I have compiled this handy comparison for you in case, like me, it has been a very long time since you have had the pleasure of travelling solo, and have forgotten what it can actually be like and are starting to loose all hope. (Hint; it’s sooooo much better & you will get to do it again one day, even if it really doesn’t feel like it now!!)
Pre- journey preparation.
With kids: Arrive at the station a few minutes before the train is due to leave even though you were up at least four hours before, this is down to things like last minute clothing debates, (whether they need them on), hair brushing, (see previous post!) and a battle to fit all the travel ‘essentials’ into one bag that isn’t a massive suitcase.
These ‘essentials’ include but are not limited to, wet-wipes, four different types of minimal mess snack, more then one drink as you can’t all share one, (and really don’t want to, toddler snack backwash anyone?!), a selection of sticker books, toys that will be abandoned within seconds of being seen, special teddies and blankets and various other tat they absolutely promise to carry themselves despite all the evidence to the contrary, (every other journey ever plus the fact that you are already trying to stuff them into your bag!), oh and a few bits for you like the tickets, the money that will be with you precisely until the trolley pulls up next to you and relieves you of the lot, and a phone to call up everyone you know and live-share the trauma of the journey.
Without kids. Pop your laptop, a magazine and a few other bits into a bag. Kiss your kids goodbye and trot perkily to the car, revelling in not being the harried mother chicken for once, coaxing her reluctant brood out of the house by means of chocolate buttons.
Have a nice leisurely journey full of adult conversation with your lovely Dad, using full sentences and really enjoying an opportunity to listen to his answers for the first time in about 5 years, also not getting the ‘car journey neck crick’ that comes from attempting to sort things out in the back every 3 minutes.
Feel as if you have gone back 10 years. Get out of the car and walk to the platform, be shocked and amazed that you are actually 20 minutes early and have more time to chat, not for you the last minute flurry of desperate wees, lost teddies and hair tearing, edge of panic attempts to stop anyone going on the track/getting in the drivers carriage/escaping.
When the train arrives you push the button yourself and serenely alight the train, wave a relaxed and happy goodbye, find a seat and sit down.
The journey itself.
With kids. Attempt to find 3 seats together. Whilst dragging an overstuffed bag at the point of explosion, a reluctant toddler who just wants to see the outside of the train and a stupid folded up buggy because you missed the rack on the way in.
By now you are slightly sweaty and a bit shouty. But public shouty. Which is more through gritted teeth then home shouty, which is just loud.
Once the seats have been found and the arguments resolved about who sits where, the multiple seat changes carried out, the repeated recriminations about standing on the furniture dished out, you endure several hours of frantically attempting to point out interesting things out of the window while silently loosing the will to live when you faux cheerfully/ near hysterically attempt to draw their attention away from the other passengers and their funny hair/big tummies/weird eyes, (why does sound carry so much in a train carriage, I bet the person who had the life hack idea of using a pringles tube as a speaker
was a parent who had just got off the train with their young hyper-observant and very stridently voiced children!!), and alternate between opening and distributing snacks, retrieving toys with wheels from either the front or back of the train, depending on the incline, and trying not to let them drink from your water bottle with a mouthful of
crisps healthy organic wheat puffs without offending them or damaging their self esteem by allowing your disgust to show through.
Without kids. Settle into your seat, open your laptop and feel slightly amazed that there is a plug socket right next to you. Consider for a moment how handy that is.
Start writing a brilliantly funny 😉 post about your journey and intersperse it with small breaks to admire the stunning scenery, read your magazine and listen to a quite frankly hilarious conversation between a mother and daughter that renders you unable to keep from actually laughing out loud, (instead of just abbreviating it), and joining in their friendly banter.
Exchange pleasantries with the person opposite you and feel a pang of guilt that you got the last tea from the trolley and your neighbour would have to wait half an hour for the next chance to have one, on a train in Britain to run out of tea seems unthinkable! Put your hot beverage on the table next to you and leave it to cool down a bit, then leisurely drink it at optimum tea temperature.
