This half-term my sister and I planned another little Youth Hostel trip, dosing our children up on fresh air and natural beauty whether they liked it or not. This time our destination was Beer in Dorset. We solemnly agreed a suicidal set-off time of 8.30am, which meant that at 6am, with regret, I had to swish open the curtains to let daylight do its work on a sleeping Alan, and get packing.
It is difficult to land a large suitcase precisely onto the unoccupied half of the marital bed, so let’s just say there were a few cross words...but then he had claimed he needed to stay at home to focus on work, so I was doing him a favour really. Only ‘if time allowed’(shaking his head doubtfully) would he be able to devote any time at all to maintaining his handicap on the golf course, though I had overheard the surreptious phone calls: 'Tee off at 9?...nice little pub does steak pie...'
8.31am and my sister pulled up with her three, smiling and sensibly packed. She courteously agreed to lead, since my route planning had been stalled by rolling muddy football boots up in the map book, and of course satnav beyond capabilities. My family were still indoors, the girls downloading music for the journey in their pyjamas, Alfie using the Force to get his shoes on because the alternative was taking his thumb out of his mouth. Bonnie was in the garden with teddies, quilt and pillows, causing rounds of 'that's not fair, I want to take my teddies, quilt and pillow too!' from everyone else. I was screaming randomly.
Finally we were off! A kick in the back from time to time kept me focussed, and their were sundry duties such as dividing chewing gum into four tinsy pieces with hands on the wheel, eating everyone's crusts as no bin bag, usual stuff. On the whole though, the in-car DVD of which I so disapprove but allowed as an experiment only, meant we reached Devon with the shocking sensation of not actually hating each others guts, and wheeled down the beautiful lanes, wild flowers and hedgerows galore feeling quite full of the joys! I threw open the windows, drawing in breath ‘Aah! Lovely fresh air!’ The children fell about gasping ‘STINK!’ at the cows doing what comes naturally. 'That's life!' I trilled, but Maddy, gagging into a hankie, reminded me that whilst inviting in the sounds of the chirruping birds I was actually increasing air resistance, and thus fuel consumption, so I was only allowed to have my window open.
We pressed on to Beer and discovered that the Youth Hostel was set at the top of a number of steep hair-pin bends; the idyllic hillside views came at a price. I cursed our stupid big people carrier, but that didn't change the facts: I had to try, so I steamed up the track, heart thunping, and took the first bend like a hero, laughably misjudged it, and was stuck straight away, wheel spinning, engine smoking. The children all leapt out so I could fall over the hill edge alone. I then performed one of my special thirty-point turns on slippery muddy inclines with a fatal drop right there, which I've been practising for a moment like this, and guess what - I did it!! 'Don't tell Daddy about the smoke, will you?' I said to the children, when they'd stopped laughing.