Sunday, 28 July 2013

A road trip....with all our usual disasters!

I don't really know where to start,  the past 2 or 3 weeks have been a bit of a comedy of errors....without the comedy bit!
If you read my previous posts about holiday disasters you will be familiar with our holiday motto - "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong"!
I didn't realise it now applies to short road trips in the UK too though......

In the middle of July I took number 1 son to visit Sheffield University , I thought a trip for just the 2 of us might be nice, chatting along the way (he may say nagging...) However he entered the car with the pillow off his bed and said "wake me when we get there!". But we had a worthwhile visit in the end, despite the 3 and a half hour drive and me negotiating the one-way system of a city I've never been near before. I was feeling very proud of myself on the way home as up until about 10 years ago I had a huge fear of driving (possibly a huge fear of getting lost might be more accurate), and would have panic attacks if I had to go more than 5-6 miles from home.
I'm mostly over it now, the cure was a fateful holiday in Turkey where due to an expired passport I had to drive home from London Gatwick , at night, without map or SatNav - and we made it!
The other thing to assist my recovery was the birthday gift of a SatNav, a gift I promptly threw across the room on the day (where was the perfume and flowers?) but now I love my Aussie co-pilot.

Anyway the journey home from Sheffield was a long one but 45 from home I managed to drive into the car in front! No a bad accident but I was shaken, and number 1 son woke up! We were stationary at a roundabout and the man in front drove onto the roundabout, I glanced to my right to see if it was clear for me - not realising he'd stopped!
 It was almost a scene from a comedy sketch when the little Chinese man jumped out and spoke to me very fast in broken English
"Why you no stop?",
"I emergency stop, you no stop"
 "Why you no stop?".
However he was very kind and could see I was upset, we exchanged the appropriate details and I made it home, a little shaken and with a dented car.

So I contacted my insurance company as I thought I should, I've never had an accident in 30 years of driving - there are many jokes that there's been a multitude of them in my wake but it's not true! I was told I'd be contacted by their nominated repair shop the next morning who would also deliver me a courtesy car - fabulous, I didn't know I paid for courtesy car cover!
The following morning the garage called to say they'd collect my car on July 30th, nearly 3 weeks after the bump. I queried this as I wasn't sure it was fit to drive, they said I'd told the insurance company it was roadworthy - I pointed out that I'd managed to get it home but my mechanical know how (and that of the husband) stopped at the point of being 60% certain the engine was at the front! And the front had a big dent in it....
They apparently could do nothing until the 30th; I phoned the insurers back and explained the problem and the fact that we were off on a short holiday on the 24th.
My own local garage could do the job in time, was that ok? Yes I was within my rights to do this but could I hold fire for a few hours and the insurer would try to sort something. Obviously the mention of my own garage would mean a bigger invoice!
Within an hour a gentleman knocked on the door and handed me keys to a very tiny courtesy car, I was a little confused as no one had called me but on contacting the insurers designated repair place they assured me they'd "jiggled the jobs around" and my car would be ready for the 24th.
I spent the next few days driving the "toy car", it has a boot (trunk) on it slightly smaller than my handbag! Are any of you familiar with the size of a regular cricket bag - they're not called coffins for nothing you know!

Not our actual kit, we seem to have more than this!

So last Friday the repair place called me, just to advise the car would not be ready! Well I hit the roof, they'd promised! I complained to the manager, the insurance company, anyone who'd listen! I just need a normal size car to drive just over 6 hours, with 5 people, a cricket kit, and all our luggage. Would they supply a bigger one? No. Would they get mine repaired? No.
Would they let me pick it up and use it for a few days? No. What did they suggest? Nothing.
Apart from calling me back to ask if I'd like the number of a car hire firm! I explained that we were going on a 4 day holiday to Wales and Birmingham; there is a good reason why we were doing that - a hire car does not fit in the budget, and if it did I wouldn't be going for 4 days to Wales and Birmingham! (no offence to those who live there but I really would prefer Barbados!)
I think I almost reduced the garage manager to tears when I asked if I could pass the phone to my daughter, and would he mind explaining why we would no longer be going on holiday, the only holiday we could afford this year? He was reluctant to do so!

Anyway on the morning of the trip, after lodging complaints with anyone and everyone, we packed up the toy car, children sat on bags, we were all restricted to one change of clothes and clean knickers!
The car was overloaded and the kids were very squashed - cue arguing before we left the driveway. Off we set, 1st stop just outside Birmingham for number 2 son's cricket tour
- we also drop the husband there as he's a coach.
 And I then set the SatNav for my Dad's house in Wales - I trip I thought was about 40 minutes
 but I'd misread the routefinder and it was actually 1 hour 40 mins!

I don't see my Dad very often, the last time was around 18 months ago so it was an overdue visit. He's in Wales with the Wicked Witch of the West, as we affectionately call my step mother ( actually that's the wrong word, I don't mean affectionately I mean secretly!)
 - I hope to goodness this blog is still anonymous!

