Sunday, 27 September 2015

Ready, steady, go (somewhere)

My children came home for the weekend, which was lovely.  When he’s around, Rob is always keen to drive the car he shares with his sister.  He feels it’s important to keep everything he learnt ‘fresh’ and not lose confidence.  Between you and me, his sister has overtaken (excuse the pun) Robbie in the confidence stakes.  I suppose that’s what happens when you have had one child coming home intermittently and the other has been at home all the time and whizzing from A to B on a daily basis.  However, whilst Rob hasn't quite got the edge on Eleanor, he is one-hundred-per-cent hot on remembering his theory, whereas Eleanor is vague about the Highways Department’s need to paint “pretty” zig-zags on a road.
            Yesterday Rob had an eye test appointment.  Eleanor said she’d keep her brother company.  I said I’d meet both kids afterwards and treat them to brunch in Sidcup (hello again, Sidcup).
            ‘Can you remember the way?’ I asked Rob.
            ‘Um, not sure. I’ll get Eleanor to direct me.’
            ‘No, don’t do that,’ I said quickly.  Recent memories of my daughter relaying her own description of roads rather than road names had me experiencing a rush of anxiety.  ‘Stick to using your sat-nav.’ Well you can’t say I didn’t warn him.  So after the eye test, son and daughter jumped in their little car and off they set.
            ‘Which way to Sidcup?’ asked Rob edging out of the carpark.
            ‘Drive towards the funny ramp thing.’
            ‘Funny ramp–?’
            ‘Yes, there.  Look…there.  There.  THERE!’
            ‘You mean turn left?’
            The direction came too late and my son kerbed the car.  ‘Now look what you made me do.’
            ‘You were driving too close to the pavement.’
            ‘Because you instructed me too late!’
            ‘You drive close to all the pavements.’  Getting the two kids in the car together is always potentially likely to end in a row.  ‘You still drive like a learner,’ Eleanor complained, as Rob brought the car to a jerky standstill at a roundabout.
            ‘I most certainly do not,’ Rob huffed.
            ‘Your last bit of braking almost gave me whiplash.’
            ‘You do exaggerate.  And what have you been doing to this car while I’ve been away?  It’s not running properly.’
            ‘The car is fine.  The problem is you over-revving it,’ Eleanor sniffed as her brother came off the clutch and, with engine whining, bunny-hopped into fast-moving traffic.
            A woman waiting at the exit ahead observed a novice lurching forward and took the opportunity of pulling out on him.  Emergency braking was immediately applied.  Annoyed, my son took to the horn.  I’d like to point out their car is a Citroen C1.  It’s a tiddly vehicle with a feeble hooter.  So when my son gave a couple of angry blasts, what he actually got was a Noddy-like peep peep.
            The woman immediately buzzed the window down of her giant 4x4, stuck a middle finger up and, with her other hand, leant on the centre of her steering wheel.  A noise issued forth not dissimilar to a ship’s foghorn.
            ‘Flamin’ cheek!’ Rob hissed.
            ‘She’s totally out of order,’ Eleanor agreed.
            ‘Take this!’ Rob growled leaning continuously on the Citroen’s horn.  Peeeeeeeeeeep.
            The woman responded by once again waving her middle finger about.  Infuriated, Eleanor decided to go one better.  She buzzed the passenger window down and stuck all her fingers out.  The woman gave Eleanor a puzzled look and roared off in a cloud of exhaust.  Rob attempted to zoom after her but got waylaid by mirror-signal-manoeuvre and clutch control.  By the time he’d reached second gear I suspect the offending female motorist was a good mile away.  Which reminds me.
            Sitting on the side of the highway waiting to catch speeding drivers, a State Police Officer sees a car puttering along at twenty-two miles per hour.  He thinks to himself, ‘This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder!’ So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over.  Approaching the car, he sees it contains five young teenagers.  The driver, who had recently passed her driving test, was confused.
            ‘What’s the problem, officer?  I was driving at the exact speed limit.’
            The police officer sighed and explained that 22 was the route number, not the speed limit.  Embarrassed, the young driver grinned and thanked the police officer for pointing out her error.
            ‘Before I let you go, ma’am, I have to ask…is everyone in this car okay?  Everybody seems a bit shaken up and nobody has said a word.
            ‘Oh they’ll be all right in a minute, officer,’ said the young driver.  ‘We just got off Route 119…’


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Get Lost!

