City Break

My husband sighs to himself as we crawl along the M40 behind a caravan perched on the back of a lorry. 

It’s as if he is the only one confined to a small stuffy box on an upright seat with “stories for four-year-olds” playing on a loop.

Actually we have all been in this situation for three hours, on the way to Birmingham for half term. 

My husband holds the “I’m driving” card, so I become a snack and drink dispenser, head of diplomatic relations and a fountain of knowledge on all things to do with cars, distances and alarmingly, how an armchair can fall off a Land Rover roof at speed without breaking into pieces.

“Can I have an ice-cream?” Midnight asks for the 14th time. 

“I don’t have one,” I try to keep my voice light, when really I want to lean forward and scream into the glove box.

Maybe Midnight thinks our Transporter is an ice-cream van. Maybe he likes to ask the impossible of his mother ALL DAY LONG. Maybe he’s just a four-year-old who wants an ice-cream. 

“Can two cars have the same number plate?” asks Mayhem, passing me the crusts from his service station sandwich.

“No. That’s why they have a number plate, so they are different.” I say confidently.

“But they are already different colours and different sizes…” Milk points out.

“… and different types of cars…” adds Mayhem. “Like a Lamborghini or a Mini.”

“And trucks aren’t cars,” says Midnight with gusto.

Milk nods. “So if you had a yellow Mini and a red truck with the same number plate, you won’t exactly get them muddled up will you?” 

“Or a digger and a butt crack” squeals Midnight.

All of this is true. “Anyone want a Jaffa cake?” I say.

My husband is unable to distribute snacks, but he is able to eat them. 

“We’re nearly in Mordor,” he says to the children with his mouth full. “You’ll see orcs and everything up here”.

“And grandma and grandpa,” pipes up Midnight.

Tolkein lived across the park from where I grew up and I feel unusually sensitive about orcs and Mordor. “You haven’t actually read Lord of the Rings have you?” 

“Don’t need to read it, I’ve seen the film,” the love of my life replies, holding out his sticky hand for a drink. 

We approach my parents’ neighbourhood and Midnight is glued to the window. “Look at that stinky dirty tower!” he shouts with glee as we pass a block of flats. 

“We really need to get them out more,” I say. “They think everyone lives in cottages with a white picket fences.”

Midnight shrieks. “Look at that man! He is shouting at that wall. Why is he shouting at a wall mummy?”

“I don’t know, maybe no one is listening to him…” I say. 

“Can I have an ice-cream?”

I lean forward and open the glove box.

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