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So, funny story.

In the months before we moved to Scotland, I spent a lot of time on travel blogs. This was partially in response to everyone saying, “ooh, you’ll travel so much while you’re there!”, partly because some of the information was useful for the move, too, and partly because I have an un-holy love of practical, lightweight travel gear, some of which I was actually going to need.

(In my defence*, travel gear is a lot more important when you’re not travelling by car. I had to leave behind my favourite basket on the grounds that it’s not especially handy to carry on the street. It’s the best ever for carrying casseroles, pie or veggies, though, or for keeping your stuff organized in the car, and I still regret its absence sometimes.)

One thing I remembered from previous travels was the pain of painstakingly buying everything you need for a brilliant-yet-cost-effective dinner… and realising when you get home that you can’t open the cans. With that in mind, I armed myself with a pair of tiny can openers, knowing they would be great for camping–bearing in mind that we are far likelier to camp often if the costs are limited to campground fees (pretty low) and train tickets than if we have to rent a car, especially an automatic.

(We didn’t have time for a lot of camping this past summer, as I had less than 3 months to completely research and write my masters thesis, but I’m fairly confident that if we keep the gear packed and ready, we’ll take a lot more quick overnight adventures this coming summer. There’s one highly-rated, private campground about half an hour away by train that I’m just dying to try out. It’s a good thing we went for the luggage with the sturdy, “off-road” wheels. Hearty thanks to everyone who chipped in for and/or bought our luggage as a wedding present!)

These tiny can openers are handy to have around, as our flat did not, in fact, come equipped with a can opener. They are, however, hard on the hands and the patience. So for the low price of $1.61 (that is, £1), I procured a virulently pink can opener at the local pound shop.

It didn’t work. The gap between gear wheel and blade was wide enough to drive a forklift through, and the angle was just bizarre. After a sad (though delicious) night of eating pasta when I decided I was too lazy to open the cans with the military-grade can opener, I discarded the useless pink monstrosity, figuring that you win some and you lose some when you shop at Poundland.

Fast-forward to our new apartment. It comes equipped with one full and two half sets of dishes and a jumble of useful, un-useful, and inexplicably sticky kitchenwares. The latter categories were packed off in a (very heavy) box to the landlord, but the cleaner, sturdier items–including a can opener–stayed to fill out our own selection of kitchen gear.

You may be wondering, at this point, how we functioned without a good can opener for an entire year. The answer is that a lot of cans, especially from the cheap-yet-good German grocery store, come equipped with peel-back lids. So only occasionally do we even face a can that requires application of specialised equipment. That is, until we went to the big British grocery store-cum-Walmart, Asda. I took full advantage of the seventeen kinds of tinned legume and stocked up. It was only when I tried to cook the beans that I realised that British engineering had done it again: the wheels of the can opener had been pushed apart so it no longer opened cans. Not surprising, I supposed, given the state of the tupperware we found in the apartment. Rental flats are like that.

There was only one thing for it: I had to order one online. As usual, I read at least a few of the reviews. One gave me pause.

Surely I am not the only person to have made this mistake, but is it such a problem for Brabantia to just put `TOP opening can opener’ or something on the label?

Why would anyone need to write “TOP opening can opener” on the label? Because, apparently, that is not the only kind of can opener. Sure enough, further experimentation revealed that the can opener was not, in fact, intended to slice through the top of the can, but to remove the top rim entirely by slicing through the side.

It opens from the side. How did I not think of this? But why would you open a can from the side?

The resultant can looks like a terrible hazard, leading NTS and me to make uncomplimentary remarks on the state of British engineering and/or lack of proper regard for safety, but the edge isn’t as sharp as it looks. (I say that now…)

There you have it: possibly my least successful attempt at cultural assimilation to date. At least in this country.

Urban decay, Dunfermline

* This is actually how Brits spell defense. I went along with it to make the little red zig-zag disappear. That strategy was successful, right up until I started typing this footnote. Another failed attempt at cultural assimilation.