Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Racing down the A38, I was almost on home ground. We’d left Pembrokeshire behind seven hours before. The sun was burning hot through the windows but at least there were no traffic jams. The journey up to Wales had been, as it always is, torturous. I’d been in work in the morning and then whilst walking the dog, had suffered a horse fly bite which had culminated in my hand swelling to the size of a small water balloon, then I’d come home and had packed only to find at the last minute that we couldn’t all fit into one car. Not even with the absence of our son was there room for us all and so, feeling terribly feeble, I accepted the fact that I would have to drive Hubby’s little banger with the two youngest children, whilst he took our eldest daughter, the dog and the luggage.
It all went smoothly for the first hour and a half. The Willow Man was well behind us, the ‘keep two chevrons apart’ bit ahead. Suddenly the radio informed me that the M5 north was shut. Not just slow going. Shut. True to Radio 2’s word, another ten miles or so found me at a standstill, with the engine turned off, on a baking motorway, inside the vehicular equivalent of microwave oven. Hubby it transpired, was a few lorries ahead and, given that we were stationary, and that it was ‘safe to do so’, was the one to text me the good news that finally, the road had been cleared and we were on the move again.
It was slow but steady until we crossed the Severn Bridge into Wales and were approaching Cardiff. We had now been in the car for over four hours and the youngest one needed a wee and she was ‘really desperate’. She must have told me just how desperate she actually was with increasing Tourette-like urgency. Loudly and violently. And with no apparent warning. She just shouted it out. Repeatedly. Frustratingly, we hit yet another traffic jam, only this was going at a snail’s pace, slow enough in fact for me to seize the opportunity to take the key out of the ignition, jump out of car, run to the back, open the boot, delve into a big, blue IKEA shopping bag, fish out a plastic sandcastle bucket, slam the boot shut again, jump back in the car, switch on the engine and pull away, if only a few feet. Hubby was right behind me at this point and I could see his puzzled face in the rear view mirror. Holding the bucket behind me the Red-Head straddled it and relieved herself. It was only when I emptied the almost full bucket out my window that Hubby put two and two together. He found it highly amusing. Our eldest daughter however, witness to her mother tipping wee onto the M4, slid down the passenger seat far enough to disassociate herself with her family.
We arrived in Pembrokeshire at our friend’s beautiful house at 10.30pm and therein had ourselves a lovely few days until Monday, when the heaven’s opened and there was no alternative other than to go swimming to the Blue Lagoon. Had there been lagoon like creatures mired in it I would have been less bothered. As it was, and at thirty seven quid for three children and two adults, it was heaving with the Good, Bad and the Very Ugly of West Wales and its tourists. In fact when the wave machine came on, there were so many people jostling, kicking and splashing me that I felt like a drowning Egyptian left to perish as Moses closed the Red Sea behind him.
So Tuesday evening saw us travelling home once more on the A38. The driving conditions were much improved; my swollen hand was once again restored to normal and Hubby and I had swapped cars and kids. I had the Passat estate with the eldest daughter and the dog, whilst it was Hubby’s turn to endure the youngest ones company. My daughter and I were well ahead of Hubby. The piffling irritation of the radio not working was nary a bother. The sky was blue and I was excited. In a couple of hours I would be ensconced on a yacht, in excellent company, enjoying ‘wine and nibbles’ before sailing out to Plymouth Sound to watch the fireworks. All of a sudden however, just as I was fantasising about Alain Delon in a pair of deck shoes and little else, the car filled with smoke and a pungent, rubbery smell. Pulling over immediately and making a lay-by by the skin of my teeth, we all jumped out as seconds later Hubby whizzed past, waving. I wasn’t stopping for a fag break for God’s sake!
Abandoned, I clutched the dog, the daughter and my purse to my person and called the AA. Within half an hour a delightful young man came to our rescue, pulled away the offending bit of rubber that was dangling from the engine that was neither fan nor cam belt but something to do with the air conditioning and more importantly, did not affect the driving of the car. Suffice it to say, we made the yacht; sweaty and flustered perhaps but we made it. It was fantastic if a little hairy with two young girls hell bent on taking the helm, nevertheless I could take to this lifestyle like the proverbial Mallard. In fact several people, mostly total strangers but who seem to recognise me and have an opinion on my husband’s career have come up to me in our town and said, “Nice job”, referring presumably to Hubby’s new role. Like a beauty queen whose days in office are very much numbered, I shall make the most of it and whilst you won’t see me sporting a sash and crown, rest assured, I fully appreciate the privilege of being “the Commander’s wife”.


Mary Alice said...

Oh, two spouses, too many children, plus two different cars, and one long trip ,always equals at least two good stories, which take a least a couple years to be able to laugh about.

DL said...

We had similar antics last weekend involving two cars, lots of kids, and traffic jams. In our case it was the M25, as we headed down to Leatherhead Theatre to see Emily in a show.

This week, and next weekend also, we've got a 15-seat minibus for our journeys. Amazing how all the seats seem to fill up when word gets round that we're on a jaunt to a theme park!