Summer camp is an American tradition dating back to the 19th Century, which lets boys and girls spend six weeks camping out under the stars, singing around the fire and learning valuable life skills.
On a lake in the state of Maine, close to the Canadian border, my middle son is living on an island with 85 other boys. There is no electricity, no running water and something called a perch instead of a regular toilet.
There are plenty of wild ducks – but that is about it. Boats of all sizes are the only form of transport.
Welcome to the wilderness that is summer camp. This is the pioneering American spirit, alive and well and, far from being Lord of the Flies, it seems more Swallows and Amazons.
“Mum, Dad, I’m going to be a one-hundred-per-center,” announced our beaming, sunburnt son when we went to visit him in this unfamiliar setting.
Parents seize upon camp as a chance to unplug their children from the never-ending electronic chatter of video games, mobile phones and email”
“A what?” we inquired.
“I go skinny-dipping every morning before breakfast,” Toby explained, “and if I do that every day for six weeks, I’ll be a one-hundred-per-center.”
We nodded, trying vainly to understand the significance.
“I was going on a kayaking and camping trip this weekend,” Toby told us, “but I stayed behind because you were visiting.
“I wanted to,” he added hastily, though not altogether convincingly.