Holiday Games to Play

Home or Away?

We have now finished that time of the year where everyone is obliged to take some form of holiday.  Hurrah. In the good old days that would just entail taking the train to somewhere like Blackpool or Margate. Or, for the more polished of us, perhaps Harrogate or Lexington Spa.  I notice that those latter have managed to hold their charm a bit longer that the former.

Unfortunately, since the invention of the airplane and the near-abolition of piracy, holidays now take us further afield.  In that spirit, I packed The Family into our trusty Ford Fiesta and headed off to Spain.  I should have mentioned – we don’t much care for the invention of the airplane.

Highly Visible / Visibily High

Now I confess to neither being well-travelled nor to traveling-well.  So forgive me raising something of which you are all probably already familiar with and I was not.  It turns out that in France and Spain one is obliged to travel with sufficient Hi-Viz jackets to dress a highly visible army (useful during times of mass surrender).  Always conscious to offer token acceptance to even the most ridiculous of laws, The Family packed away its regulation Hi-Viz vests into the car prior to travel.  Two seemed sufficient. At least it did to Mrs T.  I felt that none was more than enough.  We then packed everyone into the car – myself, Mrs T, The Victorian Step-Children (Millicent & Verity) and the Grandmamma-in-law.  And thus (tra-la-la) off we went on our 1,000 mile drive.

You will not be surprised to discover that en-route we came across many a breakdown with families all standing the regulatory 12 feet (<sigh>…3.66 meters, at this point in the journey) – away from their car, up an inconvenient embankment. Not ourselves, obviously, as I had shelled out £86 on additional AA cover thus guaranteeing that it would be money wasted.

And this got me thinking…all of these breakdowns involved families (many numerically defying the legal capacity of their vehicle). And in all instances without exception, there were clearly insufficient Hi-Viz vests to be worn by all.   As we rattled across Europe in stony silence – Millicent having just poked Verity in the eye as a consequence of the latter having posted an unflattering picture on some wretched social media outlet, thus provoking an impromptu bout of sisterly karate in the back seats – I got to thinking.  Having realised that I now have more family members than Hi-Viz vests, on what basis will I distribute the vests?  And, importantly, which member of the travelling menagerie am I prepared to sacrifice?

It’s the Principle of the Thing

Which takes me to the point of this letter.  In the spirit of sharing, I have set down the principle choices before you, that you can entertain you and yours with before next year’s trip:

  1. Financial option.  The most obvious starting point, yet tricky, as it is based on a complex spreadsheet evaluation of net worth.  Essentially it comes down to EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Deductibles and Allowances for the uninitiated) less costs, plus or minus assets/liabilities etc.  Not as simple as it may seem for those thinking ‘so the parents win…’.  This can result in a surprising win for elderly, wealthy grandparents, so it is probably worth sketching out those inheritance tax calculations beforehand, as this can prove difficult at the side of the road with limited 3G. And do insist on seeing a properly witnessed will.  Other things to consider are past and future earnings: one partner may be taking a break from employment. That is fine but it is hardly your fault if they’ve neglected to pack the last six payslips from their most recent employment.  And yes, I know that all parents believe their offspring to be some kind of prodigious genius that is bound to become hugely successful. But face facts, they probably won’t and this one has to be evidenced-based.
  2. Patriarchal/Matriarchal option: Dad wins. Mum wins. Kids suck it up. The traditional ‘family values’ approach and certainly the one that I would have been subjected to if I had the misfortune to be a child now. Rare these days though.  Just to note: vest will be kept in Dad’s back pocket, just in case.  He’ll tinker with the car whilst children beat each other to bloody oblivion somewhere.  Mum’s making everyone a nice cup of tea.
  3. Hipster option. Despite vain attempts to be relaxed and inclusive about everything, this option can quickly translate into ‘Officious Twit’ if one is not careful.  But it does come with a bonus.  If you look very carefully at the back of this person’s car you may just notice about eight bicycles perched dangerously from a flimsy rack. No, don’t worry, the whole family is not going cycling around the Pyrenees – wife and kids utterly loathe this activity. But the bikes are absolutely necessary – as they justify the ridiculous Lycra that he’ll be wearing later with – wait for it – the ten Hi-Viz cycling jerkins that he packed! And that would be everyone in that family sorted – except that they are clearly not. Because obviously his yellow jerkins are specifically designed for cycling, cost a fortune and would be a misuse of the sponsorship logos. Cue ‘Officious Twit’.
  4. Divorce probably imminent option. If you have read this far, you are probably nearer than you think to this option.  And that is why it is important to keep reading.  In practise, those couples foolish enough to go on holiday in this scenario are now going to attempt to do what this guide is trying to help them avoid.  Namely pick all the options simultaneously, in the heat of the moment and have a spectacular roadside spat: based on you don’t care how much you suffer as long as she/he suffers more. Come on people, as entertaining as it is for all those driving past – children are not an emotional weapon.
  5. MAD option. Mutually Assured Destruction that is.  Fashionable in the Eighties and having a bit of a come back courtesy of Messrs Trump and Jung-un. Boils down to ‘If I go, you’re all coming with me.’  Definitely the fair approach, guaranteeing no vests for anyone and therefore no winners.  As it’s arguably kept the peace in Europe for 50 odd years it may be the surprising solution to keeping the family together.
  6. Life expectancy option. This will come down to how much each member of the party has yet to contribute to future society.  Never mind that you are probably raising a couple of mini-Hitlers, this option will be underpinned by a firm belief in everyone’s inner potential. As Millicent says, “Whatevs…”.
  7. Judgemental option (MENE, TEKEL Etc). Essentially a reversal of the ‘life expectancy’ option – more of a ‘life evaluation’.  God has numbered the days of your kingdom; you have been weighed and found wanting. Tricky these days as we are all supposed to be terribly non-judgemental about everything: but just think  – what would King Solomon do? For the very technically minded, feel free to combine this with your Finance calculations above as that can help.
  8. Legally prudent option. Vests are for parents only.  This assumes that prison sentences will be meted out to those without vests. Children and the elderly much more likely to receive limited (possibly even non-custodial) sentences.
  9. Real Health & Safety option. Wear what you like – just stand in the middle of a field half a mile from the car/road. And hope you don’t get hit by a tractor.
  10. Asian option. Give all the jackets to your mother. Who will refuse to get out of the car anyway because she didn’t want to leave the house in the first place.
  11. Religious option: I confess that I am disappointed that you brought the vests.  A little faith perhaps…?

As an interesting follow up, once we had settled into the holiday, I utilised this mental research to a good end.  Verity quite enjoys being presented with puzzles or conundrums to solve. These mostly take the form of “Would you rather have your eyeball removed with a blunt spoon or spend the night sharing a room with Grandmama?” So I tried her out with the Hi-Viz conundrum: 2 vests: 5 family members. I was quite clear on the rules and the consequence of the decision: 2 members of the family would live; three would die.  Her choice.  Well, I’ll say this for her, the game girl, she really did try to come up with a solution that would ensure that all her family would live.  This involved a lot of unrealistic sharing scenarios coupled with everyone forming a defence-ring around whoever could not or would not share. Her perspective may have been skewed by the emotional torture she seemed to be suffering.  She was still trying to work out a plausible scenario that would work as she retired to bed wiping away the tears from her cheeks. But of course she ultimately failed and no amount of heart-felt sobbing would help.

Do not leave this until it is too late. Preparation is key.  If you discuss this with the family now it will save on frustrating roadside arguments next year. Probably because you’ll be travelling alone.