If we are to believe the advertisements, going on holiday with your family must be one of the most spiritually uplifting events in your life.
Clear skies, blue seas, and happy smiley faces abound.
Children play happily together as the parents hug closely, looking longingly at each other before they settle down to share a bottle of chilled wine and some locally-sourced organic food.
Can anyone draw any comparisons with their own summer holiday?
Was yours free from weeping, insect bites and vomit?
Was the car journey a joy to behold, what with the dozens of fun games you lined up to while away the five hours you got stuck in traffic on the M40?
Did the weather remain bright and summery for the whole time you were away?
No, I didn’t think so.
The preparations alone can be particularly stressful.
On one famous occasion when we decided to go camping for the weekend, I spent a day packing our car, making sure all the children had everything they needed, while my youngest, who was a toddler at the time, lay prostrate on the driveway, screaming.
About half an hour before we were leaving my husband decided to ‘pack’ by strolling up to the car with a pair of pants and socks wrapped up in a T-shirt and stuffed it into the boot grinning.
I was so frazzled by the time we got to the campsite that I just wanted to bury myself away with a book and a beer. Alone.
The children are now thankfully old enough to sort out some of their own packing, but there is still the car journey to contend with.
This year we have chosen to go somewhere not too far away, mainly due to the petrol prices, but also because it reduces the time we have to spend together in a small space.
For reasons I won’t bore you with, our family of five has a car that you wouldn’t market as a ‘family car’.
The Citroen C3 is very fuel efficient, but doesn’t expand with the increasing length of the children’s legs.
So this year, we will be cramming the children into the back seat, their knees up by their ears, even if it requires remarkable powers of persuasion and a pot of Vaseline.
If we survive the journey then we still have a whole week to spend together in a tent.
We will have to forage for food that everyone will be prepared to eat and make our own entertainment when the evening comes.
This may consist of games of ‘who can keep the warmest/driest/least hungry’. Or maybe, ‘how many mosquitoes can you squish’.
During the day we will argue over where to go.
I will suggest a local attraction, partly because it has a tea shop, but mostly because it belongs to English Heritage and we have family membership and therefore free entry.
The children will find a leaflet for the naffest place imaginable and keep asking to go, even though it would cost us £80 to get in.
If you haven’t been away yet, I hope the sun shines for you.
If you have, I find that sitting in a darkened room helps. Just make sure you are alone.