This was my antidote to One Day. I bought The Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy last year but somehow it got into the wrong pile of books and I didn't realise I hadn't read it. After I had read One Day and was putting it into the bookcase this book caught my eye and I picked it up. It's occasions like that which make me wonder if there is a benevolent universe looking out for me after all because this is the funniest book I have read in a while. I laughed out loud. Real giggling, body shaking laughter which is an interesting experience when reading a hardback in bed at night. At first I thought it wasn't perhaps a good idea to read something so funny before going to sleep but I only read a few pages at a time and I had some of the best nights sleep afterwards.
Emma has written about a period in the 70s when her parents bought a tent and decided camping was the way to go holidaywise. She chronicles the disastrous holidays they had in such an expressive way that it was like watching a film. I could just see it happening. She says in her introduction that she has frequently been asked if she had made any of it up and her reply is 'Sadly not. In fact, I wish I had.'
Emma was conceived on her parent's honeymoon in a badly erected rain lashed tent. Her first family holiday aged three was in 1970 and consisted of collecting a doom laden Welsh granny whilst driving an extremely dodgy bargain car on the way to a strangely deserted campsite set on the edge of a cliff in Wales. A tale of gale force ten winds and rain, dead sheep, a bucket of wee, a caravan with seaweed in the toilet and near death unfolds which is hilarious. It is a foretaste of each holiday the family takes, whether in a tent or in a gite, throughout the seventies, minus the Welsh granny who decides one trip into hell is more than enough. These tales include a school camping trip which is just as eventful as her parents holidays and nicely illustrates the confusing biological information a seven year old can hold as being true and the innocence with which they will pass this information onto a gobsmacked adult.
I love the theatre and film as much as I love books but I am not at all keen on farce, to the degree that I generally avoid anything remotely farcical. What stops this book being pure farce is the quality of the writing and the fact it is a first person narrative. It has the same biting humour that a good episode of Frasier has. It is observant and being written in the first person the reader is party to Emma's thoughts and feelings about each and every holiday disaster and this gives it a certain depth and of course, it's personal. It's a book I will keep on hand for when life is being unkind and I am in need of a good laugh because I could easily read it again and still find it funny.
And I am so, so glad I have never been camping and I never, ever intend to start.