My family and crappy journeys go hand in hand. Don’t forget, we are the family who took longer to get to Lake Garda in Italy than it takes to get to NEW ZEALAND. And we lost all our shoes on the way…
I didn’t share with you the day-long run through treacle that was our epic journey back from Ashford, where we had stayed over for the night after getting back from Disneyland Paris. So it’s only right that I share this one with you.
But before the crappy journey, a good journey. We’re not big fans of the M25 (who is?), but it got us safely to our destination in Stratford, East London the other day in a very reasonable two and a half hours. My daughter didn’t feel sick and the kids giggled happily at their DVDs all the way there. It was a textbook journey.
Fast forward 24 or so hours and it was a very different story. Because the journey in had been so good, we wanted to go out the same way. But there were no signs to the M25. ‘Luckily’ my husband has satnav on his phone. It asked if we wanted to pay the congestion charge and we said ‘no’. Obviously it was then going to send us straight out to the M25.
It started shouting at us to turn left and turn right and my husband ignored it, thinking he knew better. So it shouted more. And we had NO IDEA where we were. So my husband came up with a new plan to outwit the satnav. He would ask it to take us to Watford. Which is nowhere near where we live, but it IS on the M25. This didn’t seem the best plan to me. Surely honesty is the best policy, even with a satnav. But what do I know? Anyway, the satnav wasn’t going to be outwitted that easily…
‘I need a wee.’ This is my younger son, the boy with a bladder of steel who can go all day without going to the toilet. Who had necked a 500ml bottle of water minutes before we got in the car. ‘Well you’ll just have to wait.’
Another 10 minutes of potholed residential East London streets…
‘My tummy hurts.’ This is bad news. We usually get ‘I’m tired’ followed by ‘I’ve got a headache’ before we get to ‘tummy hurts’. My daughter looked rather pale, so we stopped the car and I dragged her out onto the pavements of Hackney or somewhere without her shoes on. I then retrieved her shoes and walked her up and down the street past kebab shops and hairdressers specialising in both African and European hair (surely that’s not ‘specialising’?) for five minutes. ‘Are we on the motorway yet?’ ‘What do you think?’
Her tummy hurting was almost certainly down to the frequent changes of direction, but also because she hadn’t got her DVD player on – because the phone with the satnav was plugged into the socket. So we had to unplug the phone and see how far it would get us.
Apparently it was sending us to the M1. The M1 had played no part in our journey to London. I’m no expert on geography, but I thought the M1 headed north and we wanted to go west.
Ever the optimist, my husband said ‘We’ll be on a main road in a minute’ before we turned onto a 20mph residential street with speed bumps and another and another until surely we’d just gone round in a circle? Frankly I was ready to get out of the car and WALK the 100 or so miles home.
Eventually we got to the A1, which was slightly better than an East London kebab shop street. And then the M1. Then we came off the M1 and drove a couple of miles through Watford before joining the M25. By this point we’d been going an hour and three quarters, not the 10 or 15 minutes we’d anticipated before reaching the M25.
My daughter was still pale and quiet. I don’t like arguments in the back seat, but they at least reassure me that everything is normal. There were no arguments. So we stopped at the Beaconsfield services on the M40 to get her back to normal. The colour came back into her cheeks and she started chattering and even running.
Shortly after Beaconsfield we cheered at a sign with the words ‘Oxford’ and ‘Birmingham’ on it. We don’t live particularly near either of them, but they are familiar, they feel a part of ‘our’ world.
Then we merely hit Oxford in rush hour, got beaten repeatedly by a woman on a mountain bike going uphill, put up with endless farts from the boys and made it home in just over four hours.
Next time, we’ll go on the train. But my younger son says ‘Not the train! I hate trains!’ Give me strength.