Monday, 5 September 2011

The end of summer

Ah yes - another trip to the Midlands to visit the outlaws.  This time it was to say goodbye to the Shah's big sister who has been visiting from the USA.  Her soothing presence in their parents' house meant that at least we did not have to suffer the usual anxiety attacks that habitually mark our journey.  Mind you, there was a bit of a stand-off between Mother in law and Father in law when we arrived - her swooning with relief that we hadn't spontaneously combusted on the M40 and him threatening to do away with the landline and only have a mobile which he would keep on his person and deny her access so she couldn't make panic-stricken phone calls every five minutes.

The Shah and I are very democratic in our driving.  We almost always share journeys and it has become known that, whenever I am at the wheel, we will have the worst possible trip - be it traffic, weather, whatever.  And so it came to pass once again.  Horizontal rain most of the way to Coventry and a bunch of feckwits on the motorway who think driving at 90 mph with no headlights on in zero visibility is the recommended way to travel.  Hey ho.  So, of course,the journey home was altogether less remarkable with Shah in charge - a beautiful evening of scattered clouds and bright sunlight.  Grrrr.

But hang on, can I just rewind a bit?  There had been what I shall euphemistically call a breakdown in communication between the Shah and his son and heir.  Viz - the Shah forgot to mention the trip to s&h who was a) slumped in a drunken coma on a friend's floor somewhere and b) expecting to play cricket yesterday, not endure approximately 2 hours in the car in far too close proximity to his sister and then spend another 6 hours or so being asked all the usual questions that grandparents and aunties like to ask and hearing yet more comments about his height (6 foot dead on, if you care.  No, I didn't think so).  When we eventually tracked him down and explained the cock up change in plan, he threw a tantrum of monumental proportions.  This proved to be as hilarious as it was unexpected.  He reverted straight back to the person he had been at 5 years old and screamed and bawled his frustration very volubly.  Unfortunately, this only had the effect of making the Shah and me laugh.  And when he began kicking the back of my car seat, I became almost hysterical.  Eventually, he cried himself to sleep (sort of) and peace reigned. 

On the way home, I was watching all the other bored-looking kids slumped in the backs of cars southbound on the M40 and it reminded me of journeys with my parents in one of our ancient jalopies.  Holidays tended to be spent in this country not only because we lived up north and the rest of our family lived down south so there was always someone to visit, but also for reasons of cost - this was the era before budget airlines and package holidays.  None of our cars seemed to have inbuilt entertainment - like radios that worked - and even if they did, it would have been tuned to Radio 3 so it wouldn't have entertained us much anyway.  Consequently, my brother and I had to find our own amusement where we could.  This generally involved some or all of the following:-
  • Chanting games.  Guaranteed to drive any parent wild and therefore most satisfying.  Chant anything - made up words/phrases that sound vaguely rude were our particular favourites e.g. Big Fat Wanny; Rumbumbum; Dick Van Dyke*
  • Toe wrestling.  No seatbelts remember, so all and any wrestling games were great and could involve rolling off the back seat onto the floor and enraging our parents.  I can still see my father's huge hand coming round the back of his seat to whack whoever was closest.
  • Kneeling up on the back seat and leering and waving at other drivers.  For some unknown reason, this game was called 'Kings and Paupers'.  If they waved back they were Kings, if not - you get the idea.
  • Flicking covert V-signs at other bored children in the backs of cars.  Of course they flicked them straight back.  This caused our parents to embark upon a long homily on the youth of today (plus ca change etc) little realising that their own offspring had been the catalysts all along.
Once, our parents decided to brave the Continent with children in tow.  They were both great lovers of Spain and spoke both French and Spanish quite well so surely it was a no brainer to drive to Spain in an ancient Morris Minor?  As I read that last sentence I truly cannot decide if it was an act of the greatest bravado or the greatest foolishness.  Actually, I think I can decide after all.

There were several er, incidents en route.  First of all the big end went in Carcasonne - a beautiful fortified city which we saw a great deal of whilst waiting for spare parts to be flown out from the UK at vast expense.  Secondly, my brother developed the kind of car sickness that surely inspired The Exorcist film. (This links to a clip which I am not going to imbed as it's too gross but if you really want to see what I mean....)

Setting off once again, unabashed, my Dad decided that we would drive straight to Lloret de Mar 

(at that time a small fishing village which had 3 hotels!)  This plan worked fine until I needed the loo.  We pulled into the side of a country road and I was instructed to hop into the bushes sharpish.  Reluctantly, I did as I was told and jumped back into the car.  That was the point at which we discovered that someone or something had been in the bushes before me and I wiped several pounds of shit off my shoes and down the back of my dad's jacket which was hanging over the seat in front.  The jacket was irretrievable, much like dad's temper.  Once there, my dad fell asleep on the beach and burnt the soles of his feet, causing him to spend the next week walking like John Wayne and entertaining the locals.
Not my dad
For many years afterwards, it was Lytham St Annes for us.

* Dick Van Dyke is not, of course, made up but it is the kind of phrase that just keeps on giving if you are a bored child on a long car journey.


  1. We went on annual camping holidays and because cars were so crap in those days, had regular issues. Not sure we ever had to have a back end flown out though!

    We used to play the game of car colours - first one to 50 in a certain colour. In those days if you chose white I think it was, you got to win. These days I suppose it would be silver.

  2. My parents always had the last laugh. On the long drives between Yorkshire and Glasgow, they smoked all the way
    AND they made us eat sandwiches in the same car park at Appleby every year...

  3. Oh God, I wish I could have seen the tantrum, nothing funnier than a 6 footer in a strop.

  4. Libby - happy days indeed but only with the benefit of rose-tinted hindsight!

  5. Your parents had a radio?! I seem to remember endless journeys to visit Granny at the seaside (so obviously we didn't need to go abroad) involved family singsongs, though, to be fair, mother was a tremendous reader of stories.

  6. Sarah - we only went camping once and it was horrendous. I've never done it again and consider the term "camping holiday" to be a complete oxymoron. Have you read 'The Tent, the Bucket and Me' by Emma Kennedy? Highly recommended for anyone who had to endure family camping trips in their youth!

  7. Macy - God, I forgot the smoking bit! My Dad smoked non-stop too and when we got to France, he insisted, on the basis of "when in Rome..." on smoking Gauloise - eurgh!

  8. AG - it was hilarious. Unfortunately, the more I laughed, the worse it got. Mind you, once he'd had a sleep he was fine and even managed to laugh at himself!

    Hausfrau - we didn't aspire to a radio in a car until many years later, hence we had to make our own entertainment and drive our parents to an early grave. It doesn't bear thinking about these days with CD players, DVD players etc available...the youth of today don;t know they're born *falls to the floor, foaming at mouth*

  9. Oh my gosh - that is classic. My parents left one of us behind a couple of times. But my memories are of wet boring days down the coast (NZ) scrapping over books and reduced reading the instructions on a tomato sauce bottle

  10. Jody - you got left behind? Blimey! Mind you, there were only two of us (and different sexes) so I suppose it would have been tricky to ditch one of us, however much our parents might have liked the idea...!


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