I’ve been home to Lincolnshire for the Bank holiday and I have had a wonderful time. Emptying commodes, listening to my daughter putting the World to rights. Explaining politics to my brother and watching him sleep for three days. Oh yes what an absolutely wonderful holiday I’ve had.
Alan, my darling brother had a dicky tummy. He says it was food poisoning. I say he just had the squits. I’ve had food poisoning, I’ve been hooked up to the intravenous sluice. Come on think about it, they pump salt water into your arm through the drip and stick a catheter in the other end to take it out. That’s my memory of having food poisoning. Three days of delirium, never want to go there again. So as my brother complained about a dicky tummy and took to the settee on the Friday night I was there ready to call an ambulance. It seems that he is a stronger man than most and all it takes to get rid of food poisoning is the odd cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit every now and again to keep his strength up. In the mean time I took over the care of our elderly mother. She hadn’t got a clue who I was so I had to introduce myself every day. I emptied her commode and delivered her meal whilst making sure she was comfortable. That’s all she needs now. A meal and a TV and toilet close to hand. I cleaned willingly. Alan does it every day, three days of taking over wasn’t any trouble at all. Sometimes I wish I could do more, but mum is at the stage whereby she doesn’t understand much and notices less. She has no hearing left and agrees to anything and never wears her glasses. Her teeth are almost gone, the last ones hanging on for Christmas, well she needs some left to get through the chocolates. Although I have to say, every time I leave her I give her the biggest hug, just in case.
Mandy is a hobo. No seriously. A travelling hobo. She wears a Kimono thing, which I have been informed isn’t a kimono, but a (I’ve forgotten already) Apparently, it’s called something different because it’s made of cotton. She goes swimming, and I must say looks pretty good on it. But our Mandy isn’t a quiet girl and now that she is staying with her uncle, likes to tell the World exactly how things are meant to be. She’s a funny little thing. Five foot and a fag-paper and a mini Hitler. She’s in between homes right now and is waiting for the keys to her new flat. So, the glamourous backpacker is driving around the country visiting and staying with friends. Unfortunately, (That may be a bit sarcastic) unfortunately I live too far away for her to visit at the moment.
The journey there wasn’t too bad, leaving at 6:30pm I drove straight through, not a stoppage nor roadworks anywhere. I felt like ringing Mark and saying, “Have you seen the car in front of me?” And when he says “Of course I haven’t,” and tuts, I wanted to say, “Well neither have I, the road is clear.” Mark you see has a portable Road hazard that he takes with him wherever he goes. It took us five and a half hours to get home from Oxford. I knew I should have driven.
I arrived at Alan’s house at 10pm, having stopped for coffee and pasta on the way and watched the darkness take the day as I travelled East. The sunset over the fields in Lincolnshire never fails to amaze me. It is always so beautiful and I just had to stop, take a photo and show it to the World.
Up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, the pheasants giving lip to the rising Sun and the guineafowl croaking back, we set off to the swimming pool. I managed 31 lengths, not bad for a woman my age. My daughter did the 40 which I was so jealous of and also really proud of at the same time. Mandy went on about the bad habits of all the people she’s staying with. I just got confused at the names and adopted the “Yes Dear,” posture. If she did notice, she didn’t mention it, and just carried on. We got on to the subject of travel time. What is it about the competitive nature of driving from A to B. Why do we all compete against each other or even against ourselves. It’s not just about being quicker than someone else either, some compete to be able to say that their journey took so much longer than any one else’s.
We’ve all been there. A family gathering and that Uncle and Aunt turn up with the socially awkward cousin. She navigated. He doesn’t trust Twat Navs. They are built by the Chinese and spied on by the Russians. Watching your every move. Programmed to send you the wrong way so that the Russians can record your reaction. She told him not to go that way but he was sure she was wrong so he went that way, anyway. When he got lost, she was blamed and needed to learn how to read a map. Meanwhile whilst the Uncle explains that it took them five hours to make a three hour journey, the awkward cousin has disappeared and your Aunt has rolled her eyes once too often and is already on her second gin. The successful friend comes over and starts to explain that the journey would only take him two and a half hours and his super racy Ford was brilliant on the motorway. But the Uncle insists that he couldn’t have done it in any less time today because of course it was the worst traffic he has ever seen. The conversation is an English oddity, rather like the weather.
