The road to hell (part two)…

To recap then, as I ended the last post, we had just climbed back into the car with rather different levels of enthusiasm – The Eldest positively skipped and hopped to her seat (she had her new Frozen magnetic pad doodler thing, remember?), I was putting a brave face on it but let’s face it was feeling a bit deflated, while the BSCB had to be subjected to an old-skool wrestling move and be clothes-lined into his car-seat – one arm planted across his upper body to pin him down, while I performed some voodoo shit with the other hand to fasten his straps. In any other walk of life, anyone who can hold their entire body rigid at a 45 degree angle would demand some serious respect. But he’s one so he doesn’t get any.

So we were on our way. Yay. No napping on the horizon and another 135 miles still to drive, I wasn’t feeling optimistic about us reaching our destination without screams and tears, mostly from me. But hey, looking on the bright side, I hadn’t lost my mind yet – that deserves some credit, right? Well, yes, except the only credit I could get was a bit like the sub-prime market of 2007 – built on seriously dodgy foundations, and about to result in a crash of epic ramifications. (Nothing like a mortgage metaphor to get the blood racing, eh?)

Well, just like Northern Rock found out, don’t give credit where none is due. Twenty-five minutes later we met another set of red rear lights… “No, no, no, no, no, NO!” I wailed (be impressed there was no swearing) and rocked my body back and forth in a startlingly accurate impression of the BSCB when I won’t let him eat the dishwasher tablet. A beat later I learned that my three year old daughter is way cooler than I’ll ever be: “That won’t work, mummy,” came this little voice, cool as a fan, “The cars won’t move, they can’t hear you.” And with her perfect logic she murdered the meltdown I was about to have. Killed it. Dead. Afterall, who can scream and shout and stamp their feet when the futility of such behaviour has just been pointed out by a three year old? I mean, they know what is worthy of this behaviour, right? Your toast hasn’t been cut into ovals (of course not! And how the eff do you know what an oval is?)? Let loose with your banshee wails and flailing limbs. Your plait is too low on your head? Go ahead, roll around on the floor and cry real tears. I mean that is shit worth getting worked up about.

Anyway, for about 37 seconds I kept control of myself. I then called my dad. Now any of you who have read The Road to Hell (part one) will be familiar with this pattern of behaviour – I get myself into situations I have no control over and can do nothing about but my dad? Well, from 124 miles away, he will extend his Go-Go-Gadget Arms (and if you’re not a child of the 80s that reference will be entirely lost on you – wow I’m excelling with the imagery in this post), crush whatever is causing me a problem into dust, and I will continue happily on my way. Well, predictably some might say, it didn’t work. In fact it made it worse, because unable to understand my own Sat-Nav I gave my dad dud information and he told me I was going in the wrong direction. I was returning to London. My past history (again, see Part One of this post) made this entirely possible so for a moment I believed I had turned the wrong way down the motorway when I had exited the service station. Then I actually used my eyes for you know, seeing, and saw the sign that pointed me towards THE NORTH. Panic over, I realised that calling my dad was useless.

We were stuck in traffic for another hour. There was nothing funny about this.

Finally on our way again, I realised that the next mealtime was approaching, so I decided to take a break from blasting up the M6 toll and visit another service station. Another act of Service Station Bribery was completed (stickers) and we established that the humous and pitta bread on offer was not of acceptable shade or texture. The Eldest chose a ham and cheese baguette to eat for her tea instead and we made our way to a table with bench seating and defended on three fronts by two half-walls and a window. Win.

While we settled in, I allowed the BSCB to crawl around on the bench seating, and with his head poking above the back of the bench, his best goofy grin on his face, and barking like a seal, I like to think that he offered some light relief to the weary travellers entering and exiting the service station. After a moment, however, watching people walk became too tame for the BSCB so Commando-style he knelt down and swung his legs down onto the floor (oh yes, he can’t do anything useful, like walk, but give him a drop twice his height to navigate and he’s practically Spiderman). Thinking we were safely defended by the half-walls and the window, I decided to let him crawl around for a moment.

During this time, The Eldest had decided that her cheese and ham baguette was far too tasty and moist, so had removed all of the ham and the cheese and was sat eating bread. Just bread. Both small people were safely occupied, however, so counting my blessings I decided to give the “husband” a quick call to update him on our (lack of) progress.

He responded with exactly the right amount of sympathy, about which I was relieved, and then he gently reminded me that I shouldn’t be swearing quite so much in front of the small people. Now given the day’s events, this was actually quite brave of him, but it also served to remind me that at that moment I was responsible for keeping our children alive. Looking down to my right, The Eldest was sat sporting a frown, an unidentifiable black smudge across her forehead and a uncomfortable looking bulge of dry bread in her cheek. Her momentary stillness also allowed me to notice that the back of her hair had been rubbed by her carseat into a grey-ish, fuzzy dred and I paused for a second to reflect on whether it would look terrible if I just cut that bit out instead of enduring the horror unpicking the tangle promised. No one notices the back of your hair, right? Meanwhile, the BSCB was still under the table. He had not yet made a bid for freedom so I should have known something was afoot but my wits had been dulled by the many hours on the road. Sloth-like on the uptake it therefore took me around 45 seconds of vacant head-tilted-to-the-side-mouth-hanging-slightly-open staring to realise that the BSCB’s stumpy fingers were within millimetres of being wormed into an un-child-proofed plug hole. Unwittingly, my obsessive covering of these in our own home had made the tiny holes all the more mysterious and alluring to the BSCB and the reason he was not crawling at Spider-speed away from safety and into the face of danger, was because he had found it right under our table. In an outer-body moment I surveyed the scene: I was swearing loudly on the phone while in charge of two children, one of whom was about to electrocute himself, while the other was doing her best impression of a dred-locked Oliver Twist extra and was eating dry bread. Parent of the year.

BSCB rescued and fed, The Eldest somehow satisfied by chewing on some bread, and a second wee/nappy change later we were climbing back into the car for the last leg of the journey. Both children safely strapped in (this time, even the BSCB had lost the will to fight), I took a moment to shuffle things round on the front passenger seat so that I could get better access to the mint imperials. Picking up the snack bag I noticed a wet patch on the bottom so swallowing my curses I rummaged around to find the offending water bottle. I promise I didn’t swear, but The Eldest must have heard me grinding my teeth or something because in her sweetest voice she asked me what was wrong. I explained that a water bottle had leaked and just to reiterate the point that she is far cooler than I will ever be, she said, “Don’t worry mummy. You can sort it out when we get to nana and grandad’s house.” My very own effing Dalai Lama there, strapped into her Maxi-Cosi Tobi was parenting me all the way home.

And we did. We got there. Seven hours and twenty-one minutes after we set off, and coated with a greasy film of service-station grime, we arrived in remarkably chipper spirits. My hopes for some Rest and Relaxation lasted around 5 hours until the BSCB summoned me to his cot side and if you’ve read Just go the fuck to sleep…Please? you’ll know that the visit wasn’t quite as restorative as I hoped for, but I’m always glad I visit, because every morning I get to wake up to this:

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Worth it

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