Redster: Five years old next Thursday
Cutester: 20 months

The Culprit

What is it about travelling with small children that makes every longish journey feel like a pentathalon? We start these events with detailed plans, grim determination, every kind of snack and entertainment that will fit in the car or buggy, and usually about an hour after we intended to. We reach our destination exhausted – and sometimes exhilarated (as in the exhiliration of the near-death experience).

We went by ferry, Dover-Boulogne – I must have been fairly relaxed in Dover as I remember thinking that the white cliffs really are rather white, aren’t they, and how must it have felt to see them after a long life-threatening haul at sea in ye olden days, blah blah, not imagining I was going to find out in less than a week…

Paris was great – thanks babyaunt – and we got to Boulogne in time not just for the ferry but even some shopping beforehand. My mistake was to sit down with the kids on the ferry in front of a DVD of Winnie-the-Pooh when the sea was not exactly calm. ‘If you feel sea sick,’ I said sternly to the Redster, ‘stop watching this and look out of the window.’ I was trying to keep them out of babyfather’s way because it turned out on the way over that he’s prone to sea sickness. Not only that, but this time he was gripped by a conviction that he’d left the handbrake off and that our car was canonballing around below decks trashing everyone else’s. In five minutes I wasn’t feeling too hot myself, so I took the Cutester for a gaze out of the window. I was just realising that this method really wasn’t working when the Cutester made a strange noise and threw up. ‘All over the table, over the floor, and all over Mummy,’ as the Redster dictated in a belated postcard later that day, after her favourite made-up joke about the Awful Tower in Paris. It smelt of, obviously, vomit, but also of the overly-perfumed yoghurt she’d consumed before Winnie-the-Pooh.

Babyfather was in no position to help so I clutched the Cutester tightly and marched us over to a less malodorous window, not that I could escape what was soaking into my own clothes, where I gripped the frame with my free hand for dear life until the (suddenly) beloved white cliffs hoved into view. Thank God.

The Cutester seemed totally unperturbed – oh the joys of a short oesophagus – and the Redster watched Winnie-the-Pooh to the bitter end despite later admitting she’d felt sick. The lower deck turned out not to be a wasteland of twisted metal after all because they have these handy rubber things for blocking in the car wheels, having done this journey a few times before. And two hours later I got to change into clothes with no vomit on them, so it all turned out fine in the end.

(Much less gruelling than my week camping this summer with the two of them and without babyfather, which would probably fill a whole book in itself. When I got home I collapsed on the sofa knowing full well that the Cutester was running around with no nappy on but caring not one jot. 36 hours later the funny smell on the stairs turned out to be the poo she’d done in babyfather’s upturned baseball cap hidden among all the other camping stuff on the lowest step.)