An uneventful Journey

It didn’t take a few hours, the packing took a good 6 hours of flitting between putting on Frozen, breaking up fights and removing Lego from the baby’s mouth (where is she hiding that stash??) Coupled with popping in on the potentially dead chicken I was tending to this week (don’t ask, hope she’s still alive Cass) it was a busy affair. I put the children in the car a full fifteen minutes before I needed to leave, because I needed them safe and caged to allow myself time to stand by the front door, chewing my keys and mumbling random lists to myself to avoid forgetting something important.

“Mum can we open the sweets?”

(Unintelligible rambling)

“What’s she doing?”

“She’s cross or crying or on the phone without a phone.”

(More unintelligible rambling)

Quietly “Get the sweets… she might not notice.”

After 3 trips back upstairs to stand and stare at the cat, in the hope that she’d remind me why I was there, I finally gave up and locked up. I hope I locked up. If my husband is reading this, I definitely locked up. If my brother in law is reading this, if I didn’t lock up, can you just keep it quiet? Golden.

So the journey began. My children are pros at long journeys by now, with grandparents 320 miles away they are used to life on the M5. Unfortunately, that means they are also practically professional at being irritating. We hadn’t reversed out of the drive before the first ‘When we be here?’ from the toddler. From the look I gave her, she managed to wait until Exeter before she asked again.

Collecting husband from work only 45 minutes late (result) big boy exited the car for the customary pre-journey wee at daddy’s office, I foolishly took this chance for a quick re-shuffle of the ‘stuff’ in the passenger seat. In no way influenced by my husband’s greeting “What the hell is all this crap??”

The luggage had been meticulously ordered, with our suitcases and double buggy lovingly (shoved) in with due care and attention. Of all the things to fall out and come crashing down on my feet, the full container of baby milk powder was, of the 326 things I had put in the boot, the most inconvenient of all. In dismay, I swore at the mountain of sticky fluffy dust covering my feet, flip flops, jeans and quickly turning to mucky white sludge in the rain (did I mention the rain? Oh the rain…)

He returned “What are you doing now? Stop pratting about!” Yes. I thought this was a fine time to get out the car, in the pouring rain and fulfil my lifelong dream of moonlighting as the world’s most unsuccessful drug dealer.

“Why’s mummy got sugar on?” The look, again.

Next stop petrol. To appease my better half I promised him a quick takeaway coffee to get the journey off to a good start. Wrong again. Quick? Halfway through the first cup the machine started an unhealthy “BWUSHHHHERRRRRRRRRRR” making every single person in the queue look at me in horror.

“Don’t worry now! It just needs more milk, I’ll do it.” Out pops Brenda. She finally finds the right key for the machine (amazing how many keys the petrol attendants at Tesco have on their key rings. Fully loved the description of the function of each one too, cheers Brenda.) Brenda finally figured out how to get the milk compartment out of the machine, when:

“Good God Brenda what the HELL are you doing??”

Enter Sue.

Sue looks at me, aghast “Brenda has a back condition that means she must NOT lift heavy things.” I didn’t think it possible, but the queue looked even more disgusted with me; even I was ashamed of myself. Sighing, Sue took over from Brenda (by this point I could only imagine what would happen if I had changed my mind about the coffee – I was committed to this debacle now, morally I had to see it through.) I made it my objective to be best friends with Sue by the time she’d finished loading the machine with milk, if only to pass the time. Costa Coffee machines hold a lot of milk…

The return to the car was met with “Have you ANY idea how stressful it’s been in this car?”

Traffic was typically horrendous. You know it’s busy when you can get a full commentary from your son naming every film and quoting lines from the films fellow travellers’ children were watching on their in-car DVD players. “Aw, it’s the bit where Andy leaves Buzz and Woody! Do you think their mum cries every single time she watches it, Dad?” And then “They’re watching Harry Potter AND one of them has a dummy – why aren’t I allowed to watch it yet?”
“Because you got scared stiff by a particularly chilling episode of Bananas in Pyjamas.” And so on.

