Today the kids and I were faced with a long drive to the in laws. We are unfortunate enough to be at least a four hour drive away from three of the four ‘sets’ of the kids’ grandparents. Before you ask it’s complicated.
One set are in the South West and therefore in reality at least 5 hours away. The other two ‘away’ sets are in the North East and I have done it in three and a half hours with a tail wind and no roadworks or average speed cameras. Today it took six, a combination of incessant rain and Friday traffic.
Before we left the kids had their usual argument about which DVDs to watch in the car. As I have three kids and two DVD player holders Middlest has to share. He can share with either of the other two. But of course they never want to watch the same DVD, or they all want to watch the same DVD at the same time. If there is a way to fall out about it they will.
Anyway once I had donned my light blue peacekeeper helmet and sorted it all out (I think I threatened to leave the DVD players behind, or did I threaten to leave the kids behind? Either way it worked) we departed.
The radio doesn’t work when the DVD players are on. They seem to interfere with each other. And I have still not unpacked my CD collection since the house move and so I had a choice of Def Leppard or The Wheels on the Bus collection. As such, once Def Leppard had gone round twice, I had plenty of silence and traffic jam to consider how it was when I was young.
We did a lot of train travel as a kid. But also plenty of long distance car journeys.
My first recollections are of the bright green Ford Cortina. Three door. Rear windows of a triangular nature which popped open rather than rolled down. No air con. No radio.
My mum was quite enlightened for the time. We had four point harnesses attached to some part of the car’s innards. We had a cuboid block of foam to sit on so we could see out of the tiny windows. She had covered them in hand made fabric cases, mine was an orange, yellow and brown seventies flower concoction and my brother had a blue and white stripe toweling type material. He used to dig little tunnels in his foam so that under the cover it looked a lot like an ants’ nest.
We drove quite often from Mersyside to the South West to visit grandparents and for our annual hotel holiday in South Devon. The trips were interminable. My dad had recorded some music onto tape for us to help pass the time. Our favourite one had Play School’s Bang on a Drum album on one side. And for some, probably educational, reason The Carnival of the Animals by Saint Seans on the other. Yes it is classical music aimed more at children than the norm but still, no words, nothing to sing along to. Low on entertainment value, certainly after its first airing.
Due to having to use a portable tape player which ran on the largest cylindrical batteries available we were not allowed to use the rewind or forward wind buttons. As the batteries ran out. So once the fun of Bang on a Drum had been had we were subjected to the opposing side in order to hear it again. I think the other tape had Peter and the Wolf on…..that was even worse. I still can’t listen to The Swan without picturing the M5.
My mum was a master of car word games. I Spy, pub bingo, The Minister’s Cat, I went to Market and I bought. We played all these a lot. But I guess even her patience must have run out at some point on each journey as I remember a lot of watching rain drops roll down the windows and playing the ‘raindrop racing game’ in my head.
I did a lot of staring out of the window to combat my horrendous travel sickness. There was a metal potty in the car just for me. And so I could never read or do puzzles or the like. Even with the window staring I was often ill. On an interminable trip to Kent from Mersyside I was sick about 14 times. This was in the days before the M25 so I am not even sure how we got round London but I do remember it taking a very long time…..indeed.
My brother eventually built up quite a collection of Pocketeers (see above). They helped him pass the time. But not me, too vomit inducing.
Sometime after we moved south we transferred to our first Fiat Mirafiori. PHF181T. This had a radio. But it was permanently tuned to Radio Four. I remember the rebellion my brother and I led during our teenage years to be allowed to listen to the chart show on one Sunday evening drive home.
There were some memorable incidents. One of the rear windows my mother was finally persuaded to pop open for us on one boiling hot drive which then promptly fell out onto the service station car park floor. My brother flapping his jumper out of the car window (this must have been in the Mirafiori days) to get rid of a strangely colourful bug and then letting go. And my dad then sprinting across all the lanes of the motorway from the hard shoulder to retrieve it. Can you even imagine any day when that would even be possible now without being flattened? My brother and I sitting on those foam cushions on the roadside to eat our picnic and being joined by a gaggle of hungry geese.
But generally we were bored. Witless. Even so I don’t remember bugging my mum much. What compliant children we were. That bit of the M5 where it splits onto two levels was always a sign that we were nearly there and it could never come soon enough.
So I have very little sympathy for my kids’ DVD squabbling. They don’t know they are born. Seriously.