A few of you may remember the "Igloo" tent. Never very common, it's now as rare as hen's teeth but in my view, it deserved to be much more widely used; I suspect that the one belonging to my pal B----- is now the only one in captivity. It used a simple idea; there were no poles to sort out, thread through and get muddled up. The base was about 7 feet square; from each corner a pneumatic tube rose to a central peak and the spaces between the tubes were in-filled with the canvas walls. The base was merely pegged out at each corner, and with a little gentle exercise on a foot pump the tent would slowly rise to its full height. I can attest to the quiet satisfaction this brought about on a summer's evening although, I have to admit, I used an electric compressor for the pumping (when I cheat, I cheat with style!). But this story is of a time before the advent of such helpful devices.

The tent was loaned one weekend to one of the racing lads in the club so that he could introduce his family to the joys of camping. Now this lad was known throughout Galactica Mancuniae as one of the finest track pump artists of his generation; on Sunday mornings, his tubs were so hard that they fair crackled on the tarmac. On that pleasantly cool Friday evening he applied his talents to a virtuoso performance before an appreciative audience of fellow campers who clapped politely as the tent assumed its final shape. The pneumatic tubes were as stiff as iron bars and the canvas walls as taut as drum-skins. When the tent stood stiff and proud, hardly moving in the gentle evening breeze and clearly capable of withstanding the worst possible tornado, the family retired for the night.

On the following pleasantly warm Saturday morning, our hero applied the track pump once more, "just to make good the losses of the night", before he and his family set off to explore the locality. They returned for tea on an aggressively hot afternoon.

By all accounts the explosion had been little short of cataclysmic. Rooks had been blown off their nests, strong men had dived for cover and for the first time in more than 20 years, the local air-raid siren had burst into full voice (sorry, I made that last one up….!!). The tent, once standing so proudly erect, now flopped over its contents like a recalcitrant teenager. As the family looked in horror at the disaster before them, lightning flashed across the sky, a huge rumble of thunder filled the heavens and reverberated from the surrounding hills. The first soft, fat drops of rain started out on their long journey to earth.….

David Cane