Excitement is building at Dad Dancer Towers. The homework is drying up, the frenetic schedule of after-school activities is thinning out – all telltale signs that the school year is drawing to a close. And we’re going on holiday!
We’re normally too skint and disorganised to budget for a holiday. As a result we get to Easter and discover the best we can afford is two weeks in a caravan in Wales. Which is fine – the beaches are beautiful and if the weather’s good you can’t beat it. But the kids are getting old enough to twig that some families jet off to hot, exotic climes at this time of year. ‘OK,’ we declared last summer – ‘Next year we’re going abroad!’
Aside from a short break at Euro Disney several years ago (in chilly March) it’s actually been 11 years since we last had an overseas holiday. My Brother the Arms Dealer (M-BAD) was working in Italy at the time and invited us out to stay for a week. Never one to sniff at a cheap holiday I booked us onto a budget flight.
I have two enduring memories of the trip. The first is of Groucho and her similarly aged cousin splashing around on a beach. It’s just amazing how large a disposable nappy swells up to when immersed in seawater. The second memory also involves a nappy. We’d been seeing the sights of Rome and were near the Colosseum when Khaleesi hastily handed Groucho to me and informed me it was my turn to change her.
I should have smelt a rat because I was soon smelling something far, far worse. Maybe it was the change of climate or the Meditteranean diet but something had sent Groucho’s digestive system into overdrive. You would not believe the amount of sh*@te that spilled forth from that nappy. Groucho’s bowels seemed to have grown to tardis-like proportions because the stuff just kept coming. Passers-by were sniffing disapprovingly… my T-shirt was caked in it. Fathers of the world, I have a top tip for you. If your partner hands you a baby like it’s a ticking time bomb, be suspicious. Be very suspicious.
In the years that followed our family grew and air travel seemed less and less attractive – especially when the airlines started charging full fares for the kids. When my mother was alive, I sometimes took one of them on an internal UK flight for a visit. Once I went with Groucho (she was about four at the time) but it didn’t go well. In the departure lounge she casually mentioned she had a sore tummy. I thought nothing of it but a little later, as the plane was taxiing towards the main runway for take-off, she threw up all over me.
The fasten your seatbelt lights were on, the flight attendants were strapped in their own seats. I had no choice but to sit there with a pile of vomit in my lap as the plane hurtled up the runway. I will always be grateful to the kind lady sitting next to me who passed me her copy of The Guardian to help mop up the mess.
Once the fasten seatbelts lights were off I did me best to sort us out a change of clothes, all the time trying to avoid eye contact with any of the other passengers. The lady with The Guardian was offered a seat elsewhere in the plane – she’d earned it. It was one of those episodes in life when all you can think of is: OMG, this is awful, everyone hates me, please let it end. And then, as we were coming down to land, Groucho threw up again!
You can understand perhaps why we’ve been such dedicated staycationers. If the kids are going to throw up en route, at least let it be in the privacy of your own car. But no more! The kids are growing up fast. We owe them one year at least when we get to holiday like a normal family. So this summer, we’ve gone for it. We’ve maxed out the credit card. It’s all booked.
In two weeks’ time we’re off to the Costa Brava.