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Friday, 5 July 2013


 If you're new to this, then you won't yet know,
    To keep abreast with my story's flow; to Percy Street you need to go.

I hadn't realised they were travel sick when they were babies; a milky spew was a regular feature of our day whether we travelled by foot, car, bus or train, so my mental leap to travel sickness didn't happen until they were toddlers when it became hard to mistake as anything other. Any more than twenty minutes in the car brought forth biblical gushes from Tuna which I would attempt to catch in a carrier bag before it reached anything that would necessitate a valet. Sometimes this was hard to achieve. If I were driving and unable to pull over safely, I was forced to let the spew fall where it may and sniff the consequences. As toddlers are generally not yet acquainted with curries and red wine, the spew came out more or less resembling the way it went in - orange, and thankfully, odourless, so I never found myself dry-retching while doing eighty MPH down a motorway.

I was hardly new to the concept of travel sickness, my mum is a long standing sufferer; even Heather was car sick as a puppy. Within the first mile of our first journey with her, when she was a small, trembling wrinkle of black fur, we watched with dumb expressions as she deposited something in Bob's lap that looked like it should have had legs and a personality. With travelling to work by van our daily ritual, she was exposed to the tedium of travel sickness twice a day, regurgitating her meals on each trip. (It was easy to determine her condition as travel sickness as Bulimia is uncommon in dogs.) I kept a stash of carrier bags in the glove box and quickly became adept at spotting an immanent flood, expertly timing her expulsions until I had a near perfect success rate at catching them in a bag, despite her efforts of avoidance, still apparently preferring Bob's lap. Thus began our long relationship with the vet, where we learnt regular exposure was the only cure to allow her system to acclimatise, which eventually it did and she soon out-grew it; the same can be said of Chicken and Tuna - except on trains.

Trains have long been our preferred mode of transport, largely due to the fact that Bob won't fly, so the South of France became our annual excursion as it was the furthest we could get over land within a reasonable time. We were grateful for the opening of the Eurostar by the time we were venturing on the journey with the girls, sparing us choppy channel crossings on the Hovercraft which tested even the strongest of guts.

I don't know why it never occurred to me that they could be train sick; buses, cars, planes - yes, but trains? Being a travel sick child myself, trains had never posed a problem, so I assumed the same for my children. Hmm, you know what they say about assume don't you? It makes an ass out of U and me. Of course, the trains I travelled on as a child rarely got above thirty MPH, while the Eurostar and TGV have added a hundred to that when they're dawdling; but that still didn't explain why Tuna sent her breakfast on an outing down her front before we'd even reached Waterloo, a twenty minute local journey. Perhaps that's why I still didn't make the connection with train sickness, choosing instead to speculate on a bug. Or perhaps my brain categorically refused to accept the prospect of thirteen hours spent with a train sick child; that would have had me land locked on Blighty until she was old enough to catch her own sick in a bag!

Blinded by my refusal to allow the nagging doubt at the back of my mind a voice, I instantly brought out the bag of entertainment carefully chosen to keep the girls amused through the long hours to be endured. Then I smelled it. A large man sitting across the aisle produced his mid-morning meal that smelled like the grease tray at MacDonald's had made passionate love to a hillock of brie. He proceeded to eat as though he had trotters rather than hands and swilled it down with a sizable bottle of coke. Although he tried to contain the inevitable burps, (he ate it faster than a Japanese eating contestant) they were feistier than he could control, and we were forced to listen as they escaped in a series of grunts. I was nearly sick myself until I was distracted by a plastic bottle systematically hitting Bob on the head. It appeared the child behind us had presumed the crown of hair in front of him was demonic and needed a good beating. Try as the mother might to restrain him, the little shit resumed his efforts at every opportunity, forcing Bob to perch forward on the rim of his seat to avoid the blows, but fear ye not, he's made of strong stuff, and it proved only a minor distraction from FourFourTwo.

Do you remember the old British Rail Intercity advert with shoes morphing into slippers and chess pieces yawning while being gently rocked to sleep by the rhythm of the train and a lullaby softly whispering to kick off your shoes and be lazy? Well that was just like our journey - if you'd smoked the entire grass stash of ten Jamaicans!

I turned my attention to Chicken and Tuna while trying extremely hard to close off my nostrils from the culinary onslaught of the fat man across the aisle who'd brought out seconds, and dodging the occasional missile launched from behind. We began the journey bristling with more tension than an electric fence and the best was yet to come. As though the Gods were using me as a demonstration of stupidity, I force fed the girls fruit. Not nice, solid fruit like a banana, but berries; black, straw and rasp. I can't tell you why, they weren't even hungry! I suppose the 5 a day propaganda had me well and truly hooked. Next I brought out the colouring books. As every seasoned travel spewer knows, attempting anything other than complete stillness with eyes trained forward is asking for trouble; but the brave, naive, trusting things that they were coloured Dumbo and Baloo with grim, unquestioning faces.

As we were approaching the outer suburbs of London with leafy pastures of English countryside just visible in the distance, all the colour drained from Chicken's face except for a pasty grey. "I feel sick Mummy," she whined. (Why do they never tell their dads?) Thinking I could dispel the feeling with positive thought, I instructed her to put down the colouring pens, lie back and try to go to sleep, which she unquestioningly did. Then I looked at Tuna who was barely eighteen months old. She stopped scribbling a messy knot of blue ink over Snow White's face and I watched as her own face melted like the German Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he gazed upon its deathly contents.

"Tuna! Do you want to be sick?" I asked with stupidity reluctant to leave its willing host. I've often wondered why I ask, "Do you want to be sick?" Of course she doesn't want to be sick! Who the hell wants to be sick? You may have to be sick, but that is completely different from wanting to! So I should never have been surprised when the answer was a flat "No" just prior to an almighty heave. I really need to re-phrase the question to a more specific, "Are you going to be sick?" the results may be less messy.

She trained her large, brown, tear filled eyes on me and I had my answer, but nothing of use to hand having not yet invented my SEK - Sickness Emergency Kit containing nappy sacks (due to lack of holes) and more tissues than a Kleenex factory. I snatched FourFourTwo out of Bob's bewildered hands and thrust it under the flow of liquidised berries, instantly realising that magazine paper has all the absorbency of a duck's back and my stupidity knew no bounds. I was powerless as the sick rolled down the page, across Thierry Henri's midriff and toward me like an avalanche speeding down a mountain. With Tuna still gushing like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, all I could do was watch it pour into my lap. At that moment Chicken sprung awake with inflated cheeks. "Use her dress!" I shouted at Bob. His perplexity passed in adequate time for him to grab the dress she was wearing, which thankfully had a very full skirt, and hold it under the flow. The material bulged like a bowl under the weight but mercifully held up under the pressure.

After the longest few minutes of my life, I was shuffling them into the toilet while Bob produced fresh clothes from our cases (an advantage of travelling by train). On returning to our seats, I couldn't help notice how quiet our carriage had become with only a lingering whiff of grease and brie.
"Where's everyone gone?" I asked Bob who had resumed position and was casually flicking through The Times.
"Moved seats," he said uninterested.

As I watched the girls snuggle down into their respective bunny and lion cunningly fashioned into pillows, I couldn't help a broad smile stretching across my face. I turned to Bob and said, "Well, that's one good reason not to stick to dogs. Heather never cleared a carriage like that!"

The summer holidays are now upon me so my posts will become fortnightly.

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