I'm on my own with the children this half-term. The thought of kicking about the house for a week fills me with horror, so when a press trip to a UK holiday resort was dangled before me, I grabbed it with both hands.
I compiled my packing list which, summarised, looked something like this:
- several bottles of wine
- a case of gin-in-a-tin
- DVD player and numerous Disney DVDs
- Some clothes
Loading the 19 suitcases into the boot of the car, I repeated the mantra I had been muttering for the last three days: it will be fun, it will be fun, it will be fun, and ignored the suggestions on Twitter and Facebook that I'd be climbing the walls by day three. It will be fun.
Suspiciously keen to see the back of us all for a week, and ever cautious in matters relating to the cars, my husband began a diligent check of the Scenic before we set off.
'Your windscreen wipers aren't working.'
'Are you sure? They were working on Saturday, when I...' I stopped as I recalled racing out to the frozen car, late for ballet yet again. An inch of ice glazing the windscreen, I'd fruitlessly switched on the wipers, ignoring the protesting whine and eventually resorting to chipping off the ice with a Paddington Bear CD.
'The bolt's just sheared right off,'
I headed off his investigations with a lingering farewell kiss. 'I'll stop off at the garage on our way out of town. See you next weekend!' I sang gaily, leaping into the driver's seat and peering through the smeared windscreen. It will be fun, it will be fun.
The garage was marvellously helpful, agreeing to keep quiet about my tiny faux pas, and suggesting they might tell my husband there had been a whole batch of faulty parts back in 2006. It was a well-known fact.
An hour after my intended departure time, my maternal supply of both snacks and patience running low, we finally left town. I had to stop in Oxford to buy a dongle (the thought of being incarcerated in a hotel room with no wifi too much to bear) and as we arrived on the outskirts of the city it began to rain heavily. Thank heavens the wipers work, I thought to myself, bundling the children into their coats and reaching for my own... which was still at home. Bugger. In my efforts to ensure I had packed sufficient alcohol to help me through the week, I had neglected to bring anything warmer than a thin sweater. It will be fun.
Happily, a few doors down from the mobile phone store was a charity shop, where I was able to purchase the only women's coat in stock: a rather fetching old-lady overcoat in black and white dog-check, which smelt of vegetables. I tried not to think about whether someone had died in it. It will be fun.
Back in the car, barely 20 miles into our 100-mile-trip, the children were trying my patience. 'Are we there, yet?' 'Can I get the Lego out? 'Why is your bottom so much bigger than ours?' I began tweaking the heating upwards, knowing that a sure-fire way to get my three snoozing is to crank up the heat till they're serenely soporific.
A few minutes later, with the heating on full-blast, a gentle trio of snuffles wafted forwards to mingle with the strains of Heart FM. I was regretting leaving on my new old-lady coat, which was gently filling the car with the smell of warm cabbage and indescribable bodily substances.
By the time we reached the south coast I was pouring with sweat and itching like mad beneath the scratchy wool collar of my coat. I fell out of the driver's door in front of reception, a menopausal flush across my face and the smell of wet dog emanating from my clothes. It will be fun.
Day one of flying solo at half-term. Things can only get better, right?