Enlightenment Productions | Happy Camping! (A New Blog)
Enlightenment Productions is an award-winning film and TV production company based in London and founded in partnership between producer Hanan Kattan and writer and director Shamim Sarif.
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Happy Camping! (A New Blog)

Happy Camping! (A New Blog)

So we dropped the boys off at a week-long summer camp last weekend. After a fraught few months during which Ethan had major school exams, grew 6 inches, added hair in places I had hoped never to know about, deepened his voice by an octave, and learned the art of communicating entirely by grunting, a week at camp seemed like a good idea.

Since the only thing that our eldest child professed to be interested in was computer games, I scoured the whole of England for a camp that taught programming and found one (and only one). Well, I practically ran to put down the payment. We asked Luca if he’d like to join in, and he chewed ruminatively on his carrot and thought, yes, he would.

He changed his mind somewhat once we arrived. Gangs of 13 year olds, looking like extras from a British suburban remake of West Side Story, stood about in hoodies, scratching their arms, and wondering how to connect with each other in the absence of cell phones. We left Ethan evaluating the other teenage boys and headed off to settle Luca in his cabin.

Well, I don’t know about you, but the word ‘cabin’ brings to my mind Mark Twain and romantic Americana. I know camps are not meant to emulate the Four Seasons, but the sight of all the bunk beds, thin mattresses and single toilet only reminded me of The Shawshank Redemption, but instead of Morgan Freeman’s reassuring presence, there were only preternaturally perky youths who looked about 14 years old, promising me they’d take care of our shy 9 year old. Luca held himself together but couldn’t make eye contact as he was marched away to play football.

I kept a stiff upper lip all the way home, then burst into floods of tears. Hanan eyed me from over her glasses and her Macbook, for she had already worked out that a week at camp meant 80 hours of spreadsheet work for her and she wasn’t planning on wasting a minute.

‘He’ll get used to it eventually,’ she assured me.

‘People get used to Iranian prisons eventually!’ I returned, blowing my nose. ‘I want to fetch them back.’

‘We’re not even supposed to call them,’ my wife pointed out, correctly.

‘And that doesn’t remind you of a prison?’ I cried.

Having successfully derailed Hanan’s spreadsheet and left her lying awake worrying about the boys, I fell asleep.

Calling the boys at camp was strictly prohibited and, being British, I could not break a rule without weeks of angst, so I did the next best thing and begged Hanan to break it.

‘Give me the number,’ she said nonchalantly, unfazed by fake laws laid down by 16 year old camp employees.

Within two hours they had called us back with Ethan and Luca ready to talk to us. I took the phone, trembling, and asked my offspring if they were OK. In my mind, they were both wearing orange jumpsuits, Ethan’s hint of a 13 year-old mustache was already a long, tangled beard, and Luca was weeping from loneliness.

‘Can you not call me again?’ was Ethan’s opening salvo. ‘I’m missing dinner, and it’s really good.’

I was taken aback, but recovered in time to get in another question, but by now, Luca had taken over the phone.

‘Are you sleeping OK in your…’ I bit of the word ‘cell’ and remembered to say ‘room’.

‘It’s great,’ Luca said. ‘I love it.’

‘I love you,’ we both chorused in unison. There was a delicate moment of emotion from the other end of the phone as we waited for the inevitable reply:

‘Don’t call again, OK?’

Nice. As soon as we hung up, I realised that instead of snivelling and working on spreadsheets for Enlightenment Business Solutions, or plans for Leonie Casanova or Despite the Falling Snow, we really ought to be living it up. Or at least sleeping more. Insight. It’s a beautiful thing, especially when your children give it to you.

Shamim Sarif, director and novelist

Shamim convinces Ethan that at computer camp, he will learn to make all the games that are banned at home...

Shamim Sarif
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