My daughter, a newly qualified driver, is absolutely brilliant at three point turns, clutch control, parking, you name it.  The only thing she’s not so good at is finding her way around.  Unfortunately this is essential if you want to drive from A to B.  Eleanor has a sat-nav but has yet to actually use it.  As a result she pre-plans her route and relies heavily on road signs.  Earlier this week she had to drive to Sidcup, not a million miles away from our home.
            ‘So, Mum.  Remind me again where Station Road is.’
            ‘Okay, you know the High Street?’
            ‘So travelling towards Eltham, you turn right at the traffic lights by the old police station.’
            ‘Got it.’
            Nice and clear on both sides.  And off she went.  Twenty minutes later she phoned me.
            ‘I’m stuck in this ridiculous traffic jam.  I don’t know where all these cars have come from!’
            ‘It’s called
rush hour,’ I pointed out.
            ‘I’m going to be late for my appointment.  What shall I do?’
            ‘Cut through the back doubles.’
            ‘You remember the short cuts I used when driving you to College?’
            ‘Oh right.  Can you direct me?’
            ‘Sure.  Where are you?’
            ‘Yes, I
know that, darling.  I meant what street
are you in?’
            ‘Oh, I see.  Um…I dunno!’
            Not a great start.  ‘Can you describe the road to me?’
            ‘Yes.  It’s the one with houses down both sides.’
            It’s at times like this my daughter reminds me of my younger self.  ‘That’s…very descriptive.  Can you see a road name?’
            ‘Erm…no…but it’s the road where the three-legged dog lives.’
            ‘Ah…right…you’re on Park Road.  Now look on your right for Downs Avenue.’
            ‘Is that by the yellow bollard?’
            ‘Oh dear.  I’ve just driven past it
            ‘Can you make a U-turn
            ‘I’ll try.  One moment.’
            Suffice to say, my daughter did eventually arrive at her destination.  Listening to a re-hash of the journey, it’s a good thing she wasn’t trying to direct anybody else.  Otherwise it would have gone something like this…
            “Turn left into the road with houses down both sides.  Turn right where the three-legged dog lives.  At the bottom cut across the junction where, like, everybody looks like they’re going to hit you.  Keep going until you get to the traffic lights and then, like, get into the lane which goes to that pub on the corner which looks, like, really dodgy.  Follow the signs to Sidcup and avoid that
tragic road with the stupid mini-roundabout where everybody drives, like, straight over it and you have to swerve at the last minute.  Arrive at destination in a road which is
, like, by loads and loads of traffic lights and has some, like, trees in it.”
            So would you know where you’re going?  Me neither.  Which reminds me.  Someone bought Bonnie’s Tyler’s car off eBay.  It’s awful.  Every now and then it falls apart and the sat-n
av keeps saying, ‘Turn around Bright Eyes…’