Stopping at the services for tea to chants of “McDonalds! McDonalds!” gave us a welcome distraction from the roadworks. I’m absolutely not proud of it, it’s the only time he is allowed one – but there it is. Bad mother, slapped wrists, happy son. The others however, I can’t quite give in to yet. I set off with teeny to find something more nutritious for the little ones only to discover that we had stopped at the only services in the history of the world without a Marks and Spencer. One huge queue, one pot of probiotic blueberry yogurt and a tub of scalding and rapidly congealing porridge later, I return to find the toddler half way through a happy meal and an unashamed “She likes chips!” from my husband. Free fruit Friday at McD’s – the irony. Baby made her way through her siblings’ pineapple sticks, punctuated with holding her hands out with an expectant ‘ta’ only to throw a catastrophic tantrum as no one was prepared to share their fried food with her. She didn’t even look at the food I’d spent 20 minutes reading labels for.

All too soon the worst part of the stop was upon us… the toilets. 3 children 5 and under, to get in their pyjamas, have a wee/change nappies and clear up from tea and get every remaining item into a miniscule Peppa Pig rucksack, which struggled to hold the pyjamas alone.

We decided the best way to attack this was in the family baby change toilet all together. This way, it would minimise the amount of toilet touching, tap licking, bin wafting. Or at least I could tell my husband to stop. Luckily there was nobody waiting so we breezed into: THE WORLD’S MOST DISGUSTING TOILET.

“Nobody touch ANYTHING.”

“There’s poo in the toilet.”

“I don’t like the smell.”

“Can we get changed in the car?”

“Yep, quick wee, nappy change for little one and straight out!” All unanimous we got on with it. My husband had thought ahead, and weed before the McDonalds fun time. In my pursuit of all that is organic and nutritious: I had not.

“Ha ha, Mummy’s doing a poo!!” Death stare at my husband.

My children have an uncanny talent of making up songs on the spot with the tune of the chorus of Sam Smith’s Money on my Mind; they take no greater delight in thinking of the rudest, most inappropriate lyrics to enrage amuse and infuriate everyone they know. Past efforts include ‘Bidet on my bum’ ‘sneaky little poop’ and my personal favourite ‘Jinxy’s slimy sick’

Not today.

“Mummy’s done a poo, Mummy’s done a poo, she’s only gone and done a smelly poo”

I’d like to point out, I hadn’t. In the spirit of maintaining some semblance of holiday fun, I let it go on and promised my husband I would get my revenge and encouraged a swift exit from the germ factory in swift good humour.

I think every, single, family in the whole of the service station was now queuing outside that toilet.

If I thought the stares in the petrol station when I almost killed Brenda were bad – being the mum who allegedly had created the horrors we had seen in the toilet meant I was basically responsible for the Ebola Virus.

“Mummy’s done a poo, Mummy’s done a poo, she’s only gone and done a smelly poo”

I’ve got to be honest, that didn’t help.

Quickly back in the car I changed the youngest two in the boot, what was left of it anyway “Why is there sugar everywhere?” You’d think she would be able to see the look coming by now.

An hour of our baby playing her best tricks on her big brother, we had to stop again.

Pass the bottle

Drop the bottle

“Uh oh!”

Hysterical screams

Pick up the bottle

Pass the bottle

Drop the bottle

“Uh oh!”

Hysterical screams

And repeat. My son (sat next to her), has the patience of a saint.

For this stop – I didn’t need organic produce. I didn’t need ethically sound, nutritious food to feed the family, I only needed hot water – for another bottle. So of course we ended up here.

Gloucester

Even the doors were made from eco friendly material (I don’t know this, but nothing with that kind of sexy swisssshh could be bad for the environment.) Sleek and sexy, yes, organic, absolutely. Full of staff able to efficiently use a hot beverage machine? Not a chance. Fully aware that there was a hysterical one year old in the car I did my best to move Ryan along a bit…

“Sorry, it’s just we have a very upset little girl and need to make her a bottle… now!”

“I’m not supposed to give out boiling water for warming babies bottles.”

“OK… Ryan… can I call you Ryan? I have a child who is frothing at the mouth in the car, at least 5 hours of Shrek to contend with. Pretend the water is for me and that we never had this conversation.”

Stunned confusion.

“Ryan, I’ll pay for the water.” he hands over the water “Thanks Ryan. You knew it was the right thing to do.” Leaving quickly before Ryan could call the eco-friendly organic security men, I ran with scalding water to the car. Triumphant, pleased with myself and ready to attack the next phase of the journey I made it unharmed, I could hear her at least 50 yards away. My husband gave me that withering look I’d been throwing at my daughter all day:

“Honestly, I feel like all I’ve done all through this journey, is wait around for you to stop pratting about in one service station or another… what HAVE you been doing?”

He’s lucky to be alive.

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