On Wednesday night, daughter three announced with just 24-hour notice that she was making a film on the NHS in Romford on Thursday night and would need picking up. I appealed to her sense of empathy with her parents. We were more tired than usual due to a very long Monday and only son being ill. Daughter three is, like many teenagers, not acutely attuned to her parents’ fatigue issues. She complained of injustice, having been on multiple pick-ups from distant places for daughter one. My partner refused point blank to go to Romford, even though he works nearby and knows the place fairly well. I caved overnight. It was for homework, after all, and everyone else was going [but lived in the Romford area] and, after her bullying experiences, daughter three is terrified of sticking out. If she gave me the postcode before she got to school, she could go.
I checked my phone all day. No postcode. I texted her, no reply. I texted and emailed daughter one. “I saw her in the corridor and told her no postcode no Romford,” emailed daughter one. “She looked at me in a funny way and walked away.”
I got to the secondary school for pick-up. No daughter three. I checked my phone. There was a message from about two minutes before with the postcode, but no actual house number. I rang. Airplane mode. About an hour later I received a message with a house number and the surname of the friend. I had been imagining explaining to the police that I only had a street name and the first name of the friend…
I checked AA routeplanner and jotted down the coordinates. “Mum, why are you using the old-fashioned method?” asked daughter one. “We are in the 21st century. Use Googlemaps.” I am not of the internet age and, though I use the internet every day for work and maybe because I use the internet all the time, I am not 100% confident of its abilities not to lose connection at the crucial point or use up all the battery on my phone. Also, my phone connectivity is fairly poor and often requires me to run up hills or wave it out of the window to get connection. It seems to seek out connection notspots. Daughter two entered the postcode onto Googlemaps and turned up the volume.
Only son and I got into the car. Only son wanted some mum and only son time and, for some reason, thought Romford was in a highly lit part of the world. He brought a backpack full of several Horrid Henry books to read me from the back of the car. Googlemaps told me to go on the M25 – the entirely opposite route of AA routeplanner. I decided to throw caution to the wind and follow the Googlemaps woman. Only son was reading out Horrid Henry, which made it quite hard to hear what the Googlemaps woman was saying, but we entered Romford with few problems. “We’re going to get there on time,” I said confidently. Ten minutes later as we entered Eddy Close, Googlemaps announced “You have arrived”. Except daughter three’s friend’s house was not in Eddy Close.
I rang her. Her friend had not heard of Eddy Close or any road in the surrounding area. “Do you know where the station is?” relayed daughter three. No, I do not know where the station is because I have only been to Romford twice in my entire life, both times to the same place. I drove round and round and down some very dark roads. Only son complained that he could not read Horrid Henry. The Googlemaps woman kept telling me to turn left and go back to Eddy Close as I had no idea how to turn her off. Eventually after driving into a car park from which there appeared to be no way of getting out without paying for a ticket, we arrived at daughter three’s friend’s house on the other side of Romford. Daughter three’s friend’s mother came out and I could sense that she had overheard some of my more stressed comments to daughter three. Bad mother.
I had noticed a signpost to somewhere I knew at the top of her road so I took that route home. “Look, mum, we’re really near dad’s work,” said daughter three. Hmm. He could have picked up and been home in less than an hour rather than the two hours we took. Only son announced that daughter three was grounded for three weeks. No Zoella, he said, enjoying his role as the firm parent. Daughter three didn’t speak for the rest of the journey home. I’m sticking to AA routeplanner from here on in.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.