Tom Fitzsimons: Full-time family

FAMILY TIME: We're all together, all the time.
FAMILY TIME: We're all together, all the time.

One consequence of doing a big fat family world tour is that you spend all of your time - really, all your time - together as a family.       

It's pretty strange. Before this trip, the three of us hadn't been this physically close, for this long, since Baxter was a newborn baby, when I had six weeks off work. By the end of that hiatus, Harriet practically chased me out of the house.

Then there were the 15 months or so that Harriet and Baxter spent at home together to get him started. That was full-on, too - exhausting and sleepless and mad and vivid and new. But it was, well, a bit more confined than our current journey. Also, I was at work for lots of it, so I missed some of the close-up action.

But now, after years of creche and playgroups and sleepovers at grandparents' houses - after years of the three of us sprawling across Wellington - we've pitched ourselves into a year of total contact. Five months in, I'm still struck by the change.

What it means is that even as we have this revolving backdrop of amazing locations and foods and people and streets (today: picnic in a Scottish farm overlooking sheep and wheat fields), our social world has become much smaller and slower. It's the three of us, with perhaps a grandparent, or a far-flung friend, or a passing dog, thrown in here or there.

It's great: we've never had so much time to be with Baxter. Even when I looked after him last year, I'd pick him up from creche, take him home for a sleep, then have half an hour to muck around before it was time to get going on dinner.

Now we've got oceans of time - to stomp on thistles, to biff pine cones into streams, to choose which stick will be best for whacking stuff with, to kick footballs and roll around and draw pictures and sing songs.

I think it means we're getting stranger. The other day we drove from Yorkshire into the Scottish lowlands, trying to change our accents accordingly.

"Ah told mae husband: nechs time you see a bottle a' Pimms for 10 pound, you bae it!" shouted Baxter, trying to match the waitress we'd had earlier in the day. Truthfully, it sounded more like a little Indian boy than a Yorkie, but then again, so did everyone else in the car. It didn't matter - we rolled out crazy accents and stupid phrases for the next two hours.

But it's hard, too, being an inseparable travelling trio. We're all up in each other's grills, so we argue, sometimes over the most trivial decisions - whether to go left or right when we're lost, whether Baxter can get an ice-block, how to build a Lego truck. We're so familiar that we can go from tiff to meltdown in an instant - I mean Baxter mostly, but sometimes us two as well.

The biggest hazard of all, I reckon, is forgetting how special this year is. And I don't mean the places, because they bombard you with their claims for uniqueness. I mean the year with the boy. When he's yelping about looking at Chippendale furniture in a stately manor, or throwing a tanty because he can't get a lollipop, or even just asking to go for another run, Dad, another run now, it's easy to think: what a pain. There's so much time, so much contact, it gets ordinary - annoying even.

But then you've got to think, remind yourself somehow: he's three-and-a-half, the best age he's ever been - so curious and energised about the world, so keen to be running, so happy to be with us - and then you realise it's all a privilege. A stroke of luck. A spectacular passing moment. That usually helps, and anyway, by then it's probably time to grab our bags and sprint for a train.

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