Saturday, 2 June 2007

Departure day

We're off to Kent. This is not as easy as it sounds. You think, pack the car, get the kids in, drive to the petrol station, set the sat nav going, and then you're off.

At the Grit household it doesn't work like that. First of all, it's unpack the car. Because everything's gone in. Cuddly toys, lego bricks, torn pieces of paper, sticks, plant pots. Squirrel says the plant pots might come in handy for collecting things. Shark wants to put in a pair of ice skating gloves, just in case we go ice skating. Tiger says she's not leaving without her tennis racquet. We negotiate. I accept buckets and spades and the toy boat. No plant pots. No ice skating. No tennis. When everyone's had a fight about which bucket and spade was bought for whom, I set up a video for the kids to watch because I have to unpack everything on the quiet, and if Tiger sees her tennis racquet coming out she might just have a fit and we won't set off till dusk.

Next, get the kids in. This is slightly complicated by the fact that when it is time to get the kids in, I put the rubbish out for collection. And when I do, the back gate falls off. This is not good.

The back gate is not just a gate. It's more a door. It's very old, wooden, and set within a tall and wide wooden gate that is supposed to swing open to let in your 1922 Austin 7. The gate (and the door within it) leads to a yard which leads to an Edwardian garage, which would probably be a listed building if anyone cared to list such things. Anyhow, when I open the door in the gate to take out the rubbish, it falls forward and hits me slap! on the side of the head. This is also not good. The door carries some weight behind it and for a minute I think I might have to die or at least pass out. If I die or pass out, I will fall on the mountain of rubbish in black bin liners waiting to be carried out to the street collection point. Then like a flash-thought I think the black bins usually have slugs on them. If I fall back, I fall on slugs. That thought keeps me upright.

It takes me a good half hour to prop the door back up. The pin which holds the hinge has corroded away, so I have to lift the door up enough to slot one side of the hinge into the other. If I leave the door collapsed, burglers will get in, and they will steal my silver teaspoons and Dig's computer. After twenty minutes I'm in tears and despair because of the terrible weight and the near death experience of the head injury.

By the time I do get the gate propped back into place, the video's finished, I'm filthy, exhausted, bruised and smelly, and the kids are observing that I'm carrying bags of slug-drenched rubbish through the house to the front door, apparently to the waiting car outside. 'Are we taking that?' asks Squirrel, puzzled that I appear to be heading out with a black bin liner bursting with potato peelings, broccoli stems, unrecyclable plastic, a broken wine glass wrapped in newspaper and some black slimy mixture I glumphed out from a jam jar that morning, but which in February we called 'a science experiment'. 'Yes', I answer.

Next, it's a drive down the road to the petrol station. I can pay at the pump. I would pay at the pump if the card I have isn't declared unusuable by the pump machine which spits it out in disgust. So then I have to pay at the shop with the woman who tuts because my card won't scan and she has to key in the numbers herself, and she probably doesn't like the look of the wild woman with tear stained face and swollen head. Then we drive back up the road to home to get the sat nav.

Then we're off. I cannot bear to recall the endless arguments about the tennis racquet, the plant pots, the ice skating and the dolphin bucket. Let's just get to Kent, I think. And thank goodness I have a half-bot of picnic wine in the driver's door compartment for fortification purposes about Junction 29 of the M25.

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