We had a family day on Saturday.
Yes, that's right, that's one of those occasions where we drag the kids kicking and screaming away from the TV and computer and force them to have an exciting trip to somewhere cold and wet. This lasts from the moment they've finished their breakfasts until a time well after they were supposed to be in bed and long since they have ceased to be civil. The trauma helps us bond together as a unit and is a good excuse to drink a bottle of wine when it's all over.
On this particular occasion there was a deal where we could buy a special train ticket to Glasgow and then go to lots of attractions for free once we got there. Being cheapskates, this appealed to us and we set off early in order to visit as many places - and thus save as much money - as we possibly could. Of course some of the most expensive things in life are free, and our pockets were steadily drained of cash by cafeterias and giftshops thoughout the day. Still, we saw plenty of things we would never have got round to otherwise.
We ended up at the Science Centre. (The home of Nina and the Neurons, CBeebies fans!)
This is a fantastic place full of hands-on experiments and exhibits but our first concern was grabbing lunch. It was pretty decent. Marie refused everything apart from milk and Hula Hoops but the rest of us tucked in. As usual, though, the boys finished their food before drinking their drinks - their vast, brimming cups of chocolate milk. There are only so many times I can say, "Drink your drinks before they get spilled," without giving up in despair, however. That's something I need to work on. Quite how Fraser managed to launch his beverage container a foot into the air while still creating enough rotational motion to splatter all of us is a mystery.
After we'd cleaned up the mess, I went and got Fraser another chocolate milk and I picked up some fruit for later. He gulped it down and we headed to the vast hall full of wonders. Sarah let the younger kids press buttons until they were bored and then pointed them in the direction of something else. I vainly attempted to explain to Fraser the polarity of magnets, the fundamentals of flight and the propagation of sound. He ignored me, pressed buttons until he was bored and then ran off to find something else. I gave up. I taught him to do a Towers of Hanoi puzzle, added a couple of extra rings made from a key fob and a wrist strap, and sat down for a long rest. A very long rest.
Later we went to the giftshop. It was crammed with brightly-coloured exciting looking things packed full of educational potential. I quickly tried to hide my wallet in my sock but Fraser was too fast. He grabbed a pack of plastic bobbly things.
"Can I get this?"
"What is it?" I asked.
"I don't know."
"How much does it cost?
"That's a little expensive for something when you don't even know what it is."
"How about this then?" he said, grabbing a smaller pack of different plastic bobbly things.
"I don't know."
"How much is it?"
"One pound and fifty pence."
"OK," I sighed. "I guess that's more reasonable. Go and give the money to the man at the till." He went off happily just as Lewis approached, a board game clutched to his chest. From somewhere else in the shop I heard the familiar voice of a little girl scream, "You don't touch it! Pink dinosaur mine!" I sighed again.
We left as closing approached and caught the open-top tour bus (another part of the deal) for a scenic trip back to the station. We all piled upstairs and sat along the back. The boys were starting to wilt and I gave them the fruit to keep them going. This was a mistake. After they'd already gorged themselves, I bit into an apple and discovered it was quite sour. There was nothing wrong with it as such, it was just not very sweet in a way that suggested it might take some concentrated digestion. I suspected it was not really the thing to give two boys prone to travel sickness while they sat on a bus twisting and juddering its way through the Glasgow traffic.
"Are you feeling OK, Fraser?" I asked nervously.
"Yeah," he replied. "Why?"
"No reason," I said. "How about...?" I began turning to Lewis but I was already too late.
Everything happened at once.
My younger son leant over the back railing and spewed mightily, somewhat to the surprise of the cyclist directly behind us. I called down an apology but I had more immediate concerns: the sight and smell of Lewis' titanic chunder had started Fraser gagging. I grabbed the plastic bag containing our souvenirs, emptied it in Sarah's lap and then held it under Fraser's chin. I was barely in time to catch the geyser of chocolate milk which erupted from his mouth and just kept coming. There was so much, and it was under such high pressure, I expected it to spray out his ears at any moment. Then, finally, the seismic activity eased and I sighed in relief - I had caught every drop. I held the bag aloft in triumph.
Unfortunately, it had a hole in the bottom.
I stared at the hole, my eyes wide in horror, and time slowed. The trinkets falling at Sarah's feet hung in the air, I could hear my own heartbeat and I suddenly noticed the warm, damp feeling around my knees. Reality spun round my outstretched arm...
...then snapped back into place. I dumped the bag on the floor and hunted for the wipes. The previous chocolate milk incident had seriously depleted our supplies and a couple of nappy changes had left us very short indeed. We had one left. One wipe to last us nearly two hours. One wipe to see us through over three hundred and fifty child-minutes. That's not a lot of back up. I decided to save it in case of a real disaster and cleaned up as best I could with my scarf. By the time we reached our stop, Fraser and I looked nearly presentable.
We were left with that age-old dilemma of whether to leave the leaking bag of sick on the top deck of the bus or to carry it the full length of the bus, down the stairs and out the door, leaking a trail of sick behind us. Tricky. In the end, I put the bag inside my woolly hat and made a break for it. I hurtled to the door, leapt onto the pavement and barged my way to the nearest bin, the crowd parting before me like the Red Sea before Moses. (Though I doubt he yelled "Let me through! I have a hat full of sick!" to get the job done).
I was tempted to dump the hat with its contents but instead stowed it with my scarf in the net carrier under the buggy, as far from anything else as I could manage.
We cleaned up a bit more in the station and headed home. We'd had a pretty good day, even if some of us did smell faintly of curdled chocolate milk. Marie fell asleep on the way and the boys played with their new toys. I spent most of the journey rescuing multi-coloured bits of plastic from obscure crevices of ScotRail seating. Some of these little gaps were unpleasantly sticky but I did score a two pound coin, a return journey from Falkirk and a Lego Darth Vader complete with light-sabre. Result!
It was extremely chilly when we got back to Edinburgh and by the time we had walked half way home I was freezing. I peered under the buggy in an effort to see if my hat and scarf had gone crusty yet. Sarah rubbed her hands against the cold. "Don't even think about it," she said without even looking at me. Marie was snuggled cosily under a blanket so I stole her pink, fluffy pixie hat and jammed it down on my head. It's possible I may have looked like a lunatic but it's only a real lunatic who walks around with cold ears when they have other options.
It was late. We got home and bundled the kids into bed before putting on a load of washing and settling down in our pyjamas with a bottle of wine and the TiVo remote.
"You did well today," said Sarah as we cuddled up on the sofa.
"You did too."
"Want to go to Dundee next week? I got this leaflet in the Science Centre about... What?"
"More wine..." I muttered. "More wine..."
"Never mind." She kissed me and then poured me another glass. "I'll tell you tomorrow."
"Good idea," I said and reached for the remote. "Now which is it going to be - Vegas, New York or Miami?"
Yours in a woman's world,