There was a time, with small children, where I felt as though I was in continual scrapes. Some of them were so ridiculous and laughable that I half expected a candid camera crew to jump out. I’ve written about a fair few of them on this blog. And of course, there’s no shortage of people around to give you ‘helpful’ parenting tips at just such moments! Slowly, through trial and much error, I have got better at not getting into so many scrapes. It helps that the children are growing up, and that I go a little easier on myself too. With so much to juggle and to try to remember, its inevitable things go wrong fairly often. But yesterday, I had one of those days where it went so badly wrong that I was certain there must be hidden cameras relaying my reactions back for the entertainment of a studio audience.
I had got up yesterday morning, feeling rather proud of myself. I had remembered to book Finch some extra swimming lessons over the summer holidays to keep up his progress. The regular pool isn’t available over the summer so his lesson would be at a different pool, slightly further afield. The new pool has a climbing frame outside and a little café, so I thought it would be a nice outing for all of us. I successfully exited the house with all the children and required equipment, and we set off with time to spare for Finch’s lesson.
My first inkling that it was all going to go wrong was when Little Owl put the radio on as we drove up the slip road. The traffic announcer declared that the A38 was closed in both directions further along due to an accident and wouldn’t open again for the rest of the day. If you don’t know Devon roads, I can assure that this is a disaster. The motorway system stops at Exeter, dividing into the A380 and the A38 at the Splatford Split (yes, it really is called that). Beyond these two roads there are only tiny B-roads, quickly filtering down to even tinier lanes. I knew that the county would be at a standstill within seconds as everyone tried to find alternative routes down Devon’s narrow thoroughfares. I quickly berated myself for such negativity and pulled off at the next junction to tap our destination into my phone to use Google Maps. After all, this is what technology is for isn’t it? Google Maps would find me another way through based on live feedback from the jams on the roads. We would still make it.
No. Google Maps decided that this would be a good time not to play ball. Okay, new strategy. We phoned Big Dreamer. Could he possibly find a different route for us and talk us through it over the phone? Yes, he could. We set off, and got back on the A38…in the wrong direction. This was because I could only hear Big Dreamer as a faint whisper, Little Owl (who was holding the phone) having accidentally turned the loud speaker off. The only option was to drive back to Exeter to turn around. Ten minutes later, we were driving up the same stretch of road, this time in the right direction, Big Dreamer and I having exchanged some choice words. I put my foot down and we sped off, trying to make up for lost time, Big Dreamer doing his best sat-nav impression. As I have mentioned, the roads got smaller and smaller, until at last, Big Dreamer asked us to turn up the narrowest of narrow lanes. Roughly the width of the entrance hall into our house, the lane was enclosed on either side by the traditional Devon bank topped with hedgerow, approximately the height of the first storey of most houses. The thin thread of tarmac beneath us was matched by a thin thread of sky far above us.
We had gone some way when what should we see coming towards us? Only a National Express Coach! The driver looked like he was heartily cursing whoever had suggested to him that this was a viable alternative to the A38. The hedgerows down that lane will take a long time to recover after his passing. The problem for us was that by now, we had a whole queue of cars behind us, probably with their own version of Big Dreamer on the phone. But there was no arguing with that coach. We all backed up to the last passing place, which felt as though it had been at least a mile ago. On and on it went like this, getting a little further along the lane only to back up again. The children were stonily silent in the back of the car. I’m pretty sure they thought we would never get out of that lane alive. And all of this on the hottest day recorded in the UK ever.
At long last, we reached a cross roads, only to delve into more lanes that led to the swimming pool, but which were mercifully clearer. We arrived a whole hour and a half late for the swimming lesson, by which time the instructor had gone home. We may even have passed her in that lane. I won’t bore you with the details of how we got home on only 1% of my phone battery, or how we thought we’d take a little afternoon trip to the allotment, or how Wren downed everyone’s bottles of water when we weren’t looking and then peed liberally all over my allotment neighbour’s carrots, or how I picked some dahlias from the allotment to take to my friend’s party that evening only to drop them on the way home while trying to persuade Wren that it was better to walk on the pavement than in the road, or how the bunch had completely vanished when we re-traced our steps to find them. Yes, yesterday was a tip-top day.
In other news, I have to tell you that Little Owl had her last session of Brownies this week. I thought that those of you who will remember her starting would want to know. We shed a few little tears I can tell you. She’s going to start Guides in September.