Parenting, profundities and humour

Are we nearly there yet? — August 16, 2015

Are we nearly there yet?

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.

Sea Legs — July 21, 2015

Sea Legs



Today I did something I have never done before in my 45 years.

I dived off the side of a boat into the Aegean Sea. In fact I need not be that specific. I have never dived off a boat into any sea or even ocean before.

You may be imagining a quite glamorous scene as you visualise me diving athletically yet gracefully into the pleasantly warm azure waters of the Aegean sea off the beautiful coast of mainland Greece. I would hate to disabuse you of that vision. But the reality was probably not as glamorous as your imaginings.

I did have on a quite flattering bikini it is true, but also my bright pink rash vast. I was also trying to keep an eye on three kids flinging themselves haphazardly off various railings. And avoid other people’s children doing the same, and the Russian in budgie smugglers. My husband still has sea water streaming out of his nose whenever he bends down around three hours and lunch later. And I ate my pita and chicken souvlaki in a state of stickiness from the sea salt. But still, it was quite a rush.

There is one main reason why I have never ‘dove’ off a boat. And that is that I hate boats. Specifically I hate sea faring boats. I have, in fact, enjoyed a number of boat based inland holidays on canals, lakes and broads. But I don’t do the sea. Because I get very sea sick. Indeed.

This cruise came complementary with our holiday package. I was prepared to persuade my offspring and spouse onto the other option, the romantic 30 minute sunset cruise which never leaves the bay, but the lure of the three hour trip which, we discovered, included an hour of swimming off the boat was too much of a temptation for them. So I reluctantly agreed. To the relief of any couples heading out at 8.30pm tonight a deux.

I had been told by the holiday rep that the Aegean was often very calm. I think her exact words were mill pond.

That isn’t exactly how it turned out. It was actually quite rough. So I sat on the deck for the first hour or so concentrating on the horizon in a bid not to vomit. I succeeded. Luckily.

I don’t have many successful boat experiences. Once on a ferry from Dover to Calais with a very old friend I was sick eleven times. Count them, eleven.

My mother is the same. We always sit on the deck. In silence. Concentrating. Regardless of the weather. We took the train to Holland when I was twelve. We sat on the deck of the ferry that this entailed in the pissing down rain. Or it might have been spray it was difficult to tell. I was still sick. Copiously.

We can be travel sick anywhere. In fact we were both sick on a boat trip from Sorrento to Capri. It was rough though honest. And I have found that once one person ‘goes’ the floodgates tend to open. There was quite a queue for the solitary loo.

Luckily my fellow passengers this morning were stalwarts. There was one little boy who started to feel dodgy right at the end. I contemplated parting with my air sickness bag which is permanently in my hand luggage rucksack. Thankfully I didn’t need to as just as he turned green we got near enough to shore for the swell to subside. I find that having an appropriate vessel to be sick into goes a long way to making sure I do not actually vomit.

Reminder to self to stock up on those bags on our flight back to the UK in a few days. I am down to my last one courtesy of some Milton Keynes roundabouts and a Disney World roller coaster overdose.

Travel sickness is horrible. I get it not only on boats but also in the back seats of cars and on pendolino trains.

Historically trains have been a safe haven for me, I spent my childhood on them and they have conveniently positioned lavatories in extremis. Based on this fact and my refusal to ever go on a ferry again we decided about three years ago to go to Biarritz on the train.  Suffice to say the SNCF pendolinos were not great for my sickness. And they were so full with the French going on holiday that those lavs involved a clamber over many bodies and haphazardly piled luggage… I got out my bag on numerous occasions. Eldest’s Croque Monsieur was a particular crunch point.

So anyway I braved the boat for my kids. I wasn’t sick. And the thrill of diving into that sea made it all worth while. And their faces when they surfaced each time too.

Fabulous. There are worse things to risk vomiting into a bag for.

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