We'd discussed and planned this trip weeks ahead of our departure date but after a spell of freakishly hot April weather, had to make last minute decisions to travel by night. We were all packed up some time ago but still seemed to be dithering around the flat, making a final dash to find a screw-top water container. Although I'm still safely far away from the screams of discontented exceedingly demanding babes, I feel close to understanding the epic planning each journey must take for new parents.
With the first of the Bank Holidays beginning the next day, we were doing the drive from North to South to spend Easter with my olds but as Bank Holidays are popular away times, our built in son-sitter was unable to take on the job. Fearing our new addition might think we were abandoning him so soon after welcoming him to the fold, instead of expensive catteries we'd decided to introduce him to Big Nanny G, the Dear Old Granddad and his southern uncles and cousins.
Packing the car took several trips up and down in the lift from our twelfth floor vantage point to the parking spot on minus three. Aside from the normal entourage of weekend bags and laptops, we had carriers full of Easter eggs, snacks for the road and new additions to the car like giant sacks of cat litter and cascading bags stuffed full of Major Richard Parker's favourite play things and snacks.
Naturally the VIP in the plastic holdall would be taken down last but first we had to encourage him to use his toilet, ply him with travel sickness pills and adorn him with a £15 “calming collar” that would last no longer than a month. I cleaned the tray half an hour before we planned to leave, hoping that, as normal, the sight of fresh litter would encourage him to leave his mark but alas no such luck. Slightly perturbed, I moved on to the even greater challenge of administering the meds.
Having dealt with some pretty sick pussies in the past and also some decidedly stubborn ones with a knack of suddenly spitting out pills almost five minutes after apparently swallowing them, I was expecting the worst but actually got a pleasant surprise. Concealing a large white ginger-flavoured travel sickness pill behind a cheese and chicken treat worked like a charm and The Major actually swallowed the pill first rather than the munchie on both occasions. The weird smelling powder covered collar proved more tricky but even so, we were finally ready to roll.
After laying out the plastic sheeting to protect the back seats from any cat-related accidents, I positioned myself in the back of the car next to the black plastic holdall and a suspicious looking ginge. Surrounded by bags, the car seemed dwarfed and thoughts of a very grown-up family estate car momentarily entered my mind.
On the road at last, The Maj and I were taxied along as The Boy took the role of chauffeur while I acted as calmer, repeatedly stroking a rather disturbed barrel of fluff who occasionally made alarming noises and repeatedly did rather distressing snake impressions. Not long into the drive a rather unpleasant smell manifested itself and The Boy and I both convinced ourselves it must be coming from the rural outdoors the motorway cut through – when the smell disappeared we felt all the more justified by our beliefs like proud parents, silently congratulating our self-restrained offspring.
It wasn't until we were about half an hour from our destination that an even more revolting smell dominated the air. Now most definitely in the thick of the Kentish countryside we convinced ourselves those pesky cows were the culprits. Unfortunately the smell continued to linger this time and was followed by loud panting noises and drool hanging from The Maj's lips as he began to panic.
Pulling into the drive, we swiftly came to The Maj's rescue and took him into the house first. Opening the metal grid door to his travel case, we were met by the sight of two not very neat and exceedingly pungent piles of poop. Queue discussions about necessary preparations for a bath and lots of purposeful procrastination.
Thankfully, despite most probably sitting on his produce like a hen warming its eggs, The Maj had someone managed to salvage his beautifully soft clean coat and arrived fully in tact. Unlike parents of newborns, we thankfully wouldn't be bathing a poo covered giant ginger baby but were still left with the lovely job of depositing the goods and unpacking an exceedingly full car.