We did it, today, we did it! We went to the library!! ‘Mummy, what are we actually doing in this place?’ said Alfie, mystified. ‘This is the library, Alfie – remember we used to come here every week - for videos – before the DVD machine and catch-up TV?’ I whispered. Then, booming loud: ‘You need a nice book to take on holiday tomorrow, don’t you?’. ‘But I’ve already got my Horrid Henry Annual!’ he declared, which was true, but hell, why not try something new this year?
I’d extended the invitation to all, repeatedly, through gritted teeth - ‘Hey, isn’t it lovely we have time to go to the library!!’ - but the girls were up to their eyes finding anything but that to do. Only Alfie, who had no plans except hanging upside down all day, accepted.
The library’s Summer Reading Challenge was on to tempt us! Six completed books (one a week being the idea) earnt a smashing certificate and stickers (‘d’you get any money?’) handed out at the end of the holidays at the Presentation Ceremony. What's more, there was a free magic show - bookworms have fun too you know! - though my older two would rather eat mud than be seen dead at this…
Last year, Alfie had met the Challenge head on, choosing six baby books - 'Boo Baby Boo!', 'Splish Splash Splosh' and the like. He’d read them all by the time we got home from the library, so we were back there the next day to pocket the goodies, instead of a week later, exchanging one quality chapter book for another and guess what? forming a healthy reading habit! No, according to my lot, why would you spend lazy summer days reading Enid Blyton under the shade of a tree when you could satisfy your literary appetite by scanning cereal packets for theme park vouchers which, who knows, you might be taken to one day? Now that would be fun.
I grabbed a few thin books (I’d be doing the carrying once we left for our holiday and Alan’s bad back kicked in) and returned home to dread the next day getting four children with Nintendo withdrawal and a mild-mannered husband with freak outbursts closely associated with being with us lot, from London to Lake Garda. ‘We’ll have such an adventure children!' I exclaimed – 'let’s count all the modes of transport we're gong to use! First the car, then the shuttle to the plane, then…’
‘IT’S 3 O’CLOCK!! – SCREEN TIME!!!!’ They'd gone.
‘..then the plane, then the Italian underground…’ I trailed off. Anyway, it was time to pack, which presented a problem. The girls had been much much too busy shopping for yet more necklaces with clocks and birds and teacups hanging off them, and resting from these arduous excursions over lunch with friends, to find a single moment to unpack the dirty clothes or cheese sandwiches left in their bags from Latitude two weeks ago! I must have forgotten that crucial 45th reminder. I now had to decide whether to get stroppy and make them do the work, thus missing the plane, or do it all myself, which would make me stroppy. I’d give them a break – Lord knows they needed it – and do it myself.
But first, I yanked open the marital bedroom door to check Alan wasn't lying down, instead of doing his packing. Far from it! - Imelda Marcos himself was stuffing three pairs of identical brown trainers into our one hold bag ‘in case the other pairs get wet’(!?) ‘We are going to Italy Alan not Wales’ I said. ’Monday and Tuesday: sunny; Wednesday to Friday: cloudy and sunny’ he replied (obviously been googling the weather again). ‘Quick! Get the galoshes! ’ I said, but he wasn’t in the mood…wet socks were no laughing matter.