Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Living the high life

We're staying the night in the Bradford Travelodge, off the A647.

This is not an accident. I have planned it. In fact two months ago I pinned Dig down on a diary date for this outing. Dig is driving us here, which I am sure he likes very much. He can pretend he is a pilot. Boys like that sort of thing. Next time I could get him a special hat to wear. It would say World's Best Pilot, or something like that.

You see, I suspect Dig is bored with the perpetual round that is Mumbai, Stockholm, Milan and Shanghai. I could be clever, and take advantage of this global ennui, to show him a few things about top quality UK travel with Grit and the Gritlets. We could seduce him with the delights of travelling with your family. By this cunning route, I might encourage him to travel more with us. I would like that.

I could, for example, take advantage of the fact that he is strapped into the driver's seat and I could narrate the many places of interest in the UK that we are passing, while he is driving at 80mph for three hours along the motorway. I bet British Airways doesn't do that while jetting between Germany and Japan. In fact, I have a Reader's Digest book about interesting towns and villages. I could read from that. Or there is the inflight entertainment. Listening to Matilda at top whack because it stops the screaming is certainly an insight into Grit's life of five-star luxury travel. And who needs the trolly dolly, when there is the eye-candy called Grit sitting next to you? Except for the bit between junctions 15 and 21 where I fell asleep over the Reader's Digest, lost control of my neck muscles and did some dribbling and snorting.

Well anyway, here we are at the Bradford Travelodge. We arrive hungry, hot, exhausted and needing a big cry. I bet Dig feels like a big cry too. I am sympathetic. Travel does this to people. Squirrel is having an extra loud howl, because of what I'm not sure, but suspect it is called Empty Tummy. She wipes a teary face with a grubby hand, speckled in Co-op teacake crumbs, the Co-op teacake hastily thrown over the back seat as a smart bit of inflight catering service while navigating around a Bradford industrial estate.

Squirrel says she is leaving this family as she stands howling in the car park where they are charging us £3 to park the car. £3! Can you believe that! They didn't mention this on the website. Well, I tell Dig, this is one of the hazards of travel. Unexpected taxes. I know that normally when he is about on Business class, or First class if he gets bumped, he does not pay, but I have no money on me, so it's quite lucky he's here.

Then I tell Squirrel it's time to stop crying. Not only do we want to show daddy Dig what a good time he can have with us on our five-star family travel, we will soon put Plan A into action.

At this point, let me say that I know about the eccentricities of travel. Places like the Fairlawn Hotel in Calcutta get a pretty good press. I have even stayed there myself and been horribly sick, but do you know, there is something comforting about having your accommodation exactly the same no matter where you are? And Travelodge is exactly the same. There is always a big girl on reception who stares past you with complete uninterest. If I appear with six eyeballs on springs and be bright green, freshly beamed down from Planet Neuron Minor, she would stare past my left ear, just the same. She would utter the welcoming monotone yeah, we need a mobile number even though I suspect they do not and Travelodge are just stealing my phone number so they can inundate me with texts selling me an off-peak room at Scotch Corner.

I'm sure the Bradford Travelodge reception experience fits very nicely with Dig's life about the globe. I bet he's been in classier places and got the same treatment. And then there's the room, lacking in extra towels, sheets, bedding, even though I've clearly booked family rooms and for more than one person! So off I go and collect the bedding myself from the linen room which is open. You see, you might pay a lot to do that elsewhere.

You can probably guess, I am a fan of Travelodge hotels. The freedom they offer us! We can have the arguments days in advance over who is going to sleep on the pull-out bed; who gets the sofa bed, and which way round their head should go. We can argue over which order everyone has the bathroom.

Then there's breakfast to look forward to. We can argue for hours about that. Cereal is pretty controversial stuff around here, I can tell you, and on this topic there's no lack of political conversation, so Dig will feel at home. I bet Dig can barely contain himself. I'm sure I can see him stuffing his knuckles into his mouth right now. In the morning, Mummy Grit will bring in the plastic bowls, long-life milk and packet of cornflakes from the car and then look in her picnic hamper to discover she has brought forks again by accident. Never mind. You can spear the cornflakes and drink the milk, Chinese style. There you go. We could be in Beijing.

