Brrrrr – 2013 365 Challenge Day #17

It's very cold here today but also very beautiful

It’s very cold here today but also very beautiful

We sent the kids off to nursery this afternoon. The youngest is teething, and the eldest is going through a period of nightmares, which means sleep is a rare commodity. With my husband looking for work it’s tough having clingy/grumpy/tantrumy kids in the house, so it seemed fairer to all of them to have them go play with their friends for the afternoon. I spent my bonus four hours sending out just one query letter (have I mentioned how long a process it is?) Hopefully it’ll be worth it one day.

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when I found out that someone wrote about my 2013 365 challenge on their blog. One Wild Word mentioned my challenge in relation to a post on a daily writing routine. I left a comment on the post about the writing routine that I am starting to develop and thought I’d repeat it here.

My writing routine has settled into starting the post as soon as the children are in bed, while cooking dinner for me and my husband. I then polish the writing during the evening (with my fingers in my ears if what’s on the tele is more interesting!). If I get it finished by bedtime I schedule it for the next morning (I work a day behind so I always have a slight buffer in case I don’t finish it). If I’ve had to go up to the kids two or three times during the evening I have the next morning to finish my post by my self-imposed 10am deadline. It’s kind of working so far, although some days my mind is blank after 10 hours of tantrums and I don’t really know what I’ve actually written! This is the first time I’ve ever written every day and it’s a very new experience. I think I actually prefer writing just on nursery days (2 days a week) but now I have committed to the challenge I must continue. There’s nothing like announcing something on the web to force you to get on with it…

Blyth Services in the snow. Spot the Costa sign. Photo taken on 06/12/2010 by Ian Sykes

Blyth Services in the snow. Spot the Costa sign.
Photo taken on 06/12/2010 by Ian Sykes

So, now you know! (You also now know that when I say things like “it’s been really cold today” that’s actually the day before because of my built-in buffer. As many of my readers are in the USA the time zones are all mashed anyway.)

Anyway on to today’s post. I have been Google-Mapping today to work out Claire’s journey to Berwick. Have found this useful site to help me decide which Services she might stop at. As one blog I follow puts it Have Internet, Will Travel(I also discovered that a large coffee at Starbucks is a Grande but at Costa it’s a Massimo. The things you learn doing online research!)


Claire looked at the white shape on the road and shivered. There had been a heavy frost overnight and the Skoda looked like an igloo recently teleported from the North Pole.

“Great. Just what today needed.”

She pulled her jacket tighter and scurried back to her parents’ house to get some warm water. This was beyond what could be battled with de-icer.

The house was dark and silent as she let herself in through the kitchen door. All goodbyes, such as they were, had been said the night before as Claire had gone up to bed. Her mother had managed a muttered “Good luck” and her father had told her half-heartedly to call. Not once in the two days she had spent at home had either of them asked what her assignment was. Of course she hadn’t wanted to tell them so that was fine by her.

At last Claire was inside the car staring out through the only part of the windscreen that hadn’t immediately refrozen. My Audi would have told me how cold it actually is out there, warned me to drive carefully and heated my seat for me. The Skoda seats were freezing and she couldn’t hold the steering wheel with her bare hands. Please start, Claire prayed as she yanked out the choke and turned the key. She raised her eyebrows as the Skoda fired up immediately.

I guess being designed for Eastern Europe must have some advantages. Who knew?

The sat nav was already programmed to take her to Berwick-Upon-Tweed so Claire stuck it to the windscreen and tried not to dwell on the five-hour journey time. The current estimated time of arrival was 11am but Claire knew it was going to be nearer twelve hours on the road by the time she had coaxed the car three hundred miles north.

Claire had been driving for nearly three hours when her gurgling tummy prompted her to take a break. The sat nav said she had travelled only a third of the distance to Berwick. Despite most of the driving being on the dual carriage way or motorway Claire was exhausted. Driving the Skoda was much more involved than driving the Audi. Remembering to turn on the fan when the engine got hot; pushing the choke back in when the car coughed and spluttered; trying to judge the gaps in traffic with wing-mirrors that moved out of position when the car went over fifty miles per hour; overtaking with zero acceleration. Claire sighed and began looking out for Services signs.

A sleek black BMW pulled up behind her in the outside lane and immediately began flashing his lights. Claire looked down at the speedometer: she was doing 72 miles an hour.

“I’m doing the speed limit you arsehole. Can’t you see I’m overtaking?” She looked left at the articulated lorry doing 56 in the inside lane. As she pulled ahead of the lorry it also flashed its lights and Claire wondered what he had to be grumpy about. Then she realised he was telling her it was okay to pull in. Her cheeks flushed hot as she swung her car in front of the lorry and raised a hand in thanks.

At last she saw a sign for the Services and gratefully took the exit. “Robin Hood Airport? I want to go there!” Claire smiled for the first time that day as she headed for the roundabout. She was tempted to drive into Bawtry and have a proper stop but she wanted to get nearer to her final destination before she relaxed. She followed the signs for the Services instead and heaved a huge sigh as a Costa billboard filled her vision.

“Coffee, hurrah.”

Claire sat at wobbly metal table, surrounded by harassed families and focussed business men. She looked at her phone and was shocked to see it was only ten o’clock. Hey, maybe I will be in Berwick by lunchtime.

She gazed out the window, her massimo skinny latte clasped between her hands for warmth. It wasn’t quite Starbucks, and there were more calories in a Costa, but after three hours of driving it was extremely welcome. A strange feeling settled over her. Claire tried to analyse it. It was a soft feeling, the kind associated with snuggly duvets and the Sunday papers in bed. She felt… relaxed.

“Oh my goodness, Claire? Is that you? What are you doing in this hell hole?”

Claire didn’t register the voice immediately. There was no reason for anyone to know her here. The hail was accompanied by the tip-tapping of heels across the polished floor. The voice spoke again, nearer this time.

“It is Claire, isn’t it?”

Claire turned and saw a wave of blonde hair surrounding immaculate red lips and an insincere smile. Her stomach plummeted as the snuggly feeling evaporated.

“Linda. How lovely to see you. Apologies, I was miles away.”

The woman adjusted the strap of her handbag and took a seat opposite Claire without asking. Stifling a sigh Claire hitched a smile on her face and tried to remember all the pertinent facts about the woman sat beaming in front of her. She was marketing director for an electronics company but the name of the business eluded Claire. I’ve never forgotten details like that before. What’s happening to me?

“So, what brings you this side of the country? I thought your stomping ground was Cheshire.” Linda looked Claire up and down, taking in her jeans and hiking jacket. “Holiday?” The sneer was palpable.

“In a manner of speaking.” Claire had no intention of giving anything away to this woman. It would be all over Twitter before her coffee got cold. Claire’s tone of voice would have silenced lesser beings but Linda was made of more impenetrable stuff.

“How… novel.”

Claire ground her teeth and tried to think of a way to get rid of the woman without being rude. Thankfully Fate intervened in the guise of Linda’s ringing phone. Signalling her apology, the woman got up from the table and trotted to the door to get a better signal.

I hadn’t factored in meeting people I know. I haven’t really thought this through at all. Even with a new Twitter Handle, Facebook page and blog, people are going to find me. This is so not cool. Carl I am going to make you wish your sorry arse never crossed my path.


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