‘It’s just a bit of rust’ – how we ate from unlabelled tins on holiday


On childhood foreign camping trips, my parents insisted on bringing their own food – including butter, marmalade and Spam – but sometimes even they didn’t know what we were eating

One consequence of having mathematicians as parents was a rather niche holiday habit. I grew up thinking all families summered at the Golden Sands rest home of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, or toured Ivy League universities in a Ford Country Sedan. But in the rare years when no academic institution could be persuaded to fund our travels, like all middle-class families we went camping.

Family dynamics change dramatically on holiday because different skills are required. Mr Fixit and I get on much better when we’re abroad because he doesn’t speak any language except English. He is, however, usefully fluent in engines, oil filters and anything else to do with cars. When we travel, I do the talking, while he undertakes the more lowly jobs of driving, paying the bills and saying “no” to any hotel with patterned wallpaper.

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