Walking the Inca trail. Swishing your manicured toes in the warm lapping waves of a Maldives beach. Being punted (I said punted) down a Venice canal as you sit resplendent in a gondola… I don’t know about you, but I have pretty much had my fill of those ‘Ten Places You Have To Visit Before You Die’ lists. Cluttering up my social media streams, they are there for two reasons and two reasons only. One: to make people feel shit about their last trip to the Kent coast for a week of sand castle building, wiping ice cream from small chins and park visits in the drizzle. And two: so that richer people you don’t know but suddenly hate, who are less encumbered with small children and nursery fees, can show off . “I can tick off eight thanks to our last amazing trip to Easter Island! Just booking our cruise to see the Northern Lights!” Really? How very lovely for you. Now piss off out of my timeline and go count your air miles, or something.
Because let’s face it. I have too few pennies and two (many) children to even begin to contemplate those places as realistic destinations for a quick week away during the school holidays. Not to mention the thought of getting on planes with a twenty month old who will only sit still for as long as it takes to shovel a packet of raisins down his gullet. I say shovel, it’s more like inhaling. I should really have called him Dyson.
Those lists piss me off. I stand absolutely no chance of even a couple of ticks: I have two small children, a husband, a job, a mortgage and quite frankly, I struggle to tick stuff off my to-do list, let alone a list that involves global travel and the ability to pack light. So I have decided to create an alternative list. A list that I stand a very good chance of completing. A list that I feel is a tad more sensible – and what it lacks in ambition it more than makes up for in realism. So, pens at the ready, here it is.
10 places to visit before you die (a parent’s version).
1. The supermarket. The pure adrenaline rush of navigating those aisles with an incalcitrant trolley and even more stubborn offspring will have you coming back for more (that and the fact that your toddler was yelling so loudly you forgot to buy bread). Even more spectacular when there is an unexpected tantrum in the bagging area.
2. The soft play centre. The shimmering oasis at the end of every parental question as to how to entertain the kids on a wet morning. Glistening vinyl landscapes, replete with new species of bacteria in every crevice and a host of unidentified fluids for the young explorers, as well as the renowned ‘wall of sound’ noise effect reminiscent of three hundred over-excited hyenas, are just the start of this magical experience.
3. The GP’s waiting room. This is an experience to be repeated. Often. We recommend eschewing the more popular booked appointment for a will-they-won’t-they slot with the on-call duty team, so you can luxuriate in the hard benches and beige carpet tiles for anywhere up to an hour. Thrill-seekers should forget to bring any toys and watch as every occupant of the waiting room prays for you and your barely-controlled child to spontaneously combust.
4. Santa’s Grotto. There is nowhere better to spend one and a half minutes of your life in than this fabulous feat of temporary architecture known as Santa’s Grotto. Watch the delightful anticipation of your offspring build into destructive boredom as you wait in the queue for fifty minutes with other like-minded saps who are about to be relieved of many pounds in exchange for a plastic curio that will last for approximately seven minutes. Book early to ensure disappointment.
5. The car. Experience a journey like no other aboard your very own vehicle. Fuel your adrenaline with the excitement of driving one-handed, your torso twisted sideways and with one arm flailing into the back seat to hand over a drink or break up a fight. All with an incessant soundtrack of children’s songs on the CD player. It will leave you breathless.
6. The shoe shop. A great weekend escape, a trip to the shoe shop is sure to thrill. Jostle for a seating cube with other parents who are all eyeing up the sale rack, praying that their children’s’ feet have not grown again. For a real treat, take a one year old who has an aversion to shoe shops, or shoes, or simply not doing as he is told. It will be a memory to treasure.
7. The library. A trip not for the fainthearted, this one, being as it mixes over-exuberant, loud children with an environment that prides itself on its tranquillity. Marvel at the rows of books that you will never have time to read and instead, settle down with your child and attempt to master the ‘reading out loud in a partial whisper’ skill so beloved by the local population.
8. The garden. A real treasure right on your doorstep, time spent in the garden is a real pleasure. Watch as the one year old attempts to sample the local delicacies by licking a muddy leaf and poking the wet mud before sucking his fingers. If you are really lucky, your five year old will create his own wailing wall, having slipped on a discarded muddy leaf and banged his head on the concrete.
9. Play dates. Some call this the Holy Grail of parental destinations. The play date is an experience of both thrills and spills: you thrill in the luxury of leaving your particular shit-hole of a house behind and being in someone else’s’ tidier abode, before having the white-knuckle experience of your child spilling blackcurrant juice all over their lounge carpet. Not for the faint-hearted.
10. The cinema. For adrenaline junkies only, a trip to the cinema will have you on the edge of your seat. From the tense moment you spot the local custom of eating your own body weight in popcorn, then the mid-film whisper from your child that they really need a wee, then the semi-crouched walk in the dark to the exit before an accident happens, to the threat of vomit from the back seat on the way home from eating too much popcorn, this is an adventure to really get the blood pumping. May involve chipmunks which can trigger an aneurism, so please check at the time of booking.
Tickety-tick tick. How many can you tick?
Why not really spoil your friend’s Christmas and buy them my book, Womb with a View? Sorry, I dont’ know what happened there. I meant why not really spoil your friend this Christmas and buy them my book, Womb with a View? The shiny paperback version is available from www.jodienewman.co.uk where you can also read extracts in a fabulously generous ‘try before you buy’ scheme. Or search for the Kindle version on Amazon (I think I left it on the blue table, under a pile of magazines and a three-day-old cup of coffee).