We didn’t have a car when I was a child; neither of my parents could drive and with my father working for British Rail, the family had free rail travel and had no real need for a car. In terms of short journeys, if somewhere was within walking distance we walked; on occasions, even if it wasn’t within walking distance we still walked! I recall my parents taking us to Bealieu Motor Museum and we walked from the train station; we were really quite young at the time and I clearly remember my eldest sister moaning almost constantly about the distance. It wasn’t until I went there with my own children and drove past the railway station on the way to the museum that I realised how far we had been made to walk: 3½ miles is a long way for little legs on a hot summer’s day.
As far as holidays went, we stayed at Maddiesons Holiday Camp on the Kent coast when I was around 2 years old, but other than that our summer holidays consisted of day trips to London on the train plus the occasional coach trip to a stately home.
I have very fond memories of those day trips and enjoyed travelling by rail. I’m not quite old enough to remember steam trains, but ours was one of the last lines in the area to be electrified and I rather liked the slam door carriages pulled by diesel engines. We would always aim for the single compartment just before first class, and kept our fingers crossed that anybody using the door to board the train would simply walk through rather than sit in there with us. If we were in the main body of the train however we would choose the side with 6 seats (the other side of the aisle only had 4) and go on the hunt for one of the removable tables that were strapped in at the end of the carriage to clip under the window; to find one was a real coup.
I had to sit facing the direction of travel otherwise I would feel very ill, and travelling via Eastbourne was awkward as it was a terminus. Once the train had stopped, the driver would get out and walk the length of the platform, take up his seat in the engine at the opposite end and drive to London in the opposite direction, which meant I had to persuade someone to switch seats with me. Coach journeys were always an ordeal regardless of where we were going as I suffered from extreme travel sickness and never managed a journey without being ill.
I still suffer from travel sickness which means I have to sit in the front of the car (preferably driving), must always look out of the window on a bus or a coach, still need to travel the direction of travel on a train, and as for boats…….forget it! Bizarrely though, I’m fine in a plane; at least I was the last time I flew which was about 13 years ago.
My children have grown up with lengthy car journeys and I am so relieved that none of them have inherited my travel sickness. With family in Scotland, spending up to 12 hours in a car is boring even for adults and in an effort to ease the boredom for the children, I always present them with a goody bag part way through the journey. The bags contain a variety of toys and activities to keep them entertained, including things like picture story books, stickers, notebooks and pens, character vehicles from the film Cars, plus the obligatory soft toy.
Then of course there are the treats which make the bags really exciting……not exactly healthy but carrot sticks and raisins don’t hold the same appeal.
As you’d expect, I source the toys and books from bootfairs, and keep them hidden until a lengthy journey looms then allocate a few things to each child’s bag according to age and gender.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find things suitable for my 13 year old son, but an absolute triumph last year was a toy dragon called Norbert from the Harry Potter films, which he re-christened Bob.
The bags had been given out a short while after leaving the UK and whilst driving through France, around halfway into our journey, the conversation between the children took a bizarre twist and the dragon was honoured with his full title: Bob the Bum-Faced Baboon. I have no idea how it came about, but the children found it hilarious and the car was filled with laughter from that point on. We were then treated to 4 hours of virtually non stop giggling as each child thought of yet another name beginning with the letter B that could form a new variation of the dragon’s name.
Just as they’d exhausted the list of names, it was perhaps a mistake to remind the children that we would be meeting up with Richard’s family very shortly and that his father’s name was………Bill, and his grandmother’s name was………Betty. You can’t begin to imagine how funny the children found the prospect of being on holiday with Bill and Betty the Bum-Faced Baboons!
This summer we’re very fortunate to be holidaying once again with Richard’s family, this time in Centre Parcs in the Netherlands. It’s a relatively short journey (5½ hours door to door according to the AA) and I’ve already begun collecting items to put in the children’s bags.
I wonder what will trigger the laughter this time round…….?