‘They’ say prior preparation prevents poor performance, unless embarking on a mammoth car journey with the kids, when any such preparation is patently a waste of time.

The drive, rebadged as a ‘road trip’ despite them being old hands at such journeys, be it a dash to Scotland or a whizz down to Cornwall, begins a few days prior when you realise the MOT is due to run out in six days, you need two new tyres and the air con is in desperate need of a recharge. Already £300 down, you fill the car up using the ‘pay at pump’ service, which seems to take longer than ‘pay in kiosk’, before checking the oil and trying to work out which tank to open to fill up the bone dry screen wash.

The packing still hasn’t begun as you give the car an initial tidy. The usual suspects can be found under the back seat, where they seem to have been placed deliberately, including hair bands, damp, sticky Haribo sweets and wrappers of all shapes and levels of tackiness. You pick the pickled onion Monster Munch packet up and the breeze blows the debris through the open car door and covers the area you have just cleared. You splay about furiously, with half your body in the main road as you eat carpet and reach under the seat recesses to find your best pair of headphones, which disappeared six months ago, now in a critical condition.

Packed the night before, with a snack bag in the passenger footwell, chargers, sunglasses and a sat nav set up, it is as you go out the door your littlest claims she ‘hasn’t packed a bag for the car yet’, despite you having requested her to do just that 50 times over the previous 72 hours.

Finally on the road, you get to the local village roundabout and the wife proclaims she ‘isn't sure’ if she locked the front door or closed the bathroom window properly, so you drive back home to see she has, despite her protestations that its ‘better safe than sorry’. Finally you’re off and within a few miles one of the bairns pipes up ‘I need the toilet’ before an unscheduled stop a few miles from home at the nearest services, where you bump into an old friend who believes you are, sadly, there to ‘hang out’ despite claiming to be driving 300 miles yet stopping after three.

Stereo battles then commence. The wife doesn't like your choice of Absolute Radio, which is 'a racket’ and ‘too loud’ and you aren’t too keen on the niceness of the middle-of-the-road Radio 2. You call a truce and turn the radio off, instead spending six hours listening to cartoons from the back seat as the little one can't use ‘her’ headphones as someone has moved them from under the seat. This is after a physical altercation after she has blamed her older sister for the theft as I keep quiet. You threaten to turn back home despite not really meaning it and them not believing it anyway. Further battles rear up over ‘space’ as they inch to exactly half-way across the people carrier seat. Eventually your wife swaps with child the elder, who then sits cross legged with her foot on the gear stick as you attempt a tricky manoeuvre around a roundabout.

Eventually, tired from driving, deafened from your wife’s snoring, and half-blinded by the secondary glare of the phones from the passenger seat, we reach our destination. Everyone disappears as yours truly is left being the luggage mule, and, just as you come in with the last bag, you are asked if you "need any help".

Believing the journey to be over, you grab yourself a coffee and go to sit outside to get grounded with your new environment. It is at that point you remember you have left your wallet in the car. Looking through the windows you see your carefully manicured creation now resembling a carpet bombing site, before searching in an alien kitchen for a carrier bag and spending half an hour clearing out drink bottles, more sweet wrappers and numerous McDonald's cartons, and that’s before you get anywhere near to where the kids were sitting.

Still, it's preferable to sitting at home, I guess. The sun is shining and you get to enjoy some downtime until the journey home where, post tidy up, you are greeted with a parking ticket from Truro and 3 points for doing 80 in a 70 zone which was the only time you sped on the entire journey as the little one was again demanding a comfort break as she was ‘about to wet herself’ somewhere near Westward Ho!

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher