Monday, 5 May 2008

Family day out

Is it me or are happy family days out possibly the most stressful days of your lives? I'm talking the sort of stress and anxiety where you would like to take hold of your partner's fingers and trap them in the car door while yelling rude words that somehow indicate You got what's coming, matey.

Actually our happy family day out didn't start off like that. The day just evolved into it, like a horrible B-movie where aliens take over someone's brain and eat it.

And I should have seen it coming. Because first, to have the happy family day out on a sunny May day bank holiday, we must all Get In The Car.

Getting into the car is one of the worst moments ever in a family day out because everyone has to be in the same place at the same time. Stupid Grit. you should know it takes an hour for everyone to do this. Shark has to stand in the front room howling that she cannot find her left boot, not that she's put any trouble into looking for it. Squirrel must lock herself in her bedroom because Tiger is on the stairs and is growling at her. Then Grit has to lose her glasses. And her keys. To provide the happy icing on the happy cake, Dig has to get stressy and shouty because he is sending the last email to India and do we not know that it is very important and they are all going to bed in India right at this minute.

Well, matey, I'm thinking, the screaming, yelling, growling and locking yourself in your bedroom are all Very Important Jobs to do too. So Grit joins in with tearing about the house shouting 'Hey, we are locking ourselves in a tin box together for over an hour where I am hard pushed to swing a dormouse, let alone a full sized moggy, so calm down now and Bloody Be Nice to Each Other.' Of course I have to shout the last bit up the stairs because it cannot be heard above the wailing, screaming, growling and howling.

But oh, foolish Grit. Being in the car is not enough is it? Because everyone must now strap on the safety belt before the key gets turned in the ignition. And we are past the age where I could use a discreet knee in the stomach to get these kids to bend in the middle. So we sit there, in a hot tin box by the side of the road, arguing that it's not fair because Shark stops Tiger strapping herself in and then Tiger would strap herself in but we won't allow it.

When the key finally turns in the ignition for the Lovely Family Day Out I would like to do some punching and swinging blows, and I'm pretty sure someone would like to do that to me too. So I'm not saying we're not all deserving of each other at that moment as we set off down the A5 to get to the Celtic Harmony Camp where we can be happy family Celts living in Harmony for a whole day.

Not that there is much of the day left, I point out on the M10 while the argument about who can and cannot read road signs is gathering pace and I have forbidden the kids to ever marry a man who still argues about the navigation even when he is now taking instructions about Left and Right from the SatNav and not from Grit with the upside down road map.

When we finally get to the Celtic camp, I have spent over an hour listening to everyone's big loud grumble about everything from sisters through the weather through to roads and why you cannot bring leopards into the car when everyone knows they sit there quiet and don't do anything. Then there's just the car parking to argue about and who is getting out the car first and why that is not fair, and who is carrying the picnic and which way you walk across the field to get in and where is the entrance anyway and Stop bloody well shouting because this is supposed to be a Lovely Family Day Out and now look. We only have four hours and fifteen minutes to relax and enjoy it. Together.

Once inside the Celtic Harmony Camp we all split up because if we don't there's going to be Trouble. Tiger goes off with Dig to have a go at shooting something with a bow and arrow. Shark and Squirrel stay with me and grind grain so they can make dough and hammer it into a cake to feed to a fairy. Once that's done Shark goes over to piss off Tiger and everybody else in the queue at the bow and arrow field by skipping up and joining Dig just as he's reached the man with the bows and arrows, thus bypassing a 40-minute wait.

When that's done and most people have eye-spied us as queue-jumping arguing troublemakers, then we start to make Beltane crowns to celebrate the spring and be right proper Celtic ladies living in family harmony in a field. Tiger goes beserk within sixteen seconds because her daffodils keep falling out her crown. Pointing out that she is plaiting them in wrong doesn't help. As if that is not enough, Shark joins her, red face and hissing steam, because of what I do not know; her crown looks fine to me. Actually, pointing this out doesn't help either, so I leave her there while I stomp off to the picnic hut where Dig has sat himself down with a Celtic beer ignoring Squirrel, who is all but weeping over a cheese sandwich because she says she has missed the maypole dancing. I say you have not, there is maypole action at 2.30 so keep watch and grab a ribbon when it's time.

