I am forty-five and I am a tripaholic. There’s this evil voice bent on destroying my karma that intones ‘take them to the National Gallery National Gallery National Gallery….’ and before I know it there I am again, sweating under a mountain of coats, hissing ‘You don’t know how lucky you are!’ at my beloveds, who never said they wanted to go there in the first place.
I blame a friend’s advice for the last relapse. ‘National Gallery – no problem!’ she said. ‘I take my three to the computers in the basement. They choose a few pictures and print out their own route. They love it!’ My heart began pumping though my head was screaming ’Don’t do it!’
Alfie rose first. ‘Alfie’ I said, ‘we’re going to do that computer thing at the National Gallery!’ (don’t ask, state). He agreed to come out of pity, providing I guaranteed no workshops, and home by lunch. Then Bonnie got up. ‘Bonnie, do you know what?’ I said, ecstatically. ‘You can go on the computer at the National Gallery-‘ ‘I KNOW ABOUT THAT YOU’VE TOLD ME A THOUSAND TIMES I AM NOT GOING!’ she shouted and put her hands over her ears. Crushed, I was. ‘FINE FORGET IT, YOU SPOILT GIRL!’ I shouted back. Alfie involuntarily took a hop and a skip; this was unbelievable good luck - the trip was cancelled and Bonnie was getting it in the neck.
Ten minutes later and I’m still sulking when Bonnie says ‘I want to go now.’ ‘Well I don’t want to go any more – you’ve ruined it all!’ I said, maturely. ‘I want to go! I want to go!’ she shouted, ‘Mummy, first you say we are going, then you say we can’t go!!’ I wavered, and Alfie realised another U turn was imminent. ‘Can I not go please?’ he said.
‘For God’s sake, I plan a LITTLE TINY trip and TRY TO MAKE IT FUN so you can BARE IT but NEITHER OF YOU really want to go because you’d rather be doing NOTHING. I felt REALLY HAPPY when I got up and now I am EXTREMELY FED UP.’
We did go. I resignedly refereed another journey: ‘Shh you two – people on the bus don’t want to hear your squabbling’ ‘Alfie, I saw that, you shoved her’ ‘I didn’t mean to!’ ‘If I’m good what will you pay me?’ ‘Have we got any sweets?’
The computers all hallowed be thine name, in the basement of the National Gallery were lovely (silence). We printed off our route and I started to breath. But we couldn’t find the most popular rooms in the Gallery with all the Monets, Manets and Van Goghs (although the longest staircase in the place was key to the search). The second information desk we tried revealed that these rooms were shut (SHUT??) for staff training (‘You promised we’d be home by lunch!’). Severe exhaustion had set in by now of course and the children had to hang off my arms just to stay alive as their legs were buckling under them. We spent a half-hour sitting on a bench in silence right outside the door of the closed galleries. ‘Everyone having a lovely time?’ I said, announcing a Burger King reward for future good behaviour. It was grim.
Eventually, the galleries opened and the children made a dash for the selected masterpieces – ‘there’s one – tick it off – let’s go!’ they shouted, not losing speed. ‘Can I just stand still and look at a painting for one second please?’ I grouched.
Fifteen minutes later, all done, we were in the lovely Burger King, where the children stood on their own two feet with apparent ease and stared at the menu for considerably longer than at all the masterpieces added together. ‘Which was your favourite picture today?’ I said (final effort). ‘Dunno. Mummy, she got more chips than me!’