I phoned him a couple of times to say we'd be there about 7pm, and he sent a message back to say they were starting a barbecue for us - we were starving by then.
 I drove the little car like a rocket around those twisty roads, up hill and down valley
until we got there, on the dot of 7pm.
The 3 of us tumbled out of the car and were greeted by Dad, W W of the W, half sister, half sister's boyfriend and her 2 children.
 Sadly despite being in the car for 7 hours, and arriving on time, they'd just finished the barbecue, and drunk all the Pimm's!! What's the word?? Oh yes, Speechless!
 WW did fry some chips and chicken nuggets and Dad produced some curry which we ate quickly, they'd all finished you see!

Anyway the visit was done, we spent the night there and then made our way back to Birmingham where we were booked into a cheap hotel for 2 nights. Actually it was a Premier Inn, and very nice it was too, I was a little unnerved waking up next to Lenny Henry's picture but I mustn't grumble!

I've been running on a bit and the story doesn't end there, there are more disasters awaiting..... I'll continue In another post!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

And this years prize is for.....

You may remember from this time last year that Little Miss has an annual overnight camp at school, it takes place during outdoor week when, weather permitting, they do everything outside.

They garden, and cook in the outdoor pizza oven (which they built a couple of years before), and generally muck about having fun.
 It's always towards the end of term and it's a great team building exercise for everyone.
For one night they erect tents and choose partners to stay with, have a great fun day ending with movies (indoors) then camp fire with toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate.
 A great time is had by all, especially the parents left at home!!
Two years ago, when I went to the special assembly at the end of camp I patiently waited while all certificates were presented to the children. Best buddy, most helpful, best cook, smiliest child.
The whole thing brought a tear to my eye, until they came to the last certificate, for Little Miss. What had she got? She's generally very helpful & polite - what could it be?
I was ever so slightly mortified when it was announced she had the certificate for "being the only one still chattering at 3.45am" - even worse several parents and staff looked at me and giggled in a knowing way! I told the tale here.
Anyway last year she and several others got the "noisiest camper" award - not quite so bad but not what I'd hoped for.
Well this year I had given a few hints, please be helpful and kind - carry the teachers hot chocolate for her - tidy up her tent! Do anything.....
And the day arrived, I was nervous, hopefully they'd had a good night, the weather had stayed fine and we could hear some of their shouts from our garden! I was looking forward to seeing her after 24 hours but would I be embarrassed yet again?
Oh no I was far from embarrassed! Look what we, I mean she, got.
Oh I'm so proud I could burst, it's by far the best award and for once she doesn't take after me!
Surely this beats most polite camper, most helpful camper, tidiest camper, doesn't it?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Where have all the cherries gone?

It has to be said, first off, I'm not much of a gardener - my fingers are very "un-green"!

In my head I have a beautiful cottage garden full of lupins, delphiniums and hollyhocks, as well as a vegetable and herb garden and a veritable cornucopia of fruit.

However the reality is that I'm struggling, not helped by the fact that the builder is far too busy during the summer months with cricket work and therefore any heavy work, or rearranging - and there is a lot of that to be done - goes unfinished; or more accurately un-started.

The lawn is being kept down by two very hardworking guinea pigs right now, doing a sterling job. You see we only have time to get the lawn mower out between October and March - you're starting to see the problem aren't you?

We have several fruit trees in the garden, which don't produce much fruit, well except the pear trees, they manage to survive anything and produce more fruit than we can manage. And what fruit are the kids not keen on? Yep, pears!

We have a lovely apricot tree which had 2 years of producing tons of fruit, then never produced a single one since - probably nothing to do with the "trimming back" I gave it.

But the last two years our cherry tree has started to produce little buds of fruit, however the birds got to it before we could and we've not managed to eat a single one yet.  This year though I was on the ball, a large net was purchased which I threw over the tree. Now that may sound easy but I almost secured myself to the tree in the process, I eventually covered it whilst knocking off three quarters of the fruit. A few cherries would be better than none though. Not being a very well equipped gardener I fastened the net with gold and silver ribbon from the Christmas wrapping supply - looking good I thought.

I kept an eye on the tree, fruit turning pink and looking delicious. Then for a couple of days I couldn't see the fruit from the window, maybe it was dark and ready to pick, blending into the foliage?

I went to investigate, ready to pick and eat. Can you see the fruit?
Go on, look closely, can you see the cherries?
No neither can I!
But look, can you see what I can see.....
A lot of pips on stalks!
So where in the world did the cherries go?
No bird could have navigated it's way in and out of that net.
There was only a little space around the trunk, what do you think? Mice??
So off to the supermarket I go, we need cherries!!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

That boy!

That boy drives me to distraction, sends me round the twist and into dementia; all the time!
That boy who was the sweetest, easiest, quietest baby ever to be born.

