We went on holiday last week. I really wanted to go abroad for some sun – our last foreign holiday was to Iceland and while it was an amazing adventure, and Mrs Aitchworld did manage to get mildly sunburnt at the Blue Lagoon, it wasn’t really a summer sun sort of holiday. When I started an inventory of what we would need to take with us, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t going to happen. We would never get on a plane with all the stuff we needed to take with us. It was also obvious that despite having just about the largest estate car available within our price range, and it is particularly cavernous, to the extent that I can roll out a self-inflating mattress and sleep in there, everything we needed wouldn’t all fit in that either. If we had just one child, two thirds of the back seats could have been folded down to create a couple of acres of extra space with the remaining one third of it available for a child seat. But we don’t have just one child. We have twins. We can’t even fold down the third of the rear seat, as the remaining two thirds aren’t big enough for two child seats. We needed another solution and I didn’t have time to buy another van.
I scoured the local sale pages for a roof box and found one that just happened to be about the biggest one that Halfords sell, for the princely sum of twenty pounds. I soon found though I needed to purchase some roof bars to fit it to. I then discovered, a couple of days before our scheduled break, I also needed a new fitting kit for it in order to attach to the roof bars I’d just bought, which meant I had to pay special postage to get them in time. This negated some of the savings I had made on getting the roof box.Then there was also the fact that the rubberised foam seal that kept the roof box watertight was ripped apart and even missing in patches, so a replacement for that needed sourcing at short notice and special delivery. The cost of a cheap roof box was mounting.
I’ve always been able to travel light. I have also always been able to pack quickly and effectively at the last minute. The rules for packing are fairly simple – a pair of pants per day, plus one extra in case of emergencies or surprise soiling, a pair of socks per day plus one extra in case of unexpected leakage in the shoe department, a T shirt per day plus one extra to account for unpredicted spillage. For UK holidays the general rule of thumb is a pair of trousers per two days a couple of pairs of shorts. Jumpers again are an every other day item. A spare jumper and pair of trousers are advisable if not mandatory. In the case of foreign holidays in warmer climes, swap the shorts to trouser ratio and limit the number of jumpers. For skiing holidays and winter breaks (and Iceland even in summer) swap T shirts for long sleeve T shirts and increase the jumper count; don’t bother with shorts. That’s it. Simples!
Mrs Aitchworld, on the other hand, simply can’t get her head around this. Whenever we have been away her suitcase has either been double the size of mine, or if it is the same size, there has been more than one of them. This was particularly annoying when we went to Krakow and the room we were staying on was on the fourth floor of a building with no lift. However, this time, I am delighted to report that Mrs Aitchworld must have adopted my method of packing. It is especially galling to admit that, if anything, she took even less luggage than me on this holiday. Things were looking good – between us we had a couple of very small cases and a couple of soft holdalls. If it weren’t for the behemoth pushchair that resides in the boot of the car, we could have put all of our stuff in there and still have room for a party.
Then it was time to pack for the boys. We love a list in this house so out came the paper and pens and we started to write down all the things we thought we might need. It took a while to write because one of us had to pop out to the local supermarket for another ream of paper halfway through writing it. There was much bickering involved too. “Do we need this?” I would be asked. No, I would say. So it went on the list. “Do we need that?”. Probably not. On the list it went. “Will we use those?”. Definitely not. “It’s on the list so it’s coming in!” As it turned out, we needed pretty much everything in the house. It would have been quicker to list the things we didn’t need to take. Despite being asked whether I thought something belonged on the packing list, whatever my response was it ended up on it anyway and eventually I saw my arse and, in a fit of pique, I told Mrs Aitchworld just to pack whatever she f*cking well wanted as my opinion didn’t seem to matter. As she got on with getting everything we needed together, I busied myself fitting the roof box to the car. This was a task of unforeseen enormity as I had to get the thing dead straight, otherwise my OCD wouldn’t have coped. This took a large amount of fine adjustment. Mrs Aitchworld continued to pack for the boys, our paths rarely crossing until the end of the day.
Once everything was accumulated and amassed, it was far too late to leave. It was getting on for about 6pm and the cottage we were staying in for the first few days of the holiday was about three hours away, which would mean arriving in the dark with potentially hungry and disgruntled babies and a mountain of stuff to transfer from car to cottage. We decided to amass everything in the living room and stuff it all in the car the following morning, and went to bed grumpy (me more so than Mrs Aitchworld), barely speaking and absolutely knackered.
The next day, bright and early (there is no other way these days, although some days are brighter than others) I surveyed the pile in the living room. It was substantial, there is no denying it. I needed to hire a team of Sherpas just to move it from the house to the vicinity of the car and a guide to get from the top to the bottom of it all. Once they had shifted it all for me out onto the driveway, the enormity of the task ahead suddenly struck me. Getting all this stuff into the car and the roof-box, with all the different shapes and sizes, was going to be like a giant game of Tetris. It was a long game too; one that spanned one baby feed and beyond by a margin large enough to mean having to make a stop en-route for the next one.
