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Family Guy: We're all going on our summer holidays - help!

IT'S still what seems like ages before we're supposed to go away on what could well be, I think to myself glumly, the last holiday we take together, but the debacle of our preparations is already in high gear.

IT'S still what seems like ages before we're supposed to go away on what could well be, I think to myself glumly, the last holiday we take together, but the debacle of our preparations is already in high gear.

It's probably our last holiday as a family, because I can only imagine that if we ever present the eldest, for instance, with the prospect of being trapped in such close proximity to his siblings for more time than it takes to hoover up a meal again, it will be met with silence and a suitably withering look.

For now, the chaotic process of getting the house ready for our departure continues, room by room, which is a bit like tidying up after an earthquake, except without removing any debris, just dusting it all off and stacking it a little better.

"I would like everything in the downstairs study taken out into the garden," I instruct two of the teens, "wiped down and put back – ONLY after the windows are cleaned and the whole lot is vacuumed."

The youngest teen sullenly picks up the lid of a pen off the floor, lumbers around in a circle examining it through a straggly curtain of hair, then puts it down on a pile of old school books.

"Why do we have to clean if we're not even going to be here?" asks the little girl, idly prying an old pair of maracas from a pile of music magazines where it's being held in place by a ropey cobweb.

"So that when the burglars break in," I tell her, "they won't be so disgusted at the way we live."



In fact, friends of ours are moving in to look after the dog while we're gone and the big clean-up is really for them, since my wife is horrified by the idea that someone should be in the house long enough to see some of the clutter that we usually hurry visitors past with an apologetic, "Oh, don't even look in there".

"It's like a house swap," I say as I explain the idea to the girl now, "except we don't get to be in their lovely house and they get to experience abject squalor."

"What's 'abject squalor'?" she says as the boys shift the sofa to reveal a patch of dead woodlice.

My wife, meanwhile, is upstairs with the phone on loudspeaker, which has been blaring holding music, courtesy of the car rental company, for the past half hour, before it abruptly switches to a dial tone.

"Nooooooo!" we hear her wail.

"What's up," I say, going to see.

"I thought they'd booked a seven-seater for when we arrive," she groans, "but now they tell me it was 'unconfirmed'."

"What does that mean?" I say.

"That means there was never one to start with," she says. "And now they're saying there isn't a seven-seater to be had in the whole of France."

"Can't we all squeeze into a five-seat car?" I suggest.

"Well, quite apart from the fact that if we did," she says, "one of the boys would have to be in the front because of their long legs and I'd be the one squished into the back for two hours at a time, it's illegal."

"Anything I can do?" I say.

"Kill me now," she says as the phone on loudspeaker goes to the car company's holding music again.

"Well, that would probably solve the problem of the five-seater," I say and she glares at me.

By the time I go downstairs again, we've been promised two small cars instead, which we will now have to drive in convoy through France – with circus stickers on the sides, I suggest to my wife, and a bullhorn blaring carnival music perhaps, just so people know what's coming.

The boys are putting the last of the unsorted papers and broken guitars back in to the study, which is brighter now and smells like vinegar but, as anticipated, is still essentially the same wreck it was half an hour ago, only neater.

On cue, the dog lumbers in, looks around miserably for a moment and indulges in a vigorous shake, emitting a vast plume of dog hairs that float everywhere before settling.



"Nice," I tell no one in particular, "when everyone helps, isn't it?"

"Can I go now?" mutters the second eldest.

"There are more rooms in the house you know," I say. But he's already gone.

It's then I realise that we'll probably never quite be able to hide the fact before we go, that being a family of six is a rather untidy business. We'll just have to hope our dog-sitters understand.

"It's the burglars I feel sorry for," I tell my wife later as I root through a pile of old band tour T-shirts with which to embarrass my family while we're abroad.

"What do you mean?" she says.

"Well," I say, "anyone dumb enough to ever want to go to the trouble of breaking in here will barely have time to register their bitter disappointment and revulsion at how people can live like this, before the poor hysterical wretch has to be rescued out from under our insane mutt."

"You're more than welcome to dig in and do something about it," says my wife, back downstairs now as we survey the comparatively tidier but still over-cluttered study. "Most of all this rubbish is yours."

"Actually," I tell her, retrieving a heap of yellowing newspapers and putting them back under the desk, "I kind of like it exactly the way it is."