Crumble Abroad (Part 1)
Europe was miles away. It was further than Yorkshire to visit Uncle Christopher, Luke and Ruby. It was even further than Australia. Nobody had explored Europe before in Sally’s family. Mum had been to France and Germany, Italy and Yugoslavia but never Europe! Dad was much more widely travelled and said he had been to the ends of the Earth to keep Mum happy. Mum said that she felt Dad was on a different planet to her and what world was it he was living in?
They were booked to go on the Chunnel. Sally had never heard of a Chunnel before and Crumble wasn’t sure it sounded safe. Mum said it was a great big tunnel that joined England to Europe. Dad said it was a great big tunnel that the English had started on one side and the French had started on the other and that the two tunnels had met in the middle by accident. The French had passed through some lovely cheeses and the English had sent over some fish and chips. The two countries were bonded together and decided to make the tunnels permanent and drive trains through them.
They had to pack their bags according to Mum’s, very detailed, lists. Sally was in charge of getting story CDs and car entertainment. She was also supposed to be finding her toothbrush and flannel on the morning they were leaving, but she thought she might forget those particular items.
Blob was excited because Dad had told them they would see the cartoon mouse that Blob was mad about. Mum had warned Sally that there was still no such thing as ‘CrumbleLand’ and that even if they did go to see the cartoon mouse, there was no chance that a visiting billionaire would see the real Crumble and decided to design a theme park about him. The girl with big cheeks had told Sally that when her family had visited, the man who invented the cartoon mouse had seen her best dolly and then made a film about it.
Sally could hardly sleep the night before they set off. She went through to Mum and Dad’s room and asked them how much longer it was going to be. Again.
“I have to drive for seven hours tomorrow and she has been in here every twenty minutes for the last four!” moaned Dad.
“Try and sleep a little bit longer!” Mum said gently and took Sally back into Crumble’s room. When this clock shows that it is five o’clock, I will come and get you up. Until then, Dad needs to sleep because he is doing a lot of driving tomorrow.”
“But I can’t sleep - I’m too excited!” explained Sally. “And Crumble has been drawing pictures. Look!” She held up a series of sketches that Crumble had called ‘Car in tunnel underwater’. Mum stared at the images of the fish swimming around inside the black car with the family and rubbed her eyes.
“Back to sleep - and no waking us up anymore please.”
At seven thirty eight, Mum came speeding into Sally’s room.
“Why didn’t you wake us up?” She yelled. “We have to catch the train at midday! Quick, quick! Up and at them! Get dressed, get washed, do your hair and tidy your room! Feed the fish and half draw your curtains. Don’t forget your toothbrush and please don’t open your window!”
Mum dashed off to poke the Blob awake. Sally could hear Dad thundering about in his bedroom as she opened her window to let some fresh air in. She strolled through to the bathroom and washed half her face and one hand. She ignored her toothbrush and tossed her hair over her face, then smoothed it flat with the wet hand.
She went back to her room and decided to have a quick play with the Tiny Pets that weren’t coming to Europe with them.
Mum zoomed past the door, her arms full of Blob equipment and when she saw what Sally was doing she practically shouted; ‘SALLY! We have to get moving. Now shift! Or we leave you behind!’
Sally kicked the Tiny Pets under the bed and emptied half the stinky food into the fish bowl.
She came downstairs and carried the brimming Crumble bag out to the car where Dad was squeezing some last minute items into the roof box. Mum dashed out and strapped Blob into his car prison and then hurriedly ticked off her schedule.
“No time, no time!” called Dad from the garage. “Have you seen my emergency triangle?”
Sally walked to the side of the car that she owned and climbed up onto her booster seat. Blob was right next to her - not way across on the far side of the car. A big blue shopping bag was where Blob should be. Sally started calling for a parent to sort this disaster out.
Meanwhile, Mum was trying to check that the passports and medical cards were in her special belt bag thing. Dad rushed past her and yelled ‘No time! No time!’ as he bundled a pair of flip flops under his seat.
“Have you seen the beam deflectors for the headlights?” Dad shouted as he ran back into the house. He was bright red and sweaty. Mum rolled her eyes and followed her husband into the house.
Dad came back out and plopped into his seat, breathing heavily. Mum took a while longer in the house (‘What can she possibly be doing in there?’ mumbled Dad.) and came out holding the bag of Euro coins that Dad had left next to his wallet. Mum also had his wallet, the satellite navigation toy and Blobs inhaler medicine. She double locked the door and climbed gracefully into her seat. The family were on their way.
Then Mum noticed Sally’s window was open so Dad had to reverse back and Mum go inside and shut it.
