“Have you got any tissues?” Bee asks me. “I need to blow my nose.”
“No, sorry,” I reply.
She looks like she doesn’t believe me, like I might be deliberately withholding my secret supply of tissues just for jokes. “Have you not got any anywhere?”
I’m driving and we’re on the motorway, so I’m not exactly sure where she’s expecting me to find some.
“There’s an old bit of kitchen roll on the floor in the back with oil on it?” I offer.
She doesn’t look keen.
“Belle,” she barks into the back, “look in Mummy’s handbag and find me a tissue.”
Belle does as she’s told, but the best she can come up with is a piece of A4 paper with a map of Bristol on it.
“You can’t use that,” I say, “it won’t have any absorbency. You’ll have to use a pair of pants or something.”
(We are on the motorway driving Bee down to stay with some friends, so she does have an overnight bag with her. I wasn’t suggesting she take off the pants she was wearing or anything.)
“No way,” she says, clearly disgusted, “that’s gross. Can’t you stop at some services?”
“Well then, I’m going to use the map.”
I should probably explain at this point that Bee has quite a bad cold. Needing to blow her nose isn’t just a casual whim; it’s a matter of urgency. I’m sceptical about the usefulness of a paper map when it comes to blowing noses, but Bee is adamant.
It does not go well. I hear a muffled ‘ergh!’ through the mix of mucus and paper. The map it seems is not terribly effective as a tissue. As I predicted, the lack of absorbency is a bit of a problem.
“It’s all over my face!” Bee wails. “What shall I do?”
“I told you to use pants!” I say, trying to keep a straight face and half an eye on the road. She rummages in her bag, but not for pants.
“This is going to be gross,” she says, pulling out a pack of Always Ultra (with wings), “but don’t judge me.” I am speechless. I give her a look, raising my eyebrows. “What?” she says, trying to look nonchalant, as though it’s perfectly normal to have snot on your chin and to be about to wipe your face with sanitary protection, “they’re absorbent!”
Anyone looking into our car at that moment may have been rather taken aback. “You look like you’re sniffing a sanitary towel,” I pointed out, as she struggled to blow her nose, Always Ultra sticking to her fingers.*
Always Ultra, we soon learn, are not designed for blowing noses, (although they are an improvement on the paper.) Despite working her way through two pads, she still has to clear up afterwards with her spare pants.
We arrive in Bridgwater, trying desperately to block the last hour from our memories, and as we get out of the car, Bee stuffs her hands into her pockets. “Oh no!” she cries, and pulls out a wad of tissue…
*Why she took the backing off I do not know…