Saturday nights driving around



I can see the future and it involves spending most of Friday and Saturday night driving round Essex and north London. Now, I find driving around quite relaxing. It gives me child-free time to think about life. This is not always a good thing. However, the problem comes when you don’t exactly know when you will be driving around, meaning you can’t plan anything.

Take Saturday. Daughter one was going to a birthday thing at a restaurant in London. We dropped her at a tube station at around 4.30pm and I told her to text when she met her friend and then when she got to the restaurant and then when she left so I would be able to leave and pick her up. So far so good.

Except…my mobile phone has very patchy reception in our house due, apparently, to whatever our house is made of. This seems to affect quite a bit of the surrounding neighbourhood so perhaps the whole area is made out of this material, including the school, or perhaps I made a mistake in opting for the phone and provider I have. “When you bought your phone was your main criteria cheapness, mum?” asked daughter two who knows her mother only too well. It was indeed.

Anyway, I got one message from daughter one saying she had met her friend then there was an information blackout. I soon realised my phone had gone dead. I wandered round the house trying to send a message to daughter one – where are you? The trouble is you can’t immediately tell if the message has been sent. I went outside. It was raining. I held my phone aloft. Nothing. I asked daughter two and my partner to send daughter one a message as they have different providers. Suddenly I got a bar up in a corner of daughter three and only son’s bedroom. Five messages came from daughter one. “I’m here. Why is daughter two sending me messages? Tell her to stop. I have no credit.”

Daughter three, who got the Nigella book for Christmas, was preparing dinner for her and her brother. Only son was sous chef. Daughter two was working on her own veggie extravaganza. My partner spends his whole life dreaming of food so he was in the kitchen too. I was waiting till after I picked up daughter one to have dinner. Hours passed. No word from daughter one. I kept checking the phone. I’d topped up her credit despite ongoing problems with the internet which keeps breaking down, causing Gmail to go into total collapse. I told daughter one to copy my partner into every message. Nada. I rang her phone, although I knew that it was highly likely to be on airplane mode. Nothing. “Remember, if you are ever in an emergency ring the landline first then email,” I broadcast to the general assembly of children. I made myself a pizza. Just as I put it in the oven, my partner received a message. “I’m in Stratford. Just got connection.”

I had agreed to pick daughter one up in Leytonstone, just two stops on. “Tell her to stay on the tube,” said my partner. I rang daughter one. She was already in Leystonstone, off the tube and walking to her friend’s house. “Just coming,” I said. Daughter three volunteered to come to keep me company so we had a long session of Little Mix. Eventually we located daughter one and got home around 11pm to a slightly singed pizza.

Daughter two informed me that she would never go out in London so I didn’t need to worry about her, but she had been invited on holiday to Dorset with her friend. “She said that if I didn’t come she would cry with boredom,” she stated. “I have to go.” As long as I don’t have to drive her there.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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