They needed to make it to the Chunnel and Dad even broke his speeding rules and drove at sixty nine mph. Sally had been playing with the satellite navigation toy and it now had the voice of an irritating rodent. Alphie the Chipmunk gave directions in an extraordinarily high pitched voice, and always laughed after each instruction. No matter what Dad told Mum to press, the chipmunk was always back at the next change of road or junction. Sally thought that the voice was brilliant and started doing her own instructions for Mum and Dad in an impression of Alphie.
“Stop picking your nose Mum. He he he he he he”
“You’re driving too slowly Dad. He he he he he he”
“Blob’s done a smell! Err err err err err”
Before too long, Dad had threatened to throw any more chipmunks out of the window, so Mum had turned the volume down on the sat-nav and a sucking sweet had done the same for Sally. Blob fell asleep in his own smell and Dad started to calm down. Until Sally said she needed the wee.
“What do you mean? We asked you to go before we left and its only been half an hour!” said Dad.
“I tried and tried but the wee was shy at home!” Sally told him. “I really, really need to go.”
Dad ‘hmmphed’ and turned up his bad music. Mum turned round in her chair and told Sally to just look out of the window and not to think about toilets. Sally looked out of her window and saw the following; A hosepipe spraying, a sign advertising a waterfall swimming pool, a lorry transporting water bottles, a man drinking from a bottle of pop, the sea, a river, a lake, a pond....The list went on.
“I need to go NOW!” she shouted. Dad ‘hmmphed even louder and peered out, looking for a place to stop. Sally jiggled up and down in her seat and started to cry a little.
“If you cry a lot, maybe the water will come out that way?” suggested Dad. Sally was not impressed and looked away from an overtaking van advertising nappies on the side.
Finally Dad found a lay-by and the car stopped. Sally burst from the back and looked for the loo. There was nothing else in the parking area except for a grubby caravan that would have burgers for sale later on.
“Where’s the toilet?” asked Sally.
“There isn’t one.” said Dad. “Just go in the bushes.”
“What!” Sally shouted. “There is no way I am using a bush. I’d rather just wait.” And she got back in the car. Dad went an almost beetroot colour and the journey resumed in silence.
A few miles down the road Sally asked for a drink. Mum was reaching for the plastic bag by her feet with the car food and water when Dad did one of his shoulder things. His shoulders sort of tightened and his hands gripped the wheel so tightly that the knuckles on his fingers changed colour.
“Do. Not. Give. Her. A. Drink.” He said softly and with a real sense of menace that made Mum put the water bottle she had found back in the bag. Dad looked at Sally in the rearview mirror and she looked out of her window and imagined a great big glass of pop.
At the next motorway service station, Sally told her parents that she didn’t need to go anymore. Dad had allowed a four minute window for using the loo and he was too busy unloading Blob from the twenty pence bus ride machine to argue with his daughter. The family met at the ride-bus to go back to the car and Blob climbed back inside. Sally and Mum walked out to where they had parked and Dad, once again, removed his son from the ride. Five minutes later and after an extended eleven minute pit stop, they pulled back onto the motorway and straight into a traffic jam.
“Great!” announced Dad and fiddled with the radio looking for up to date travel reports. They travelled a few more car lengths before Sally told them that actually she did need the loo again. Dad tuned in to the news and they heard that there was a slow moving convoy of gigantic pipes causing a major delay on their motorway. It turned out that the giant pipes had only just joined the road while the family were in the services and that if they had just kept going, they would have missed it. Sally pointed this out to Dad three times before he seemed to hear her. ‘I know.’ was all he said about it.
At three forty the car arrived at the terminal. Dad had decided that the sat-nav was wrong and had missed the last big junction, so they had taken a short trip through a tunnel. Dad had to pay at a toll station and sally was sure she heard him use a potty word, and Mum really jabbed him in the leg.
They were starting their holiday and Sally was so happy. Dad sent Mum to smile at the ticket man and explain why they were so late. The ticket man looked at Dad’s exhausted, scarlet, sweaty face, looked at Sally waving excitedly at a coach load of old ladies and at the pool of liquid that Dad was emptying out of the sandwich tub into a drain nearby. Then he looked at Mum and told her that they couldn’t get onto a crossing until eight o’clock at the very earliest. Then there would be a twenty pound admin fee.
Dad looked like he was going to explode when Mum told him the news. Sally took it very well. She was enjoying her time in the car and was loving the fizzy pop drink that she had found in the seat pocket. It was called ‘RED-COW ENERGY DRINK’ and had pictures of people doing sport really fast. Sally drank it down in one go and when she had finished she felt ready to take on the world and to run a mile and to use a rowing machine like the people on the can.
Dad slumped forward in his chair and rested his head on the steering wheel. The horn went off and the old ladies all turned to look at him. Mum just put her hand on the back of his neck and told him to try and get some sleep. Dad sort of sigh/sobbed and turned his bad music on again.
Then Blob was sick and Sally told them that she needed the toilet.