We are late for our trip to Ireland for my sister’s wedding, and the app informs us the bus is moving backwards through time. First six minutes, then seven, eight, nine… Our son suggests we just get on any of the many buses going in the opposite direction, not quite comprehending our having a preferred destination in mind.
When the bus arrives, he’s so incensed that it’s travelling ‘the wrong way’, that he has to be dragged on by his armpits. This takes some doing as we are carrying two 20kg suitcases and a fully laden buggy, replete with six-month-old child. She, too, is screaming and will not have stopped for longer than five minutes throughout the entire duration of this column. I clasp my son in Daddy’s Death Grip and he squints at me with righteous fury, looking for all the world like a furious little 12th-century warrior nun. I should have added that our pre-travel trip to the hairdresser the previous Saturday resulted in nine snips of his fringe before he jumped out of his chair. Since then, he’s sported the flowing bob and squared-off fringe made popular by Joan of Arc. An entirely appropriate likeness, since he is keen on spending today being God’s one perfect martyr.
With a hissing, grinding noise, the bus breaks down entirely and the reasons for its original delay become evident. Just as we clamber aboard its replacement, we receive a text from our street’s WhatsApp group telling us a van has rear-ended my wife’s car. Some quick messaging suggests little damage has been done and an eagle-eyed neighbour has even snapped the registration number, but we have no time to think about it one way or the other as we are rapidly running out of time to make it to the airport and any further delay will increase the likelihood of intra-familial homicide by roughly 100%. The baby is still screaming.
At Victoria, my wife pays £40 for the Gatwick Express tickets before we realise, with a delight we cannot name, that the standard train to Littlehampton is the only one that will get us to the airport on time and would have only cost us a tenner if we’d worked this out beforehand. There is murder in the air as we finally arrive at Gatwick and begin the slow, glowering penance that is any time spent in a brightly lit airport with one or more crabby infants and two sleep-deprived adults. By this point the word ‘divorce’ has been mentioned several times, but we table our resentments long enough to enjoy the sinus-pulping thrill of commercial flight, landing to a delighted father-in-law in Dublin, and a quick drive back to the family home. Our baby is still screaming.
‘I’m going to be sick,’ shouts our son when we are a mile away from the finish line. We pull up in a sidestreet, so I can I dash to his door and hold it open for him to do the necessary. The baby appears to enjoy the sight of her big brother dry-retching on the pavement so much she begins to laugh, and suddenly we do, too. We are not quite home just yet, but we are alive, and at least the screaming has stopped.
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78
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