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The world seemed to be conspiring against us when we set off for Wales on Friday morning. Only son was recovering from chicken pox and was not sleeping well. This meant I was awake at 6.30am on Friday when I heard the distinct sound of a rat or some rather large beastie in the gap between the upstairs floor and the downstairs ceiling. Daughter one was also feeling sick and I was dosed up with some paracetamol for an impending cold. Things were not looking good. As we loaded the car and shut the house door, I was bracing myself for the fact that the rat could have gnawed through the entire gamut of electricity cables in our house before we got back. The Wales trip was a work thing, but I was trying to combine work with a bit of family time, it being half term and all. Not for the first time did it seem that just getting to the end of a day was an achievement all in itself.
My mum had drawn the short straw and was coming with us on what I had ostensibly promised to be a fun trip with ice cream and bookshops. My partner had gone to Spain as the Wales thing always clashes with an important family event. Things began well. My mum is very organised and had brought several maps. I tend to go on instinct rather than actual directions. Nevertheless, I had looked up the place we were staying at online and written down directions from the M50. Unfortunately, I had written them down as if we were entering from the North rather than the South. I knew instinct would get me as far as Cheltenham, though, so the first part of the journey went okay. We decided to buy lunch in the same Tesco Express we went to the year before. Unfortunately, though, we had no idea where this was. After several moans from the back, I noticed it was around 3pm. Luckily we located a Tesco in Cheltenham. I had £10 in Clubcard vouchers so the meal was a bit of a bargain. We sat and ate sandwiches in the picturesque setting of the Tesco car park.
About five hours after setting off we arrived. The night didn’t go too well. Daughters one and two were in with me as was only son. Daughters one and two stayed up late. Only son wriggled all night and kept waking up shouting odd words like ‘teddy bear’. Despite feeling slightly more tired than usual, I managed to take daughter one with me to a couple of the events I had organised the next day and she appeared to be interested in them. One was on women at work. Women needed to be more confident, we were told. We need to learn how to play the game, be more political, etc, etc. I wasn’t confident at that precise moment whether I could get through the day and I have never been very good at playing games which I don’t really believe in. This is probably why I am not CEO of a major company.
We bought some ice creams for everyone and went in search of pizzas. This involved a rather long-winded trip round Hereford’s one-way system. Daughter one found the address of Pizza Express on her phone and by around 10pm we managed to get somewhere near it. We had pizza watching the last bit of Britain’s Got More Talent, which was interesting as we had to guess what had happened before. No-one went to bed till around 1am. Certain people – they know who they are – were playing races under the bed. Only son, who had perked up considerably, was the winner every time, even when he gave his sisters a two-minute head start.
The journey home was slightly tense. People kept needing the toilet. There were no toilets in sight. We found a small village in the middle of nowhere and followed a narrow road which promised a ‘community hall’. No hall appeared. We found a bench, however. Only son ran round and round the bench doing his impression of an airplane. Daughter three sat beside me. Daughter two then stomped off in umbrage due to the lack of a toilet. “I hate you,” she said, with a look that suggested the lack of a toilet was all some evil plan I had hatched to torture her because she won’t wee in a bush. Minutes later we found a deserted pub and she reluctantly apologised then asked every 20 minutes when we would get home. When we did arrive, the house was still intact with the electricity functioning. The rat has gone silent – for now.