Driven mad on a family road trip

John Hearne

We had to get a new car this year because there wasn't enough room in the old car for the six of us. If we all wanted to go somewhere, someone would have to stay behind. I was happy to volunteer but my wife said no.

We were too cheap to buy an MPV, so instead we got an estate with seats in the boot. These seats provide just enough leg room for someone with no legs. With all six of us packed into the car, there's no room for anything else, so we've had to get a roof-box, thereby making the car the least cool vehicle on the Irish roads.

And over the years, we've picked up the most awkward set of child seats ever made. There's only one configuration that works, and that involves putting the three-month-old alongside the two-year-old who has this habit of shoving his finger up her nose. So my wife has to sit in the back with them.

Setting off down the country this year was the usual jamboree. I continue to resist a DVD player and individual screens that hang on the backs of the seats. For a start, there are too many children; it would only give them one more thing to row about.

Really though, the reason I object is that it's not bloody fair. When I was a kid, everyone was tossed around on the backseat without belts or car seats, and the only thing to sit on was your sister's bony knees. Why should my kids have it so much better?


Because I'm not a completely horrible person, I got this CD of music for children. It's great in that they love the songs, but I've heard them so many times now, they're beginning to set my teeth on edge. If I hear Nellie the bloody Elephant one more time, I'll probably explode.

I hate motorway driving. It's so boring that I just start daydreaming and frequently miss my exit. This time, I realised I had left it just a fraction of a second too late. Because my wife was in the back on crowd control, she didn't noticed. So she's unaware that I've just tacked at least half an hour on to what is already a four-hour journey.

So now I'm wondering, if I just keep going until the next exit, then boot up the slip road, cross the overpass and come back on myself, will she even notice?

So, still grinding my teeth at my mistake, I chance it. Then just at the wrong moment, peace breaks out in the back seats, she looks up and notices that we're heading towards Dublin again. "Why are w . ." she starts, then "I can't believe it. I can't believe it. You missed the effin' exit."

"Ah it's alright, sure it only adds about five minutes to the journey."

You can sense the waves of murderous tension coming off her.

Nellie the Elephant comes on the CD. I put on my shades and turn it up.