After a lengthy consultation (with myself mostly) in my wisdom I decided to take the train to Yorkshire from our home in Cornwall, with my three children. On my own. Yes, I just read that back and I know, wow do I know. In my defence with a 10 hour journey to North Wales still in recent memory, this is the lesser of 2 remarkably stressful evils.
A Week Before
In a moment of foresight, I re-packed our clothes from recent holiday to Wales. Some were still clean. I hid the suitcase from children to make sure they didn’t ‘help’. This meant I had to claim ignorance every time Daughter 1 was looking for her favourite clothes. And suffer the same argument 23 times a day and lie that they were ‘in the wash’.
The Night Before
After an hour long search I finally found the hidden suitcase, didn’t bother re-checking it, I’m a pro at packing – when do I ever forget stuff? Hastily threw in the toiletry bag and charged the iPad, downloading as much as physically possible onto iPlayer. This meant deleting a number of our own apps to fit more on – such is my life. Laptop charging too for back up; time enough remained to smugly enjoy a G&T.
The ‘Just Before’
As is her wont when I need her to sleep in, Daughter 2 woke at 5:45 howling and screaming in a terrible mood. Most of the morning was spent both trying to cheer her up and moaning to my husband about how awful the journey was going to be. Remembered at least a hundred things I’d forgotten, leading to a mass panic. Realising we were 20 minutes behind schedule, I quickly threw a few clothes on the children, telling them we would get breakfast on the train; then discovering my husband working from home in his bathrobe and pants; first telling off of the day for him. At the last minute I swapped the On Train Essentials to a bigger bag, mumbling in wonder at how I was going to carry it all. En route, it became clear we probably wouldn’t have time to pick up lunch at the supermarket on the way; the rubbish station shop would have to do. Bemused husband got blamed all the way to the train station for ‘making us late’. First request for lunch from son: it was not even 8am.
After arriving at the station with 5 minutes until departure; I flew into the shop for a few lunch bits after a 3 minute ‘user malfunction’ argument with the ticket collection machine. Husband was blamed (again) for not being able to telepathically predict what I wanted him to do and decipher my exasperated hand gestures through the shop window expressing my frustration that the person in the queue ahead of me was having a lengthy discussion about which cigarettes to best pollute her lungs with. Enjoyed a 5 minute sprint to the platform, standing in the open doors in a martyr like position with my hand held out in a STOP, PRECIOUS CHILDREN BOARDING pose (I looked a total prat when the train didn’t leave for another two minutes) waiting for ever-patient husband carrying 2 suitcases and a toddler. A serene grin on his face, he emerged at the train door (probably soothing himself with ‘Five minutes, in five minutes they’ll be gone for a week…nod and smile, just nod and smile’). After hasty goodbyes the doors shut and we waved him away, him smiling peacefully and with great enthusiasm.
After perusing my 14 ticket stubs for a direct return journey, I realised with dismay, that our seat reservations had us at opposite ends of the carriage. I loudly proclaimed the train company to be extortionate, un-family-friendly con artists.
The first iPad request came after 5 minutes from my son, so I set a target of admiring the view and chatting to his sisters for a whole hour before the request would be granted. Listened to updates of how long it was until he could have the iPad approximately every 2 minutes, ignored disapproving early morning traveller glances and pretended I couldn’t hear him. The civilised breakfast on the train was ruined after I realised I had no cash and they don’t take cards. Further loud admonishments of the train company; the children began eating their lunch at 9am.
Several conversations later, my son had grilled me about ‘the olden days’ when we had to get trains without iPads, how many horses and carts I saw as a child and many reassertions (on my part) that life wasn’t really black and white when I was a child.
‘Mum, can I have the iPad now?’
‘Where is it?’
‘In the rucksack.’ Son emptied every single item methodically onto the seat, with increasingly nervous glances. We looked at each other in horror as I suddenly remembered the last minute bag change.
‘At the last minute I swapped the On Train Essentials to a bigger bag, mumbling in wonder at how I was going to carry it all.’
Nervously I phoned my husband,
‘Hello? There’s not a problem with the train is there?!’
‘No, don’t worry; we’re not on our way back. Quick question, are you working in the kitchen?’
‘Is the iPad on the side?’
‘No.’ Heart lifted; it must be in the suitcase!
‘I can see the laptop bag though, by the sink?’
To see how it could possibly get worse click here