My journey was fair and peaceful. Mandy’s journeys on the other hand are thwart with mythical creatures and Earthquakes and oh so much more treacherous than any other. The conversation we were having is usually one that I leave her to have with Mark. They seem to have a rapport when it comes to attracting Driving hazards.
I did it automatically, never even crossed my mind. I picked up my keys and went, “Come on, my car.” We went swimming, came home, got sorted out and went shopping, coming home without even thinking about it. Mandy drives now, she’s not a little girl. She could have driven. I don’t have to go into a public toilet and make her sing because I can’t see her anymore.
What, you never had to do that as a child? Never made your own kids do it? You never went into a toilet when you were out and needed to hear your children because you couldn’t see them? Just me then. We were in the changing rooms at the swimming pool and Mandy, now a big girl (she’s 32) began to sing in the cubicle as soon as the door was closed, I wonder if she realised she was even doing it.
I ran to Lincoln on the Monday by myself. Straight through, then I made the mistake didn’t I. I rang Alan to tell him I was on my way home. Now Lincoln is a lovely city but unless you know the system it can be a bit daunting. It’s an unspoken rule. Not on the Twat Navs, not on any map, not spoken about in polite company. You go into Lincoln one way and you come out another. Don’t ask me why, don’t even try to hesitate at a guess. Just accept that if you are a local you will go in one end and come out the other side. It has something to do with avoiding Chizits. (Chizits are the visitors and holiday makers that go into every shop and insist on looking at the price tag and still ask “How much Chizit.”) We avoid them, we go in to Lincoln avoiding the link to the A1 as the Chizits attack, and we come out avoiding the Chizits on their way back on to the A1. Simple.
I made the fatal mistake of ringing Alan on my way out.
“How are you?” was met by the old sicky asking where I was.
“Just leaving Lincoln.”
“I don’t know.”
“You must know.”
“No, I’m on the road out of Lincoln.”
“The Iceland road, past Tesco.”
“You don’t want to turn left.” Alan began to give me directions.
The drone of driving instructions fell on deaf ears as I realised my mistake. You see Alan is a conspirator theorist just like Uncle, only he believes that Twat Navs are sent to confuse us and bring British Industry to a holt by sending delivery drivers around in circles.
I only rang to reassure him I was safe and on my way home and that I would be back in time for tea. But I never made it back, not in time for tea, anyway. I took a turning. Not the wrong turning, a different turning. My one hour and two minute journey becoming a one hour and thirty two minute journey. I went sightseeing. It’s been six years since I last went through the villages and I was curious. My return was heralded by, “What took you so long, you get lost.”
“No there was a diversion at Horncastle.” It’s always a good excuse when you have taken the wrong turn or been somewhere he would moan about. Plus you can always guarantee roadworks at Horncastle.
“Oh I see, did you go that way, you should have called I could have given you directions, you should have taken that road, did you take the road through…”
“Alan, I drive now, I’m a big girl. I used to live here remember.”
I heard myself saying the words, but in Mandy’s voice. Only yesterday had I really been that patronising that I was telling my daughter how to drive. I felt awkward. “Note to oneself” I wrote in my journal Monday night. “Don’t tell anyone how to drive.”
I came home yesterday, a three hour journey taking three hours. No Twat Nav, I know where I’m going. Listening to Alan tell me which way to go and resisting the urge to remind him that the three times he’s been to mine, he has got lost. I waved my family goodbye. Explaining to Mark that I will let him know if I get caught in traffic, (I never do) and just taking my time.
“Don’t go that way, never go that way,” says the Worm in the Labyrinth. As the girl turns and thanks him for his time, and he sends her in the opposite direction to the way she needs to go. “That way leads straight to the castle.” Well I don’t live in a castle and I never listen to worms.