Saturday, 8 December 2007

Late arrival

Tra la la! Off we go to Cheshire! Clever Grit has acquired an 8-disc story with a run time of 8 hours. This should guarantee a trip to Cheshire without screaming, fighting, kicking, or Tiger making threats to leave the car while travelling at 70 mph on the M54.

First stop, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. This is an educational trip after all. So we're going to stop here to learn about iron and iron-y things to do with coke and coal and things like that. As I know nothing about iron or iron-y things then this experience will be ideal family education.

In fact it is an ideal family experience, sadly without Dig who is up a mountain. We press all the buttons, spend hours hogging the interactive computer screens so that no-one else gets a go, no matter how long they stand behind us and tut, then we watch the video three times round, do all the rubbings and puzzles, and laboriously stand around questioning, arguing and debating every minor thing including why the signs are put this way and not that way and why Squirrel is allowed to watch the video again when Tiger is not. Three hours later I get fleeced for £2.25 in the gift shop for a glass dolphin, butterfly, and glow-in-the-dark frog.

When we've had a family learning experience and I have learned about coke but not why it is different from coal, and chanted Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution until I am told off by Shark, we all clamber back into the car and I realise I do not know where I am going. Because for possibly the first time since booking the cottage I actually read the printed details. It's basically called The Cottage and its address seems to be sadly lacking, bar the village name. And the village is somewhere in Cheshire.

Now I've overlooked this lack of address in the belief that we have a post code, and that'll do nicely for the lady Sat nav. But it won't, will it? Because some post codes simply get you to a bit of tarmac in the middle of nowhere, at which point lady Sat nav rather smugly repeats over and over again 'You have reached your destination' while Grit is parked on the verge sobbing with the map book open on her lap, traffic hurtling past in the dark and Tiger shouting 'Can't we get a move on?'

It is just as well that Grit has A level geography because she needs it now. We have driven around for a miserable hour trying to find any road that leads to a village which doesn't seem to exist on any local signs, so I try and work out where to site a village from first principles. I work out drainage, hillsides and farm access and decide it really must be down that little right turn that looks suspiciously so much like the entrance to a field.

Well just a bit longer and a bit more work and I find the little village that's got no sign and I find the house where Finn lives.

Finn is the gentleman I've spoken to on the phone, several times now, and he's hiring out The Cottage to us. Apparently The Cottage is round the back of his big house. There is Finn now, lying on the floor in the dining room while I'm standing at the big front door, banging on it. I can see him lying on the dining room floor, through the huge picture windows, and am thinking that I really hope Finn is not dead from a heart attack brought on by the emotional stress of dealing with that woman arriving, two hours after she said, with the screaming triplets who can't find her way out of his neighbour's field in the dark.

But no. After a few minutes Finn springs up, and after a few minutes more we're in The Cottage, with Tiger complaining that she doesn't like the tapestries and Squirrel saying she's not sleeping on that, and Shark asking is there pasta for dinner.

And I can at last open a bottle of beer in celebration of our safe arrival.

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