Book review – The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy

The Tent, the Bucket and Me was another book that I received in the free book box I picked up last week. I had never heard of this book or its writer, but the write-up on the back looked interesting, so I thought, Why not? I am very happy I decided to read this book, as it was absolutely hilarious. Emma Kennedy wrote down her memories of her family holidays in the seventies. With help from her parents (as some of the memories are from when she was three), she has put together the account of her family’s disastrous attempts to go camping, both in the UK and in France.

It is absolutely unbelievable how much bad luck this family had with camping. It is understandable that going camping in the UK you can have the occasional rained-out holiday, but what the Kennedy’s experienced in the seventies went far beyond that. How they kept going year after year is a mystery to me. After the second disastrous holiday I would have thrown in the towel, but each year Tony packed the car full and the family would set off to yet another camping destination, ever hopeful that this year it would be better.

Camping in the seventies is of course an entirely different experience than camping nowadays. Back then, the tents were monstrosities, hard to put up, barely waterproof and of course not in any way, shape or form aerodynamic. And then there was the bucket. Do we really have to talk about the bucket? Suffice to say I do not understand how people could have gone camping without toilets. And considering the mishaps that happened with the bucket, it was really not a great idea at all.

The book was hilarious and I laughed so much. Emma Kennedy has a great style of writing, and although she makes fun of her parents, you can feel the love and warmth glowing from the pages. No matter how disastrous the holidays were, they provided some great memories, and out of the memories came this great book. I can heartily recommend it, especially if you have ever been camping.

I was born in the latter part of the seventies, but my family went camping too. Not to such disastrous lengths as the Kennedy family, but we had our share of misfortunes. My family had a mobile caravan, but due to the number of children in our family, we also had two small tents in which the older children slept (me included). I remember well the mornings when I woke up, calling to my dad: “Dad, my hand is in water.” Or (a bit more gross), waking up with vomit-encrusted hair. At the time, those incidents are horrible and make you vow never to go camping again. But in hindsight it is all part of the experience. We had some great times camping and I fully intend to take my children camping sometime soon. Thankfully the campsites my parents always took us had fully functioning toilet, although I also vaguely remember a pink bucket with a toilet seat. Was that for midnight emergencies?

This book really brought ¬†home the fact that it is great to create memories for your children. Sure, some of Emma Kennedy’s memories of camping with her parents aren’t wonderful. But judging by how she writes about them, they were not life-altering traumatic and she maintains a sense of humour about it all. I didn’t always like sleeping in a tent myself and I still don’t like sleeping in a tent while it rains for fear of the tent leaking. This despite my husband’s best efforts to convince me that our tent really is waterproof (it is, it has withheld a tropical storm in Australia when everyone else was flooded out). But whenever my siblings and I get together and share holiday memories, it’s invariably the “disaster” moments that make us roll on the floor laughing.

At one point my dad had bought a “bungalow tent”, which was to be used as sleeping quarters for about 5 of us. It looked very impressive, but took ages to set up and of course the thing was anything but waterproof. That year, my parents decided to buy a static caravan, which was probably the best decision they made. A lot of fun memories were created in the static caravan as well, but the disaster stories are still the ones that make us laugh the most.

What are some of your fond camping/holiday memories?

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