think of Psycho, and bathrooms made from that cardboard stuff they built old motels out of, so every sound of emission is magnified. I've stayed in a motel like this deep in the South Island.

Our hosts, who hadn't redecorated since 1960, had evidently found a use for their old stereo speakers.But the scariest thing, when you're holidaying in a strange place, is always other people: feral, drunk, stoned, stupid, mad or bad.

This truth drives both horror movies and crime statistics, which we understand by what regularly befalls unfortunate foreign travellers, beguiled by our apparent niceness. 

The latest attack, on two German teenagers, will hopefully result in official warnings against freedom camping.

There are too many wild animals among us to let such savagery happen again.

- The Dominion Post

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