In the Gruffalo forest


Only son is five and on his fifth birthday he had a school trip to a Gruffalo forest. Only son is a bit of a fan of the Gruffalo forest and has been several times before so he was very much looking forward to it. It came at the end of three intensive days in Wales and daughter one beginning her work experience. We got back from Wales around 7.30pm on Sunday, did washing, homework, dinner, work catch-up and all the rest. I think I got to bed around 1am then was up early to get daughter two to school and daughter one to work experience in Cambridge, somewhat cursing myself for not suggesting that she approach the local farm which has meerkats and emus on it and is a five-minute walk away.

I took her to Cambridge and she got to experience for herself the delights of the Park and Ride system. On the way home, after a 30-minute wait for the bus in the rain, a bus finally turned up. On the bus stop sign it says there are 10 minutes between buses. I would like to say that 30 minutes is a one-off, but there have been several times I have given up on the bus and walked all the way from the town centre to the M11. In any event, it is good to get an eyewitness to back me up. Ditto on the decision to create a baffling ticketing system for said Park and Ride which means that whenever you go there are at least six or seven pensioners huddled around the ticket machine trying to work out how on Earth it works.

So we weren’t back till past 7pm and my mum, who has provided sterling childcare back-up since Friday, was looking a little tired. I did the whole bedtime routine and then my partner arrived home from Spain, which somewhat woke up several small people who had been on the point of sleep. It was then time to wrap up all the birthday stuff and get ready for only son’s birthday, for which he was up at the crack of dawn.

Daughter two had to go to school with an assortment of cookery stuff, daughter one had to be driven to the railway station around half an hour away and then there was the school run for the younger two. I had signed a form saying only son could go to the Gruffalo forest. Apparently I had also agreed to be a chaperone. However, it was only son’s birthday and he loves the Gruffalo forest so I decided that I should go. These things don’t come around that often and I’d been working flat out for the last few weeks. I could check emails if there was anything urgent. I had figured that there would be no reception in the forest itself, but I thought the cafe might have Wi-fi. Unfortunately, the cafe did not feature in the trip at all.

I was down to chaperone only son and his best mate who is, if this is possible, even more enthusiastic about life than only son. It was a blustery day and high winds and rain were predicted. I had put on a woolly winter coat when I dropped daughter one off at the station, but had not had time to find a raincoat. On the up side, I was very warm. I’m not sure if it is a testament to my lax parenting powers, but the teaching assistant kept telling my charges off for over-exuberance even though I was supposed to be looking after them. I did attempt to tell them to be less noisy in their excitement about the wooden Gruffalo characters dotted around the forest, but they kept running off to play Superman or chase polar bears and, for some bizarre reason, crabs. Also, I fear I am accustomed to a higher degree of noise than many people as the volume levels in our house are not low. Generally, my partner has Catalan radio blaring in the kitchen and Depeche Mode on the computer, while daughter one is listening to Duran Duran [she is currently becoming concerned that John Taylor may be “problematic”], daughter two is writhing around the floor with only son on some sort of Ninja training programme and daughter three is listening to Zoella.

After several hours of over-excitement about the Gruffalo and birthdays [only son had a massive “5” badge on his chest throughout the trip], I left the school party to return in the minibus and, once out of the forest, pulled over to check my emails.

When I picked up only son shortly afterwards from school he appeared to have re-energised on the minibus trip and was ready for an evening of bumper birthday activities. Is it only Wednesday?

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Picture credit: Wikipedia.

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