Now that your car is packed and you’ve decided which children to leave behind, it’s time to set off on your well earned break.
Anybody who has never left their own home will tell you the journey is all part of the fun.
It is not, it is an endurance test worthy of any Japanese game show. If you can get through this with your car, marriage and family intact, you deserve a medal. Or a holiday.
Some of the mishaps are inevitable, they happen on every journey and it is how you bounce back from them that is important.
You’ve fastened your children into the back seats and supplied them with more electronic gadgetry than the Akihabara district of Tokyo. You’ve promised them sweets in return for silence and you’ve set your destination in the sat nav. This is going to be easy.
Apart from when one of the children is sick in your hair. Or your dog is sick. You don’t have a dog? Well, you need to start worrying because somebody’s dog is being sick in the back seat of your car.
Vomit on a car journey is as inevitable as it is at a house party hosted by a fifteen year old. Prepare for it.
Have a change of clothes for your children, have wet wipes to clean up the mess and have a pair of clippers to shave your hair off to save you having to pick bits of carrot and Haribo out of it.
Your car is going to reek like the inside of a tramp’s sleeping bag for the rest of the trip so now might be the time to take up smoking to mask the smell.
The Service Station
If you’ve managed to survive the first part of your trip without anybody being sick, you need to up the stakes a bit. Take your kids somewhere where you can fill them full of fast food, fizzy drinks and subject them to more bright lights and inappropriate behaviour than a stag party in Las Vegas.
Service stations are designed to be identical, you always know what you are going to get. The beauty of them is that you never know what you’re going to find.
Yes, they’ll all have a chain coffee shop, a WH Smiths and a place to buy burgers. There’ll be an amusement arcade where gamblers can get their fix after an hour on the road and toilets with advertising hoardings that you can never understand who the target audience is. But there’ll also be the variables.
Will there be a cackling hen party in pink t shirts and bunny ears? Bus loads of lads on their way to the match, pretending that they haven’t circumnavigated the alcohol ban whilst pissing into a bush? The dance school outing full of pretentious schoolchildren screaming like they have a bit part in a slasher movie? Or the bus spotter, scribbling down reg plates in a note book whilst occasionally scratching his privates with his pencil?
It would be a fascinating place to people watch except, as you’ve been distracted, your child has just walked out of WH Smiths with a comic they haven’t paid for. You now have to go back in and buy it to save face and avoid criminal proceedings and it is the Summer Special that you would never have bought if they’d asked. Crafty little bastards.
All the adverts and safety advice tell you to stop at a service station if you are tired. Have a coffee, have a nap and all will be well with the world.
This is all well and good for the travelling salesman but if you’ve been up since 1am putting soup in flasks in case you are somehow stranded in the middle of a natural disaster on your way to a campsite in Wales, a service station isn’t for you.
You will leave skint, frazzled, totally wired and possibly lacking a child who you left on the toy jumbo jet with five pound coins when you went for a minute’s peace in the toilet.
You’ll be glad to leave.
Until you hit the ten mile tail back outside that wasn’t there when you arrived.