Packing it in

TRAVEL is a great delight but packing is a dire way to begin.

Over the years, I have become something of an expert through sheer practice. Yet, I have been known to reach parts abroad without some vital piece of equipment such as a bathing suit or the only other pair of shoes that are comfortable or the connection for the computer. Don’t even mention the charger for the mobile phone.

Packing seems to cause the same tension and panic wherever the journey for whatever length of time. It requires mental preparation and about as much organisation as a wedding or a chiefly installation.

What I need first is a lot of mental space to think what I will need. Not so much in the way of clothing, which is in my case just same old, same old.

But the other stuff, like the phone charger and the special cream for dry skin that always starts itching on the plane and the safety pins and plasters.

Why I haven’t made a standard list to this point to keep tucked in the lid of my carry on/weekend bag I really don’t know. But I haven’t, so this week I sat down to think my way through the list of vital stuff that I can’t go anywhere without.

But first, to encourage mental activity, I got down the big suitcase I keep for serious travel. I left it open on the floor while I got on with thinking about what to put in it.

This did not actually include the cat, although she was a persistent stowaway.

But the cat was the least of my worries. Soon I was joined by a pair of earnest little preschool helpers, five year old Tufaan Taylor the Hurricane of Flagstaff and her two-year-old brother, the Hound of Cullen.

It is true that they too were coming on this trip, but this was my suitcase for my things. I forcefully removed the stack of colouring books and colour pencils, a child’s umbrella and the Spiderman mask and cape (twice).

That was the easy part, I could recognise their things fairly easily. It got more difficult when I came across underwear which was indeed mine, but which I would not in a million years pack to take somewhere else.

Nor would I take a very old T-shirt celebrating some obscure event that I hadn’t been able to wear for at least five years, at least not while still being able to breathe. Yet here they were, in the suitcase.

I definitely didn’t want the cap with the with the four wheel drive vehicle badge on it. The pre-school packers were just as sure I did.

I realised they were ferreting in the only parts of the wardrobe they could reach, which clearly needed a heavy duty cull.

Never mind, the real problem was when things started disappearing from the suitcase.

Just when I could have sworn I put in a nice clean caftan dressing gown, it was oddly absent.

I extracted a yellow plastic mechanical digger for the third time and firmly closed the suitcase lid before I went into the other room.

The mystery of the missing caftan was revealed. There it was, hidden beneath the open lid along with the warm wrap and a child’s yellow minion sock.

How their mother could pack not only her suitcase but theirs as well, plus the beetle pull-along cabin bag, without forgetting vital clothing and terribly important stuff like the cat and frog shaped pillows for sleeping on the aircraft (fat chance), I couldn’t imagine.

Apparently it is done late at night, with great stealth. Also threats of non-appearance of the Easter Bunny if they don’t sleep. If only I’d known….

Actually we don’t appear to be under too much threat of E. Bunny, the children are a bit off chocolate. An indulgent aunt let them eat enough chocolate to make one of them a little seedy and the other to throw up. At the moment, they prefer the rabbit kept its distance.

Of course it could be partly the excitement, they are as into travel as the rest of the family. Despite the wretched business of having to pack before you go.

Not to speak of the hazard of packing the amazing amount of stuff you seem to acquire on journeys when it is time to come home. I’m already negotiating an extra bag from the other end.

* The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.

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