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Disaster! The garage said my car was ‘un-roadworthy’ and the insurance company said it was my fault. Well, last Thursday, it took three heavies to separate it from the tailgate of a white van parked over a double yellow line. Yes, m’lud, I saw the van and drove past with due care and attention, but its lowered tailgate at the back I saw not – it was completely below my line of vision. I’d pulled in to let cars coming the other way pass and, like Iron Man goes, Kerraaash! Kerbaang!! Ker-ruunch!!! went my car. People came out of the carpet shop on the corner and stood about shaking their heads sympathetically and someone from the Kebab shop opposite offered to be a witness for me. All to no avail – if you drive into a parked vehicle, it’s your fault, period.
I was on the way to my daughter’s – it was half term and she had to go to a work do and I had to be there for the kids. I’d set off super-early as ever so arrived only five minutes late in spite of the prang. I didn’t know then that I shouldn’t have driven the car and could’ve been hauled over by the police. But, oh god, yonks ago granddaughter 3 had planned a sleepover that weekend and she had asked me to drive over to pick her up on the Saturday morning, drive her back to hers for trick or treat with the family in the evening, then drive her back to mine to watch X Factor and sleep. On Sunday am we were going to Madame Tussaud’s on the tube and on Sunday evening I had to drive her home again. As I left her house on Thursday evening, her dad said he was looking forward to the weekend because he didn’t have to ferry one or other of the four children around Essex to and from parties, sleepovers and the like. Nice one, gran.
I rang my daughter. ‘Oh god, what about next Tuesday?’ she said. Blimey, she had an important event in London and I was meant to be picking up granddaughter 3 and grandson from school. The garage said they wouldn’t know until Tuesday morning what time the courtesy car would arrive – we needed a cunning back-up plan. ‘OK, mum, maybe my partner can leave work early to pick them up (pause) but he’s in Colchester on Tuesday. Or my neighbour might be able to do it (pause) but she’s got to pick her son up from secondary. Or I can ask only son’s best-friend-at-school’s dad to pick them up and take them to his house and you can pick them up from there later (pause) but they’re on holiday abroad at the moment.’ ‘And what about granddaughter 3’s sleepover?’ I asked. ‘Don’t worry, mum,’ she said, breezily, ‘granddaughter 1 might have to be picked up from a friend’s in Walthamstow on Saturday morning so one of us could drop granddaughter 3 at yours on the way.’ She’s ace at this kind of logistical manoevering, but I don’t think her partner knew about that one.
The good news is that granddaughter 3 is a huge fan of public transport so my car being un-roadworthy was the opportunity of a lifetime to her. Her mum dropped her at my house on Saturday morning and we got the bus to the shops. Then a bus back to my house and a bit later the bus back to the tube station to travel to Epping where one of her parents would pick us up to drive us back to theirs for trick or treating.
At Epping Station I rang her mum. ‘She’s in the bathroom,’ said granddaughter 1, ‘I’ll tell her to come’. Fog was swirling around and an old double decker drew up outside the station. Blow me, it looked like the one I used to go to school on in the 1950s. On All Hallows Eve, had we, like Dr Who, stepped off the tube and into the dim and distant past? I rang my daughter. ‘She’s still in the bathroom,’ said granddaughter 1, very much in the present. ‘But dad’s coming now.’ ‘Noo’, I said, ‘no need, there’s a
bus right here. Her dad took the phone, ‘I’m coming now,’ he said. NOooo,’ I said, ‘we’re on the bus’. Her mum came to the phone: ‘Sorry, I’m on my way.’ ‘NOOooo,’ I said, ‘We’re on the bus.’ ‘Ok, I’ll meet the bus this end.’ She rang off. Wooo wooooo, the bus was filling up with white-faced ghosts, warty witches and bloody-fanged vampires. Yiiikes! What would Scooby do? Fifteen minutes later the bus was still outside the station. I rang my daughter. ‘She’s gone to the bus stop,’ said her partner. ‘I’ll ring her,’ I said. ‘Her phone’s here on the table,’ he replied. At last the bus set off spluttering up the hill – would it make it? I was thinking. But, yes, it did and soon we were wandering from door to door looking even weirder than that Addams Family.
To summarise: lunch at mine – tick, trick or treating at theirs – tick, sleepover at mine – tick, Madame Tussauds – tick, back to theirs – tick, school run sorted – tick. And Tuesday morning dawned with the back-up plan in place with grandson’s BFF’s dad picking up him and granddaughter 3, taking them home to his and me picking them up from there. I was expecting a huge truck with a grabby thing on top to turn up to lift my car from the road and carry it away, but quite a small man arrived who’d driven over in the courtesy car. He said he was going to drive my car all the way back to Romford to be fixed. ‘But they told me at the garage it was un-roadworthy,’ I said, ‘and that I’d be arrested if I drove it.’ He shrugged, ‘No,’ he said, ‘it’s perfectly ok to drive.’ So he got in and off he went.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.