Monday, 3 September 2007

Camp fun

Gosh, time has galloped by. We went to Sizewell last week, camping with all three children. The weather was wonderful -- it only rained at night, just as in Camelot. It's all thanks to Grandma Pam, who gave us money for a family holiday a couple of years ago which we invested in the kit. I was used to the technical stuff -- lightweight thermarest, down sleeping bag, and all that, but for family camping in summer with a car, the cheap kit is amazingly effective. A's top tip was to get a six-person tent even though there were four of us. Since the manufacturers expect you to pack in like sardines, this has worked out well. Those red and blue inflatable mattresses are very comfortable too. The sleeping bags are a bit flimsy, but as they are £20 for two we've just bought another pair (they make cheap cushions for the garden loungers). We got it all from Argos.

I spent two years dithering about a gas hob for my kitchen, and during that time we cooked on a meths stove -- eventually upgrading to two meths stoves. So getting them out again is all very nostalgic. My top recipe for camping is corned beef hash. In its simplest form, you can just put a standard sized tin of baked beans (other brands don't seem to be as good as Heinz) and a half-sized tin of corned beef (otherwise there's too much beef) into a pan and stir them till they turn to sludge. (A half-sized tin of corned beef is almost the same price as the full size, but there's no point keeping a half tin in the fridge because you won't eat it, will you?). That will feed two people; for four it's easier, of course: two tins of baked beans and one tin of corned beef. A dash of Worcestershire sauce makes it even nicer. Or you can grate cheese over the top. For the poncey version, start by frying an onion: A uses olive oil but I prefer butter. Is there a more glorious smell in the world than onions frying in butter? Anyway, there you have it: a spendid dinner or a really fabulous breakfast.

Other top tips: wherever you go on holiday, whatever you're doing, take a headtorch. It's as useful as a swiss army knife. By the way, I got mine as a present when I did a concert in Switzerland, from Mr Victor Inox himself. I always thought it was a brand name, but it's not.

I read an Agatha Christie, The Seven Dials Mystery, which was really rather silly. Also read recently: Swallowdale, the sequel to Swallows and Amazons. Really lovely, and so wholesome I felt cleansed by the experience. Also Wolf Wing by Tanith Lee, which was pretty inconsequential: a series that seems to have run out of steam, especially when the novelty of the diary format has worn off to leave it just plain irritating. Steaming on with Lois McMaster Bujold, I read Memory, which was a stonking tome and immensely enjoyable. Also a story called 'Winterfair Gifts' in an anthology called (can't remember, I'll fill it in later). I'm sure an Amazon review said it wasn't worth bothering with, but after Komarr and A Civil Campaign I loved having this to tie things up. I also read Diplomatic Immunity, which was a nice uncomplicated detective mystery in space.

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