I am a child again. Marque 1 has legs now that are very much longer than my own. Which is fine. A thing to be celebrated indeed. Until it comes to the squished journey home from the West. There’s no room to accommodate his legs plus all the baggage in either of the back rows. Especially now that we’ve added four body-boards, two camping chairs and a badminton set – complete with net – to our already overflowing vehicle. We refuse to do the roof-boot thing, although right now I can’t remember why. Something about bringing just enough and not too much like the good old days. Which we did on the way here. Right now, standing outside the vehicle, with body-boards wedged, blocking the doors and bags all over the place, a roof-boot thing seems like a heavenly idea. I do the only thing I can. I scale over a board into the middle row. I’m wearing a skirt. Silly me. The scaling is not a dignified thing. Oh well. I plonk myself beside a bemused marque 2.
‘Not a word’ I say to his smiling nodding face. Marque 1 takes his long legs to the front seat and rests his bag on his lap. He turns around to ask if I’m ok. I am, I tell him and he winks at me.
One minute later we stop at the garage to fuel up and get some bits for the journey. Scaling again. It is with even less dignity that I scale out over the board to the busy courtyard, stopping half way astride the board to wrestle with the skirt that’s riding up on me, trying to get it back down. An impossible task given that it’s a bloody pencil skirt. Lycra leggings are the only thing that’d work in a case like this. Note to self.
After a bit of excellent back seat driving – it all looks a lot more perilous from here – I begin to relax and enjoy myself. Marque 2 and marque 3 are chatting away to me. I throw an arm around marque 2’s shoulders. Marque 5 sticks a brown foot at my head and I give it a squeeze. Marque 4 offers me his hand for a hold. There’s no squabbling with this adult/child amongst them. I can talk to the front, the middle and the back in nothing more than a whisper. I feel like a conductor of calm, a rare treat for everyone. I can even take a sneaky read of the newspaper. What’s the catch?
It is the moment when I immerse myself so completely in my diminished stance second row position, that I find myself sucking a Chupa-chups lolli-pop. I’m dishing them out one second, and the next I’m wrestling with the wrapper of my own one. I do not have a sweet tooth, Your Honour. I would not do this in the front, I swear. The long-sucking pops are to keep the kids amused and preferably quiet for a while. But somehow, right at this moment, there is nothing in the world that could dissuade me from sucking a lolli-pop along with them. Strawberry and cream. Divine. I suck and I marvel at the flavour – at it’s great approximation to the real thing – and at how there’s no biting them and at how quiet we all are. There’s a car parallel to us and the driver is smiling at me as I peep over the body-board, stick pointing at him. It is not the smile of an adult to adult. It is the smile of a fun-loving person saying he gets it. This is the moment that I know for sure that I am a child again. I don’t think there’s any way back from here.
Eh, are we there yet?