Plan your 45 minute wait at your change station with glee. Think about what lunch you will have and flick through your magazine to see if there are any clothes you like because if your foggy memory serves you rightly, there are some shops there and with just a tiny handbag and your laptop bag, you can easily pop in and browse.
Breathe a contented sigh!
With kids. Gather together all of your things, and their things, and the things they have somehow accumulated, which CANNOT be thrown away. Like the stirrer from the tea you bought but ended up having to hold in the air above your head until it cooled down enough to not cause any injury if, (when!), it was inevitably knocked over .
Herd the children to the exit, reclaiming the buggy on the way as you finally found a space on the luggage rack to wedge it, first removing the 8 suitcases that are pinning it down and using your foot to hold small boy against the wall so he doesn’t get shut in the automatic doors/off the train when it stops.
Realise that 45 minutes is either very long or a really really short time to be on a station depending on how the mood is. Look at the very cross and tired small boy attempting to release himself by biting your ankle and sigh becuase you know that it is going to feel like a very very long time but will seem impossible to get everything done in the time and you will end up late, running and shouty. Miss the train shouty, which is very loud, very panicked and draws a lot of attention from everyone but your own children who are busy looking in a shop window, getting their trunkis entangled and trying to get on the escalator going to the wrong platform.
Try and find the hidden lift as there is no way you’ll get everyone up the escalator safely, look round for someone to give you your prize when you eventually get to it, after all, every other place we visit seems to issue prices for making it to the end of a very long and frustrating mystery trail involving lots of cryptic clues and arrows that seem to lead you further and further from the place you need to get back to.
Referee the button push wars outside and in the lift, and try to stop buggy tipping over now that your overflowing, seam straining bag is on it and small boy point blank refuses to get in it.
Try to look at the screens to prepare yourself for which end of the station you need to be on for the next leg of your
endurance test journey, this involves not loosing the children on the concourse while you try and locate your destination on the giant screens that take up half the wall, not having a clue where the end of the line actually is, and so needing to read the rapidly scrolling text of every train on every station platform, going to the whole of the UK.
[Top tip. Most of my blog is tongue in cheek but we’ve not made it this far unscathed(ish!) without picking up a few pointers on the way, (the big ones like; never leave the house with a baby and no nappies or spare clothes. No mater how many times you changed their nappy that morning, there can always be more, and it will go ‘up the back’, and probably the front and out the sides to boot!), another more relevant one is; in a busy crowd situation, I get a child to hold on each side of the buggy which helps me know that they are close and safe. It will also keep them fairly occupied checking that the other isn’t letting go so they can tell on each other. It is a really good tip and works fine if they are both in an acquising mood, you don’t need to fit through anywhere narrow and they don’t engage in a battle over who gets to hold the carrying handle which is only on one side, very low down and really not that interesting!] Then it’s lunch, where you attempt to find somewhere with enough room for all your -rubbish- valuable stuff, has food that everyone will eat, is near your platform and won’t require a bank loan to pay at the end.
Enjoy a usual meal of cutting up other people’s food, picking bits out of things and scrubbing everyone down with a wet-wipe before they touch you.
Find and board the next train, trying to keep everyone and everything upright, un-squashed, together and happy, and repeat journey with kids section above.
Arrive home in need of a good cry and a cup of tea. Secretly high five-ing yourself on your amazing ability to survive just about anything life can throw at you and idly considering putting yourself forward for the next Bear Grylls survival show because compared to that, it looks like a doddle…..plus it means several un-contactable weeks in the peaceful jungle. Ahhhh, bliss!
Without kids. Glide over to the information boards, find your train easily and note your platform, pick anywhere you fancy for lunch, even with limited access, spicy food or….stairs! Gasp! Then have a leisurely stroll round the shops, and mooch to the platform in plenty of time for your train.
Repeat journey section without children as described above, and arrive home chilled, relaxed and with another blog post under your belt, ready to kick back and enjoy the rest of your day, or in my case, have an hour to turn around and get back out for a wedding photography shoot, (behind the lens this time!), and off to a hotel for a frankly hilarious and brilliant murder mystery evening in a castle. Yes a real castle!
More on that to follow soon. Next time I have a long uninterrupted journey somewhere! 😉