Oh, the joys of travelling with children. Why do we punish ourselves so?
Juliet Merrick from London has written to me asking if I can recommend something to ease the pain of a 12-hour road trip to the Alps at New Year with two squabbling nearly-teens in tow. Yes, Juliet, it's simple: don't do it.
This is the bit where I'm meant to bang on about playing I spy and singing jolly songs to distract the kids from throttling each other, but I'm not doing that. We all know it takes only a minute for the jolly songs to become very rude indeed, and all games, no matter how innocent, lead to war.
Juliet, there aren't many (legal) ways of keeping kids quiet on long journeys: it's part of their job description to pinch their siblings as soon as you turn the ignition key. But you could try what I did last summer and make a canny purchase from the Science Museum (science museumstore.com ) before you go.
It sells some very clever distractions, my favourite being the new Totally Gross Travel Kit (£7.99). This simple tin contains questions and answers about everything revolting you can think of, and it's educational, too – by the end of your journey, you'll know exactly which animals can regurgitate their own stomach contents, as well as what's exactly up nostrils. (I'll spare you the details.)
For those with more sensible children – come on, show yourselves! – there's the new Kids World travel card quiz from Talking Tables ( talkingtables.co.uk ), price £9, with questions on subjects from theme parks to pyramids as well as fascinating geographical facts guaranteed to stun them into silence for seconds at a time.
Just think, Juliet: seconds of silence. That's got to be worth every penny.