Suburban Man: Big Poppa

Travelling with a baby requires a whole lotta stuff — and a big boot.

This article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of Metro. Illustration by Angela Keoghan.

 

It’s axiomatic, but going anywhere with a baby requires inordinate amounts of stuff. I took the family on a research trip to Wanaka a few weeks ago and this involved taking two big suitcases plus a stroller and a new Phil & Teds portacot, which had to go through Air New Zealand’s oversized luggage check-in. When we got to the other end, we had to try to fit everything into a rental car with
a very small boot.

Our seats were in row 27, down the back of the plane with all the other babies, but, because the flight was full, they were boarding people at both ends and a nice hostess sent us down the air bridge to the front of the plane. So, we had to schlep our way from one end of the aircraft to the other with a baby, and then we had to negotiate with some passive-aggressive Canadians over where they might sit — I forget why now — until finally I grew exasperated and told them where to sit, and they did and held hands the entire flight.

We’re not very good at travelling light. Last summer, we took part of our vegetable garden with us on holiday, because who wants to be without fresh greens and herbs? Then there is the obligatory collection of cookbooks, electric coffee grinder and essential pantry items — tahini, the good canned tomatoes, decent olive oil.

All this gets packed up and jemmied into one of our entirely crappy and unsuitable cars for yet another summer of trundling around the country in underpowered, overloaded vehicles with failing air con.

Now we have a baby, so the chances of getting all his stuff in as well are unlikely, as is the prospect of me not taking a coffee grinder on holiday. Besides, we have the smallest stroller known to man and it still takes up half the boot.

So the time has come: we are in the market for a new car. Specifically, a station wagon. I’d like it to be black and anonymous and not European, because I’ve had my fill of unreliable expensive “sporty” motoring and have, for the past few years, driven my dead grandfather’s gold Nissan Primera, which apart from being the most boring car in the world,  costs nothing to run. It is the reason we own a house.

This is why, not long ago, I found myself down the back end of Penrose visiting car yards (alone, since Ira — the baby — currently hates the car, but that’s another story). It was enlightening: cars have come a long way since I last bought one, especially when you’re attempting to get one with a Very Large Boot, which puts you into a standard of vehicle I wouldn’t normally look at.

They have tiptronic transmissions,  heated seats, self-starting engines and paddles — paddles! — on the steering wheel for changing gears. One had a gadget which allowed you to start the car from inside the house, though no one could explain the point of it. They have traction control and Bluetooth and a hundred other gadgets, but all I was really interested in was how much stuff I could fit in the boot.

I took a couple for a test drive and found myself zooming down the motorway, happily changing gears with the paddles. This would have been a pleasantly bogan moment, except just then Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” came on the radio. And I thought: yes!