A WEEK before we pile into the car for our holiday in Cornwall, a letter from the lawyer arrives, headed YOUR WILLS, reminding us that we don't have wills. It suggests we make some funeral preparations, and contains the line "while your children are young and you will be travelling together, it would be sensible to provide for some long-stop provision in the event of you all dying in the same accident". I think I speak for all five of us when I say that in the event of such an accident we would like our giant family tombstone to read SOD THIS, but my wife may have additional swear words.

Oddly, this forthcoming holiday has occasioned the purchase of one piece of manly kit I'd given up on ever owning: a tent. Against our better judgment, my wife and I and our three little sons, aged one, four and nine weeks, will be breaking up our trip with a spot of light camping. I've never had a tent of my own because I do not camp, but in the parallel universe where I'm a bachelor travelling around America in a beat-up pick-up truck, I'm sure I would have a small tent stuffed behind the seat, one of those self-contained, low-profile small-footprint affairs, just the thing for attending a last-minute rave or climbing K2.

I looked through a tent catalogue and ogled the all-season one-man tents, the ones with names like the Scorpion and the Eureka Assault 2XT. They have ripstop disbursement panels and adjustable beckets, with power- mesh rod sleeves and multiple- web guyout points.

Of course, I wasn't in the market for an Assault 2XT, at least not in this universe, so I picked up a regular catalogue. Flipping past hair dryers and collectible figurines to camping, I selected a five-man family fun tent shaped like a barn with the footprint of a bouncy castle. It was delivered yesterday. It does not have adjustable beckets. It has curtains. The instructions strongly advise me to practise putting it up beforehand, but some quick measurements confirmed my suspicion that it's too big for the garden. My wife wants me to erect it in the local park, but I think I might save my humiliation for Cornwall.

So far my only other preparation for this holiday has been tuning up my sense of dread. Night after night I lie awake, tortured by some fresh worry - for instance: how am I going to keep my children from staring at the eclipse? I know the one-year-old would go blind just to be contrary. Then after drifting into a fitful sleep, I wake up suddenly in the sweltering darkness, knowing in my gut that it's about time I left this one-horse burg behind and headed out west, so I tell Steve to start up the truck and meet me round the back in five minutes.