Our day featured too much weather and whining.
We took the children to see Thomas the Tank Engine at our local steam railway this morning. He doesn’t run very often (he’s actually going in for an overhaul in May and will be out of action for a year or more), and he was meant to be running today, as it’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK.
Only no one told them.
We checked the website diligently, because disappointing two and four year old children is a very bad idea. And still, when we got there, Thomas was clearly just outside his shed and not hooked up to carriages. You know that sinking feeling you get as a parent when it’s all about to go pear-shaped?
Thankfully the kids took it well as we were still able to ride the steam train to the next stop, a large park near a lake. The plan was to visit the park, have lunch in the coffee shop, and catch the train back two hours later. Only the kids were in that sort of mood today: You know the one. A thousand questions a minute, usually the same question repeated over and over and over and over. Even the kindly guard got a bit wild-eyed after ten minutes of trying to answer the barrage.
Then the whining started.
When we got to the station the snow was hurling down: tiny, freezing specks of misery. It’s a ten minute walk to the park and littlest Martin started crying before we left the platform.
If I’d been engaged as a parent this morning, instead of desperately writing my post after devoting yesterday to Dragon Wraiths, I would have thought to take their scooters. I didn’t. So we had the classic situation of one child wanting to do one thing and the other vociferously advocating another. One parent wanting the screaming to stop and the other one ready to hurl the kids under the next train.
The problem with the steam train is it only runs three times a day. We had a choice of catching the return leg of the one we’d just vacated – a wait of half an hour – or persisting with the park plan and risking the chance of screaming children for two and a half hours. We opted for the former as the lesser of two evils, with a promised trip to a different park on the way home. A cup of tea and a biscuit later and we were all a bit calmer.
But boy they were in whinge mode.
Why is whinging directly proportional to the amount you’ve paid to do something? It cost us twenty-five quid to ride on the train for half an hour and have a cup of tea with UHT milk. We let them play in the little park at the station for a while, but it was so cold. Then little man refused to have his nappy done and even my enforced calm was starting to fray. Hubbie was holding on through gritted teeth and playing in the park to pass the time.
Before we knew it, we were in the car heading home (the promised trip to the big park cancelled due to bad behaviour) and it was only midday. Now I don’t mind spending money on a trip out with the kids but it needs to eat up more than two hours of time!
Anyway, sorry for the rant. There were good bits too. The kids loved bouncing on the old sprung seats of the train carriages, chatting to the friendly guard and playing in the tiny park at the railway station. There were given a pound each to spend in the shop (which only had one thing for sale for that price) and they came home with some wall stickers. So that used up an hour of time while I cooked lunch. I think next time I’ll do a bit more planning. Or check the forecast.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire pushed the pedal to the floor, remembering the expression on Fiona’s face when Josh broke the news of their planned Cambridge trip. Stella the Skoda groaned in protest and the needle swung round to 75mph. Damn you, car, I need speed. She looked at the piles of snow spilling onto the inside lane of the motorway and eased her foot back. Alright, car, you win. Just because the stupid cow looked at me like I’m a marriage wrecker, that doesn’t mean I need to wreck you too. Poor Stella.
The world outside the window spread in unrelenting grey. Sky merged into snow-covered fields until Claire felt like someone had hit select-all-erase on the world. The only splashes of colour came from cars speeding past her in the outside lane, and they were mostly silver.
The lanes and the grey and the moving cars began to blur together. Claire blinked several times and wondered who had filled her eyelids with grit. Might be time for coffee. It had taken over an hour to drive the first dozen miles from the youth hostel to Ashbourne. Although the roads had been clearer from there to Derby and on to Nottingham, it was only when she reached the M1 that she felt able to breathe. Glancing at the dashboard clock Claire was shocked to see it was past midday. Scrap that. I haven’t got time to stop. School finishes at three. If I’m late to pick up Sky, my sister is going to disown me. Or worse.
She tried to calculate how much further there was to drive and wished she’d left earlier. Funny how six hours seemed plenty of time to do a three-hour journey. Damn this damn snow to hell and back. If I hadn’t promised Ruth, I’d be driving to the airport and boarding a flight to the Maldives. Screw Carl and his stupid vendetta.
Inhaling deeply, Claire tried to untwist the ball of panic growing in her gut. Her eyes blurred and, as she blinked them back into focus, she saw the red lights of a lorry braking ahead. Crap. Don’t tell me there’s been an accident at Catthorpe. That’s all I bloody need.
The traffic slowed and gently ground to a halt. At least I don’t have to worry about over-heating. If this heap of junk starts steaming in sub-zero temperatures it deserves everything it gets. She patted the dash quickly. Sorry car; didn’t mean it. Don’t fail me now, I beg you.
Claire looked at the endless line of red lights and wondered if it was time to call her sister. Or at least Mum. Maybe Kim’s home. Sky would be thrilled if Kim picked her up from school, especially if her hair’s still tomato-red. As she pulled her phone towards her and readied a text message the traffic began to move. Like a queue of women waiting for the loo at a festival, the lines of cars fed slowly forwards. At last Claire was on the A14 and the final stretch home.
Please, no more accidents. I just need to be outside the school gates at 3pm. She raised her eyes to the god of motoring and hoped he was listening. That’s all I ask. I’ll give up Starbucks. Anything. Just make sure I’m not late.
A single ray of sunlight broke through the clouds ahead and bathed the scene in a warm glow. Claire felt her heart jolt, as if she had indeed received a message from the Gods.
Okay, I’ll take it. But, can I just, you know, cut down on my Starbucks? Rather than a complete ban. That’d be marvellous. Thanks.