The boy who slept in my arms and made hardly a sound.

That boy who turned into a smiley toddler; I just had to say "can you make Mummy happy?" and he would give me his bestest smile, which is the widest smile you'll ever see and really does go from ear to ear.

That boy who crawled and hid behind the sofa with all the chocolates off the Christmas tree, and ate them all!
That boy who always needed a Mummy cuddle and believed me when I told him that we were psychically connected when he started school; if he was worried he had to do was think very hard about mummy & she would hear him & send a message back! (old fashioned texting??)

That boy who is so painfully shy but also so gifted and talented.

That boy who prised open a bottle of beer at age 3, "'cos I like the taste!"
That boy who should be admired for his continual optimism and positive thought, even if the school report doesn't say he's top of the class, he actually was, the teacher just made a mistake!

That boy who argues so much with all of us.
That boy who has made me smile and cry more than anyone else.
That boy who plays sport so hard that he must be exhausted and under pressure to perform all the time.

That boy who refuses all offers of a haircut until now, right now, this minute, when he absolutely must have one right now!

That boy who makes me almost say very cruel things, things  a mum mustn't say, things that may have been said to me when I was young.

That boy who's best present ever was the huge cardboard box filled to the brim with sugary, brightly coloured sweets - which disappeared very fast.

That boy who is so competitive it hurts, who, in this years 1500 metre race, came a close second to the boy who represents England.

The boy who never speaks out even when he knows he's been treated unfairly.
That boy who denies all knowledge of the disappearance of a whole box of Christmas chocolate biscuits but who is the only one to leave a trail of crumbs behind him.

That boy who always thinks he is taller than he is and has bigger feet than he does. Who sent me running around the city one Saturday to buy size 9 cricket boots before a match, as his size 7's were 2 sizes too small. Only for me to discover that he was still a size 7 but walked onto the pitch wearing his clown like size 9's, just to prove a point!

That boy who denies drinking all the "special occasion fizzy" although the denials come through a series of burps!

That boy who was presented with a school award today for the highest marks in the end of term exams in his year.
The same boy who, for the past term, has left lessons most days at 11am to play school or county cricket and missed most of the work.

The boy who only had to remember to get himself ready for the prize giving today and arrived at school having forgotten to eat his breakfast and was minus his blazer.

The boy who has caused me to have a permanent letter saved on the computer addressed to the school to explain why he has no shoes; they are left in a changing room/on a cricket pitch/on a rugby pitch/ on the bus, or just "missing"

The boy who never has homework, apparently.

That boy who has a room like a bombsite  and can never find anything but it is very definitely NOT HIS FAULT!

That boy who has friends but who is always on the edge of a crowd, never in the middle.

That boy who loves his family so very passionately, but seems to hate us most days too.

That boy who has never made a mistake, never got anything wrong, ever.

That boy who I have just left at school with an army issue rucksack bigger than himself, as he waits to go on an RAF camp for the week, looking a little shy and lost, and maybe a little smaller than he normally does.

That boy who will no doubt return home with a lot fewer clothes than he went with and will have found all the sweets at the bottom of his bag within 5 minutes of getting on the bus.

That middle child who drives me mad every day and makes me scared about what argument we will have next; that's him, the one I'm missing already and can't wait til he comes home Friday night!


Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Little Book Review

At our book group meeting in May the newest member hosted and it was her choice of book. She's a friend of mine, we met as fellow parents of junior cricketers (surprise, surprise), she's a lovely lady although I don't know her very well.

She's always seemed to lack confidence, quite quiet and shy and doesn't  seem very adventurous at all so I was surprised when she asked if she could come and join the group.
She said she felt she needed to push herself a little to meet people and read more interesting books - she's assuming we actually read interesting books of course!
She doesn't go out a lot, mainly a stay at home mum, and I know she was a little nervous of meeting the other 8 members of the group.

Anyway she did a fine job of hosting the evening and then produced her chosen book......

My friend then went on to explain why she'd chosen this particular book. It's about Bill Bryson walking part of the Appalachian Trail and apparently her father, who is a keen walker, had walked the whole of the trail, in one go, a few years ago.
The trail is along the East coast of the USA and is around 2200 miles long!
 We were so impressed, she had photo's and stories from him about the walk, it had taken him 6 months and he'd mostly been alone, camping in the woods and shelters.
Well the book was such a hit that for our June meeting when we were due to get together for Pimms & nibbles, to discuss the book, it was suggested we invite "Dad" along. He obliged us and spent the evening telling us tales from his "walk in the woods" and answered all our questions. It was a great evening, probably the best we've ever had - I've since acquired 2 other Bill Bryson books which are now on my "must read" pile. He has a great way of story telling and there were no negative comments at all - that must be a first!
And what did we learn - never judge a book by it's cover - in more ways than one. We have a very valuable new member of our group.