Mum of two, Jo Wiltshire, gets ready for the big summer holiday, starting with a list or three.
Ooh, holidays are on the horizon! Sparkling seas, sunny beaches, carefree days with cherubic offspring and chilled-out partners and very possibly the odd improbably lurid and oversweet cocktail thrown in.
The image hangs before you like a mirage in the dusty desert of the last days of summer term. It shines like a beacon as you navigate the last of the sports days, school plays, reports and teacher collections.
What can possibly help keep the dream alive as you are pinned hopelessly in the playground by someone with a strident voice and a nice line in athleisure demanding which slot you might like to ‘volunteer’ for on the summer fete’s Undrinkable Wine Tombola?
Lists. Lists are the answer, trust me. There are many lists you can draw up. The first one has to be: Shopping! The best kind, right? Cheerfully you dedicate a special notepad to the task, and ask for family input. Anyone need flipflops? Will the 13 half-used bottles of suncream from last year be enough, or do we need to replenish? What about those antiseptic wipes from 2012? Everyone? Ideas..?
The boy, after some consideration: ‘I will probably need some extra supplies of Lego for the holiday, Mum,’ he says. ‘There may be a Lego shortage where we are going. I have to be prepared.’
The girl, now older and dedicating her life to the art of all things selfie-related: ‘I’ll probably need some new bikinis. Around eight or nine will do. Or maybe 10...’
The husband: ‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll just chuck in one pair of swimming trunks and a funny hat I never wear at any other time of the year. What else could I possibly need? I’m not sure why you really need a list, darling...’
Right. Lego and 10 bikinis. I cast my mind back to what was – and wasn’t – included on last year’s list.
First aid kit: when I say ‘kit’, I mean a medicinal hold-all of pharmacy-sized proportions, ready to tackle the inevitable onslaught of minor ailments the average-sized family saves up for the very week or two they are away from home. We have never before needed medical gauze or an assortment of sterile eye dressings, but you can bet your bottom dollar we will need them on holiday.
Swimwear (mine): I will require several hours tackling my demons in the seventh ring of hell (high street changing rooms) trying to find swim wear that can both cover up a year’s worth of ‘I’ll just finish this’ fish fingers and also not look like something designed to cover a boat for the winter.
Entertainment: there was a time where I planned meticulously, stocking up a magical sack of tiny pocket-money toys, puzzle books and novelties which I would hand out at carefully regulated intervals.
Now I have crossed to the dark side and rely rather more on electronic distractions, but these bring their own parental challenges which I now have to plan for. ‘I can’t find a charger Mum!’ ‘Darling, we brought 37 chargers with us.’ ‘But there are NO chargers left...’
Finally, the day dawns. Four neat suitcases stand by the front door where you finally positioned them roughly three hours’ sleep ago. Nobody is to touch anything before leaving the premises.
What are you DOING? ‘I’m just doing a slight bit of repacking, Mummy. Don’t worry! I just needed to get this outsized model of the Millennium Falcon in, no problem if I just get rid of all these pesky pants and socks, right?’
You avert your eyes. Some hours later, all of which have passed in a blur of ‘are we there yet’ and ‘I need a wee’ and ‘I feel sick’ and ‘she just looked at me funny’, you find yourself miraculously deposited at your holiday destination.
The air is filled with whoops of joy as the family enter into the holiday spirit.
You, on the other hand, seem to have developed three kinds of head cold, a mysterious rash, a hacking cough and a set of eyebags big enough to transport any remaining Lego. You would quite like to partake in a different kind of holiday spirit. Make it a double.
You start making more lists. Of holiday retreats for ladies travelling alone. Very quiet ones. With packing services. Happy holidays!