Now I've got distracted by the wonder of it all. Back to Plan A. This is when we dump the bags, argue about the arguments, climb into the car and drive back down the A-road to the nearest chippy. Here, we eat big bags of steaming chips in the car. And everytime, I tell Dig, would you believe, our view is different! First it was the Oxford ring road. Then it was a housing estate somewhere outside Shrewsbury, and this time we're outside a mosque! We arrive at sundown, so we can covertly watch the hastening men patter up the road, tunics flowing. And in the chip shop, the chips are expertly lifted, shook and flipped into a polystyrene tray while Bollywood music plays and a small girl, barely out of toddlerdom, with an armful of bracelets, stares open mouthed and unblinking at Shark, Tiger and Squirrel as if she had never seen the like. There you go, I nudge Dig, we could be back in Dhaka or Delhi. And I'm sure this culinary experience matches that time in Moscow when they force-fed you Cough balls and Cheese.

I think, when I whisper sweet good night, and Dig finally goes to sleep, that he is impressed by Grit's exotic and exciting life. I am sure the stifled sobs are just homesickness. He may even tell Sweden he cannot make it now. He might tell them he is going to spend his future travelling career on the motorway Travelodges of England, enjoying this special time travelling with his family.

Oh, and there is a point to all Grit's globe trotting, apart from a brave attempt to show Dig a good time. It is that tomorrow we are visiting the National Media Museum, for the betterment of the children's education.


Michelle said...

Not heard of that museum before. Not that I've any desires to go to Bradford so it will have to remain a mystery to me.

In car DVD systems (with headsets obviously) are the way to go for any long journey. We plug her in and blissful silence ensues. :-)

the mother of this lot said...

The times I've slung a teacake/pork pie/curled up sandwich over the back seat...I never thought of it as in-flight catering. It gives it a whole new air of respectability.

Thank you Grit, for your excellent insight in pointing this out.

family affairs said...

Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog...is your partner a BA pilot? How cool is that? (if he is)...I've got a friend who is a BA pilot...they're bound to know each other as he does the Shanghai route...in fact I even went on a Shanghai trip x

Brad said...

If your not writing a book of your own, you should be.


Lynn said...

I agree with Brad ;-))
So funny and so clever xx

dragon boy said...

i wonder if your life would be any different if dig WAS a BA airline pilot?!!!

Merry said...

I'd need a lot of dvd players though.

Is that the museum with the caged PlaySchool toys? I've been there... long, long ago.

I refuse to have kid sounds in the car, but in flight catering i've been doing for a long time... it works just beautifully!

Grit said...

hi michelle... atm, in-car dvds are a luxury that do not easily scale up to three kids sitting cheek by jowl in the back seat...

indeed, motl, in fact if i were to aim high, i bet i could be a right proper madam.

hi family affairs & dragon boy, dig is not a BA pilot, but sometimes it does feel similar. (would i get cheap flights? i'm sure it's never too late to learn.)

well, lynn and brad. this is very kind! there are slight problems to do with agents, publishers, a selling idea and print runs greater than 24.

hi merry! i don't recall any caged playschool toys... how can you cope without needing to slam on Matilda??!!

Merry said...

We all sing, relentlessly!!!!!!

Grit said...

omg. you all sing. please forgive me if i decline a lift. i will be alright. the RAC said it will get here in three working days. seriously, waiting by the side of the road with a broken leg will be no problem.

sharon said...

Why on earth would Dig favour the International Jet-setting life over the simple pleasures of domestic travel with the Family?

Phoenix said...

Haha!! Fantastic!!! That is 'my neck of the woods' - I live 30 mins out of Bradford by car!!

For future reference though, I can recommend the Jury's Inn, which is very near to the Media Museum, is much nicer than Travelodge, and is a similar price.