At 2.30 there is a large crowd of kids around the maypole and suddenly everyone's picking up ribbons except for Squirrel. The fact that Shark has come over freshly mad from the crown making, grabbed a ribbon and is not letting go, no matter what, does not ease the situation. Squirrel starts to stare at the world open mouthed, with that look of horror and shock, which indicates to her mamma that everything is now so despairing and cruel and unfair she may have to sink wretched to the ground this minute and crumple into a heap of wailing tears. Then Oh Wow, will everyone know the injusticies of mankind.

Mamma, being a bit ruthless, and I apologise to the other mamma of the little kid with the yellow ribbon, but hey, you should have been there to safeguard your little soldier because I am bigger than him and much stronger, and it's quite easy to pull that yellow ribbon out of his little grasp before he knows what's happening and hand it to Squirrel sharpish. This speed technique of robbery from a kid to shut up the other kid who is bound to cause much more mayhem than the first kid can ever dream of, is a technique I've had eight years to perfect. Beat me at it.

When the happy maypole dance is over then we have to do story walks and whistle making. We cannot do both at the same time because time to relax together as a family is running out, so Tiger and Dig go off for whistles and Shark, Squirrel and me go to story telling. At the last moment, Shark jumps ship and goes to join Tiger and Dig at the head of the whistle-making queue. Tiger looks like she's about to explode and Dig's face is possibly now the most miserable face on the planet. I am desperate to get away from everybody in order to listen to someone else go on and on about a miserable Jack who is no good at anything, and who sets off in search of a druid who tells him the secret of happiness.

By the time we all meet up again we have thirty minutes to be a family having a nice time in a field, watching the fire eating. This is the last event of the day. The kids sit down in the grass and I stand by Dig's side, hoping to make everything alright again. Dig announces he is going to the toilet and is gone 20 minutes. When he returns at the firebreather's last puff of smoke he then takes Shark and Tiger off to walk round the back of the field and leaves me standing alone while the organisers dismantle the tents.

On the way home I have a big squeal after some lip from Shark and probably tell everyone I am never ever going on another happy family day out ever ever ever again and this time I mean it. I really do.


the mother of this lot said...

Oh, the times I've threatened never to do it again. You will though. It's like childbirth. You forget that till the pains start again on the next one.

sharon said...

Been reading for a couple of months now and had to de-lurk today to say that at least they didn't throw up in the car! Most of our 'Days Out' would include a vomit stop - sometimes several - despite liberal doses of various brands of anti-nausea medication. Train trips usually went better.

Are you still acquiring an au-pair this year? Having read through the archives, I wondered if you were game to try again :-)

Kelly Jene said...

I hope you got quite drunk after that happy family day.

Maggie May said...

AHHH! Family days out! Wonderful.To have 3 girls all doing their own thing, stomping off in different directions & working against people in a team! How do you cope! They are really LOVELY!
Must write about May Day!

Mean Mom said...

What a wonderful reminder of the lovely family days out that we used to have when our lads were young! Be warned! The time will come when you look back on those days, with fondness and long for some more!

I've done the meme! Was it OK to take the piss? No? Oh! Don't tell brad, then. If you're interested, you'd better dash over and read it, before I'm deleted by the blog police!

Grit said...

hi motl! i am sure you are right. i may have actually threatened this one several times over. no-one takes any notice of me anyhow. sniff.

hi sharon! oh dear, vomit stops sound really gruesomely bad. see? now i am grateful our outings are as they are, so thank you for that!

the au pair has joined the great long list of taboo subjects that me and dig avoid talking about because we will get shouty and difficult. the list includes child bedtimes, the swing at the bottom of the garden, the diary, typographic design, Channel 5, cereal, sex, and pasta in tomato sauce.

hi kelly jene - i think it explains why i am so slow to do everything. i need to build in plenty of recovery time.

maggie may! this is so true! isn't it going to be a blast when they are teenagers!!

hi mean mom, i am sure you are right; when the kids have all left home it will be me and dig staring at each over and hoping for grandchildren.

i am coming over to yours now.

Michelle said...

"It's like childbirth. You forget that till the pains start again on the next one."

I am officially disagreeing with motl. I quite often hear this expression and have never agreed with it.