Automobile aerobics. Sounds a bit sexy, doesn’t it? It isn’t. I like to call it by it’s other name;
“The Soul Destroying Performing Monkey Dance”.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Travel snacks for journeys with kids need army-precision planning. It is a skill. I am putting it on my CV. I start every long car journey with one incredibly neat and organised bag of food. One MASSIVE cool-bag of snacks and drinks, baked goods, cartons to top drink bottles back up with, fruit, napkins and endless, endless bags of hula hoops. Feed the animals in the tiny steel cage flying along the M40 at 70mph and the theory is it will aid tantrum and boredom limitation. “The Bag” (an entity in its own right) epitomises how I, as a mother, I can even prepare and provide a meal for my spawn in a tiny, cramped, moving vehicle. Long car journeys are inevitably stressful with children. And I am aiming not to shout on this one. It’s 3 hours long and that would mean I had a sore throat at the end of it.
I carry “The Bag” steadily and ceremoniously to the car, holding it like a sleeping baby, and genty nestle it in the footwell of the passenger seat where it will sit by my feet like a well behaved dog.
“Look!” I want to scream at the testosterone vessels that outnumber my estrogen self. “Look at the ‘The Bag’! Marvel at its organisation! Look at the bananas in their banana holders! Look at the cartons of juice stacked neatly! Look at how I have made a nest for the apples out of napkins! BEHOLD ITS BEAUTY AND POWER AND WHAT IT REPRESENTS!”
I am inadvertantly just shaking it up like a giant cola bottle.
BOOM! BOOM BOOM BOOM!
5 minutes in to the journey and is has exploded like a nail bomb. Bits of food and napkins and hula hoops and drink bottle tops are all over the footwell of the passenger seat. My legs are crushed and shoe horned in to the car door, slowly losing their blood supply. I feel like one of those ancient sacrificed preserved victims they pull up from a bog, all curled up and twisted like a liquorice Allsort wheel.
“My legs are cramped!” comes a shout from a boy in the back of the car, who starts to kick at the back of my seat. Any blood left in my squashed and shrivelled feet rushes to my head as my rage begins to build.
“I want a sandwich!” comes the little voice again.
“I would like a sandwich please, mummy!” I say, shrilly and riiiighhhht on the edge as I begin to perform aerobics which would impress the Circe De Soleil.
Bend double, feel resistance from seat belt, stretch, extend arms, wiggle arms, sit up using only stomach muscles, twist, reach behind you, stretch, stretch some more, twist body. Sit.
“Mummy, it’s ham! I don’t want ham, I want cheese. Can you pass me a cheese sandwich?”
“I don’t want ham, thank you mummy! I would like a cheese sandwich, please mummy!” I say in a high-pitched voice I don’t even recognise as my own as my eyes bulge out of my head.
Twist body, stretch, stretch some more, twist body back, bend double, feel resistance from seat belt, stretch, extend arms, wiggle arms, sit up using only stomach muscles, twist, reach behind you, stretch, stretch some more, twist body. Sit.
“Mummy, I don’t want the crusts, can you take the crusts back?”
“MUMMY! Thereissaladcreamonit! Get it off! ARG! Oh no! ARG! Help mummy! Getitoff!”
“Mummy, I want a juice, please”
“Mummy, I’ve dropped my juice”
“Mummy, can you pick up my juice, please?”
“Mummy, I’ve dropped my teddy”
“Mummy, can you take my juice back?”
It takes a lot of effort on my part to not implode and explode like the nail bomb cool bag as I perform my automobile aerobics/soul destroying performing monkey dance as I am bending, twisting, stretching and bobbing up and down like a giant ginger yo-yo. But I do manage to keep my cool and can speak without shouting. Albeit through gritted teeth and in a weird voice, not unlike “Zool” from Ghostbusters.
“Ok! Right! Now, does anybody want anything whilst I am in ‘The bag’?”
“Fine! Right, well, I think I will grab my lunch now, if that’s ok?” (the sarcasm is lost on the 2 year old, the 4 year old and 34 year old in the car).
“Ooh! Actually, Han” says Smudge “Please could I have a-”
(and here it comes)
“NO! NO! NO NO! YOU BLOODY WELL CAN’T!! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF BEING A HUMAN VENDING MACHINE AND WE ARE ONLY TWENTY MINUTES DOWN THE BLOODY ROAD!”.
It’s going to be a long drive to Manchester. My throat’s sore.