Last Saturday we decided, on the cuff, to go for a family day out.
I had woken in a bad mood (probably related to my inner rage at not being able to fit into my wedding dress to take part in Brides Across the Bridge) and the best plan of action I could come up with was to get out of dodge for the day.
For a while we had been promising the children we would try out the big leisure pool in Lisburn. Why you may ask, when there are any number of swimming pools right on our doorstep here in Derry? Well - the answer is simply this - the big leisure pool in Lisburn makes even Lisnagelvin (the jewel in the crown of Derry City Council’s leisure facilities) look like a three ring paddling pool.
Shunning the below par services in Derry (no family changing rooms, the very real risk of hypothermia both in the pool and while changing) we decided to set out on a road trip to remember.
But as every mammy knows, there is no such thing as just setting out. First you have to prepare to set out. We located our swimming suits, towels, goggles and after a minor panic attack about a pair of armbands, we loaded our bags into the car, then loaded the children into the car, then got into the car ourselves and thus began a journey that will haunt me all my days.
So first stop, naturally, was to top up at the petrol station. While there, I decided to be a super safe driver and check the air pressure in my tyres.
I did this primarily because my husband was with me and he, unlike me, knows how to check the pressure on a tyre without completely deflating it in the process. (I have done this once - leaving me and Journal colleague Erin Hutcheon with the unenviable task of trying to persuade a random knight in shining armour to fix it for me).
It was then, with two over excited children in the back of the car (who clearly had no idea how far away Lisburn actually is), the husband announces that one of my tyres is looking a bit on the bald side.
With a run up the motorway looming, and my MOT a mere week away, I decided I couldn’t risk the run without a new tyre so on we went to get that sorted while the wee doll (4) has already started to ask if we are at the pool yet.
And so, eventually, we finally set off. I perhaps had some false ideas of what it would be like as we headed off the road. My rose tinted spectacles relating to my childhood were firmly on. We would maybe have a sing song (“It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” on a loop) or a mammoth game of Eye Spy. A packet of boiled sweets would be passed around and the rubbish passed forward to a bag in the front and we would recall that the journey was almost as fun as the destination itself.
(And no-one would be sick in our car - not even me who was the frequent boker on family trips of old).
As it happened not one verse of ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ was sung and there was no Eye Spy. What resulted was a fairly terse game of ‘Yellow Car’ - whereby the children fought over who saw the various yellow cars on our journey first. Then there was a bit of a battle about what music to listen to - with the boy preferring something from The Undertones and the girl wanting something more from the pop era.
We were barely outside of Drumahoe when the wee doll again started to ask, “Are we there yet?” a chorus that would follow us all the way to Lisburn. And when the husband suggested a shortcut - which would take us down the long and winding road to Lisburn - things became terser still.
The husband and I, you see, are stereotypes of the old married couple out for a drive. He thinks I’m an awful driver (too slow, too hesitant) and I think he’s awful (too fast, takes risks I wouldn’t) and this never makes for a happy mutual driving experience.
By the time we reached our destination we were on radio silence - which had followed my declaration of “Lord only knows how I ever manage to drive a car without you sitting beside me” in a mega huff of a voice.
The children were ready to kill each other. The wee doll was tired and cranky and ready to fall asleep and I was in a frame of mind to throw a proper mammy hissy fit and “turn the car around and go back to where we came from”.
But we did stop and we went in, and splashed around in the pool - laughing and enjoying the craic that came with soaking each other. I didn’t try to drown the husband and he didn’t try to drown me so I figure that meant things between us were okay, really.
When the day was done and the children were back home, the boy declared the day had been “epic” and “the best ever”. I wondered then had there been similar issues when we had travelled out as a family when I was wee?
And was it really the case that the only thing that really mattered when all was said and done that overall the day had been a success?
I’ll live with that - and the hope that one day my husband will realise I’m a better driver than him!