The long road home to England


We’re on our way back and it’s been a bit of a marathon. After days of walking around Bilbao and learning about archaeology and eating churros, we have been subjected to almost non-stop Abba Gold and a long traffic jam at the French border.

I decided, perhaps unwisely, to break the boredom by proposing a competition called “Guess that Abba song in the first two bars”. I have played it in the past with a friend who can guess not only an Abba song from one note of it, but also tell you the position it got to in the charts. Everyone was primed with a buzzer word. Daughter three’s was poo, daughter two was fart and only son was ba-boom. I played the opening few notes of each song on Abba Gold. Only son was too excited to say ba-boom and burst in with the song title. His co-competitors complained that this was cheating. Daughter two scored remarkably well, which really peeved only son, since she does not profess any enthusiasm for Abba, but is known for her love of musicals, principally The Wizard of Oz. Daughter one was not playing, but expressed an appreciation of Abba, proving that Abba is indeed now cool, and congratulated me on increasing competition in the family.  This was after only son went into a huff when daughter two scraped ahead in the points, meaning we had to switch to One Direction, at which he is the acknowledged master.

By this point we were inching our way past a beret-wearing French soldier with an AK47. Daughter three had split a Kas Limon with only son at the back of the car and is renowned for her weak bladder control. We stopped about three times within half an hour of the French border.

By lunchtime people were getting a bit hungry. Unfortunately, for the vegetarians there was just bread, crisps and fruit because they both turned their noses up at cheese and every sandwich in French service stations has meat or fish in it. Daughter three and only son split a pasta bolognaise between them. They were getting on well after an altercation involving only son elbowing daughter three in the neck. Daughter one was explaining something complicated to only son about sibling rivalry which left him very perplexed. Daughter two was taking the mickey out my liking of Wham! This was followed by a request from daughter one for Gold by Spandau Ballet to be played at full volume. This is because she knows I hate Gold by Spandau Ballet. Everyone sang it very loudly as we sailed into the Bordeaux traffic jam.

We had left around 11am as the last touches were being made to the Bilbao festival and by 7pm people were getting slightly hungry again. We stopped at a place we had visited before which had roast chicken and chips only to discover it had been converted into a Burger King. Daughters one and two were not impressed and had to content themselves with chips and a waffle. Only son wooped with joy at the thought of chicken nuggets and ice cream. By around 9.30pm we were circling the Ibis Budget area in the pitch dark with no real idea where we were headed.

We still have one more day of Abba Gold to go. Thank you for the music.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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