The late shift

Driving teenagers and others around amounts to a second job if you live in the countryside.

 

As a parent of older children, I spend a lot of my time in the car so on Thursday night after a busy week I was gearing up to drive to Finchley Road to pick up daughter two who was on a flying visit from university. She could have got the tube, I know, but she had been ill all week and I was eager to see her. The only bus available after her lectures was due to leave around 4pm and get in at 9.30. Not so bad. No-one wanted to come with me – only son was ill [“I’m 96% congested”, he reported. He has been doing daily percentages ever since. Only son takes his health very seriously]. He was angling for a day off school; daughter three was exhausted from back to back early shifts – the joys of being a barista; my partner was prepping for a Masterchef-inspired dinner.

Ding. I got a message. The bus was delayed two and a half hours. I considered having a power nap. I told daughter two to let me know when she passed any major landmarks so I could calculate when she might get in. She’s not the best at geography. Last time she thought she was in the Blackwall tunnel when she was in fact approaching Stratford [where I was sitting, rapidly calculating how to get to south London].

So I hit the road around 10.30, planning to meet her somewhere on the Finchley Road. We had earlier arranged to meet in a Subway. My mum expressed some concern, picturing us in an underground walkway at nearing midnight. Things were going well until I hit the North Circular. Everything was stopped. Ding. Daughter two had arrived half an hour earlier than the bus driver had said. The Subway was closed. It was raining lightly. She said she would stand outside a cinema where there were lots of people. Ding. My brother pinged me to say Argentina is in economic meltdown and he is worried he will not be able to pay for basics. I was getting slightly stressed [understatement] as the traffic wasn’t moving, I had no idea when I’d get to Finchley Road and I was slightly worried about the prospect of daughter two hanging out at midnight on her own on a London road. Having never been to Finchley Road I was, as is my wont as a parent, imagining the worst. I told daughter two to get on the tube to Stratford and I’d meet her there. Hopefully.

Eventually I got out of the traffic and headed to Stratford. It was midnight and I hadn’t envisaged doing a mini-tour of London after four full-on days at work and getting up at the crack of dawn to take daughter three to the station. Living in the countryside has its drawbacks. I got to Westfield, found daughter two who was starving and she Google mapped me to the nearest 24/7 McDonald’s drive-through. It was all worth it to see her lovely face, of course. She spent much of the next day catching up on Strictly. There are no tvs at university and her chromebook is very, very old and runs too slow. She left early on Sunday. We’d been up since 6 to take daughter three to work in any event. So we spent the rest of Sunday catching up on rest. Only son is now 54% ill so things are looking up.



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