Eventually the car was packed and I did an excellent job, even though I do say it myself. The boys nearly learned some new words when I realised I’d not put any CDs in the autochanger in the boot and had to partially re-pack halfway through to rectify this oversight. I even managed to fit everything in so that I could still see out of the rear view mirror. The car has some sort of fancy suspension system that if it goes wrong will probably cost several times more than the car is worth to fix, but it did the job and meant it didn’t look like it was going to collapse under the weight of baby paraphernalia. I have no idea what time we got to when we left, but it was some time after our lunch, that we didn’t get time to eat. For the first hour, right up until we stopped to feed the boys (and ourselves), paranoia about the presence, and the ability of the roof box to hold all of our luggage, was high; one or the other of us was checking in the door mirrors every few minutes to make sure it was still in tact and on top of the car. Things were good; we were going on holiday. By very late afternoon, we were two hours from home at our destination and base for the next few days.
Of course, what goes up must come down. Or in this case, what went in the car, had to come out again and dispersed around a holiday cottage. At this point, I should maybe explain that we never do things in a simple fashion. This would have been a complicated holiday, even without the presence of 20 week old twins. Due to the vagaries of extended families and their plans, there were another two moves; location, location, location has never been so apt a phrase because we were going to be based in three of them in one week.
I will attempt to clarify: Mrs Aitchworld’s brother was getting married a week from our arrival at the cottage, at a posh hotel about ten miles away from it. We had booked two nights in the same hotel over the wedding weekend so that we had a base to hand in case the twins got grumpy during any part of proceedings we could retire/escape to our room. The cost of these two nights would have seen us have a comfortable week away abroad somewhere in the sun, if only a plane large enough to take us and all our stuff had been invented. Brother in Law had seen fit to get married in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK slap bang in the middle of the school summer holidays.
Mrs Aitchworld’s parents saw the cost and thought stuff this, and booked a cottage for a fortnight instead, a week either side of the wedding. They couldn’t get there for the first five days though so, ever the opportunist, we decided we would utilise it for them to save their money going to waste. We’re good like that. However, as they arrived, so did Mrs Aitchworld’s sister and family, all the way from America, which gave them priority to any spare rooms in the cottage. There weren’t enough for all of us, so this left a night where we didn’t have accommodation. We could have each sold a liver to pay for another night in the wedding hotel, but instead we opted to book a pub local to the cottage for a night that was altogether more reasonable.
As I started to unpack the car, Tetris in reverse, the heinousness of doing this another two times in one week, three if you included going home, hit me like a ten tonne heavy thing. But once we were in, we had three clear days of just relaxing and enjoying a holiday. We went to a zoo, an aquarium and a car museum, all things that five month old twins enjoy doing… No, wait, I mean the other thing. They hated the zoo and Henry nearly got eaten by a giraffe (vegetarians my arse!) the car museum vaguely amused them and the aquarium was a bit like a giant bubble tube for them, which to be fair is something they do quite enjoy whenever we take them to the baby sensory room local to us. Between them they howled, cried and whimpered their way round the entirety of the South Lakes. On the bright side, all the fresh air meant they started to sleep through the night. Which was nice.
Day four was the day of the move from cottage to pub. I was confident in my reverse Jenga skills of getting the car packed that I suggested we do some shopping during the day. I needed a tie for the wedding so Mrs Aitchworld’s mother suggested we went to the M&S in Whitehaven. We searched the whole of the town but couldn’t find the shop. Eventually, against my nature, I asked for directions. There isn’t an M&S in Whitehaven. There is one in Workington apparently. (“Well, they both begin with a W” was the excuse).
As I suspected, the car packing went well. It helped that we left a couple of items at the cottage that we wouldn’t necessarily need. On arrival at the pub, we were shown our room. It was up a flight of stairs, along a corridor, down half a set of stairs and then back up another half set of stairs. The young, petite girl that checked us in asked if I needed a hand with the luggage – the temptation was immense, but it wouldn’t have been fair on her, so I made the six or so trips back and forth to the car by myself.
Next day, we checked out, headed over to the hotel where the wedding was to be held and checked in there. I was glad to note there was a lift, as we wandered through to reception. There was also an annexe that was all on the ground floor with car parking available right outside the rooms. So where were we put, knowing we had five month old twins? That’s right; on the third floor in a wing of the hotel that the lift didn’t go anywhere near. At least the car was parked right by the door that the three flights of stairs up to our room led from. One was not amused.
Other than a few cans of lager a couple of weeks ago when I went away for a lads weekend with my mates, I have barely had a drink this year. I was really looking forward to a pint of Guinness and felt that I had earned it after all the physical effort I had gone to. And with all the exercise I had done, I wasn’t really worried about the extra calories. And you know what, the pub didn’t sell it, they only sold Murphys, which isn’t Guinness and the hotel only sold it in cans, which isn’t Guinness either. I need a holiday to get over the holiday.