Sunday, 13 September 2015


Anyone who has a pet will tell you their fur ball is a member of the family.  Indeed, I have some friends who insist they love their pets as much as their children.  And for those who have teenagers prone to hormonal meltdowns, a pet is wonderful at listening and giving an understanding woof or meow.
            Parents fight many battles for their children throughout life.  The crèche bully.  The nursery bully.  The school bully.  The secondary school bullies (note the plural).  How many mums can say they’ve taken on the bully’s parents?  I know I have.  There has been more than one occasion where I’ve stormed into a school playground, skidded to a halt before the offending child’s mother, pawed the ground and, with nostrils flaring, wanted to head-butt both offending child and obnoxious parent over the school fence.
            Yesterday morning I found myself back in the school playground.  Well, figuratively speaking.  In fact it was our rear garden.  And instead of protecting my son or daughter, I was defending the cat.  Oh yes, bizarre but true.
            Dolly, our black-and-white queen, was surveying her kingdom from the top of our six foot high fence.  She never leaves the garden due to being something of a nervous wreck.  This anxious disposition is a result of a cat fight two years ago which landed her at the vet’s and me with an overdraft.  Afterwards, I vowed she would never go out again.  Bit by bit I’ve relented, and Dolly now goes in the garden under watchful supervision.  She loves to hide behind the shed, charge out at unsuspecting birds, chase butterflies and wreck spider webs.  Afterwards she’ll settle down in a sun puddle and roll ecstatically from side to side.  All very nice.  Until yesterday.
            ‘Hellooo!’ said a huge tabby tom as it sprang onto the garden gate.
            Dolly’s eyes became round saucers.  Cats are very territorial and this visitor was most definitely trespassing.  ‘You’re cute!’ said Tabby Tom.
            ‘Get lost,’ Dolly growled.
            ‘Fancy making out?’ asked Tabby Tom.
            ‘Can’t,’ Dolly stuck her nose in the air.  ‘My mum had me sorted.’
            ‘Mine didn’t,’ Tabby Tom replied slyly.
            There is something about unwanted boyfriends that will have any mother rushing to their daughter’s defence.  And this was no different.  I charged into the garden emitting a war cry and flapping a tea towel.  Tabby Tom regarded me with cool disdain, but Dolly went to pieces and fell off the fence.
            ‘Now look what you’ve done!’ I rounded on Tabby Tom.
            ‘It’s not my fault you’re a human lunatic.’
            ‘CLEAR OFF!’ I yelled.
            Tabby Tom regarded me coolly before casually dropping over the gate, cheekily flicking up two back paws as he went.  I turned, wild eyed, to see if Dolly had returned.  She hadn’t.  Oh no.
            I wrenched open the back gate just in time to see Tabby Tom turning a corner.  ‘Dolly?’ I called.  Where was she?  There, hiding in a hedgerow not fifty yards ahead was a black-and-white cat.  ‘Dolly!’  The black-and-white looked startled and instantly made after Tabby Tom.  In my head I was back in that school playground, children dancing about chanting, ‘Fight! Fight!’  I legged it after the black-and-white cat.  Rounding the corner, I skidded to a halt.  There was the black-and-white.  I stared at it stupidly.
            ‘You’re not Dolly!’
            ‘I never said I was!’
            Tabby Tom strolled over and gave me a look of dislike.  ‘We meet again.  This,’ he said to the black-and-white, ‘is a human lunatic.’
            A tiny grey strolled out of some undergrowth and immediately fluffed up like a porcupine.  ‘This is my zone, aliens.  Retreat now before I make weird noises and go totally doolally.’  The grey looked up at me.  ‘You too.’
            I turned around.  Some cats you just don’t argue with.  Returning to my garden I found Dolly back on the fence.  She looked absolutely livid.
            ‘I’m so annoyed with you,’ she hissed.  ‘Fancy embarrassing me like that!’
            ‘Fighting my battles.  Cramping my style.’
            ‘Such gratitude.  Get in the house.  Now!’
            ‘I totally agree with Rob and Eleanor.  You always have been, and always will be, a very embarrassing parent.’
            Indeed.  And possibly slightly unhinged taking part in Doctor Dolittle-like conversations.  But then again, that’s what parenting does to you – whether it’s kids, dogs or cats.  Which reminds me.
            It was Sunday morning.  A sad old lady was sitting alone, except for her cat.  Suddenly there was a flash of light and the sad old lady’s fairy godmother appeared.  ‘Don’t be afraid!  You are sad and all alone, so I’ve come to cheer you up and grant you three wishes!’
            The sad old lady was delighted.  ‘Okay!  First, I’d like to be very wealthy.’
            Pfff!  Suddenly the room was full of bank notes.
            ‘Secondly, I’d like to be young and beautiful again.’
            Pfff!  The sad old lady turned into a gorgeous twenty-something.
            ‘Thirdly, change my cat into a handsome prince who will love me forever.’
            Pfff!  The fairy godmother disappeared and the cat leapt up as a handsome prince.  He strode over to the woman, pulled her to her feet and kissed her passionately.  Then he gazed deeply into her eyes and said, ‘Ha!  Now you’re going to be sorry you took me to the vet…’