In less than a week the Clark family go on holiday. I love going on holiday. Who doesn’t? Preparing to go can be hard work but it doesn’t matter how challenging it may be. If there is a chance of me going somewhere where the sun is shining then I will be there no matter how much sweat is spilt in the process.

And believe me – sweat is spilt. Mine mainly. Because in the week before I go I turn into some kind of whirling dervish. First there is the packing – obviously. I do it for me and the children. My husband can be trusted to do his own and remember to take what he needs. I think of everything else. Clothes for all eventualities, travel plugs, cameras, chargers, art equipment, gadgets to kill mosquitoes, books for all ages, toiletries, Calpol etc..etc.. I also have to pack it all into a remarkable small space. It’s amazing how little boot space there is in a 7 seater people carrier hire car. So unless the children want to spend the journey under a holdall, I have to keep the bags to the minimum.

I do lists of course. We have no spare bedroom so I can’t do that fantastic laying out thing, where you start a week before and gradually add to the pile as things cross your mind. No. I have to do all of it in one go. So I need a list. The list follows me about the house and even finds its way to my bedside cabinet so that when I wake in the middle of the night in a blind sweat with the most essential holiday item in the forefront of my mind, I can quickly scribble it down and go back to sleep without having to worry about remembering it until morning. Don’t laugh. It’s a good system.

Of course, the late packer’s nightmare is good weather before you go because then everyone wants to wear the holiday wardrobe which is all beautifully laundered, folded and smelling of summer meadows. No danger of that this year.

So the packing is one thing but that is a walk in the park compared with the other things that I insist on doing before I go. It’s lovely to go on holiday but at the end of your relaxing fortnight you have to come home and what better than to open the front door to a clean house? And clean sheets? And no outstanding laundry? And a meal in the freezer just ready to reheat? And so this is what I do. As well as all the usual stuff of cleaning out fridges and bins and cancelling the milk and arranging for someone to feed the pets and water the plants and post any birthday cards that might be necessary whilst I am away. And add the children in to the equation and it all becomes a tad more stressful.

Keeping the place tidy with the children around is hard enough. There is a limit to the amount of time that I can force them to stay outside. Short of actually locking them out (which I have done in times of dire emergency) I cannot stop them getting things out. After I have put them all away again, I have to clean but they will insist on using the loo or having a shower or sitting on the plumped sofa cushions. You get the picture. It’s so inconvenient! Then I change all the sheets but rather than being faced with 5 lots of bedding when I get home, I have to wash and iron it all, along with anything else that has found its way into the laundry basket. And of course I have to do this at the latest time possible or the sheets will have been slept in too many times to be clean by the time we get home.

The upshot of all this preparing to go on holiday is that I get progressively more frazzled as the week progresses so that by the time we finally hit the airport I can only snarl in response to anyone that dares to speak to me.

I do this every year but I am sure it is all worth it. I always get there in the end and I do feel smug when I get home. But once, just once, it might be nice to just pack and go and not worry. Nice but so not likely to happen in my house in this millennium!