Saturday, 23 July 2011
Monday 18th July
So here I am again at Selecta Tyre in Buxton, seemingly my second home. Tyres are a bit of a theme in my life at the moment. I was here just a few weeks back getting my snow tyres removed (safe to say that even here in the High Peak the risk of snow had passed by June!); I was meant to go back and get the bolts checked after 50 miles (didn't) and am now here instead with N's car which always bowls us a googly just days before we are due to travel long journeys in it, fully laden with luggage, children et al. We've had blow-outs on the fast lane of the motorway down to catch the ferry; we've had collisions with motor-cross bikers on our lane as we've set out for holidays; and on Saturday we managed to hit the blasted pot hole that's been on the main lane out of the village for nearly a year (a foot wide and four inches deep, right on a corner) and knackered the tyre. (Mercifully the wheel didn't get cracked which was what happened just a few months back, if you remember, and would have meant another emergency trip to the welders.) The tracking, of course, has also been thrown and has had to be sorted. The same pothole has also thrown the tracking on my car, so I need to come and have that sorted at some point, but in the meantime I am also purchasing a further new tyre for my car too because, the other Friday, I managed to burst one reversing out of my own drive. How so? you may rightly ask...
Well, with the usual extraordinary bad timing which rules my life with a rod of iron, I had four tree surgeons and four builders who had been swarming around house and garden all day causing mess and chaos and who all decided to leave at 4.30 on the dot. So just as I was meant to be getting in the car to collect four girls (four seems a bit of a theme here too) from the bus stop, I was suddenly and pressingly required to discuss the works, write cheques and God knows what (not helped by the fact that one of the tree surgeons is an ex-babysitter of charm and good looks and a well-honed body who I was catching up with - he was a favourite with the girls, no surprise, and is also a fantastic yachtsman who is winning left, right and centre and has been up for young Derbyhire Sports Personality of the Year - but I digress). Two of the girls I was meant to be collecting were not even mine - extra responsibility, therefore, to make sure no-one got crushed crossing the busy and rather dangerous main road (the bus stop is rather perplexingly sited on a sweeping, fast corner which is a little odd in this world of Health and Safety madness: I think it would make more sense to allow me to take a not-even-wet umbrella into a shop and have the bus stop sited somewhere considerably less dangerous than confiscate my umbrella - an incident which happened in Zara in Manchester on Saturday - and have a bus stop pouring out young children on one of the most dangerous parts of a main road. But who am I to say, eh?).
Sorry, digressing again. Back to the story. I therefore left in a bit of a rush and N had left my car in a ridiculous position, wedged up against the side of the house in the corner of the courtyard, and I had to perform about 20 manoevres (and I'm a good driver) to get it out. However, because I was now all stressed and in a hurry and concentrating hard on the left-hand side of the narrow exit from the courtyard (which you have to reverse out of) where the rough dry-stone wall cunningly splays out at it's base (and has claimed many a victim), I completely failed to pay attention to the other side where there is a stone plinth which people used to use to stand on to mount their horses; and because the wheel was at an angle which it isn't normally because of the ridiculous position which N left my car in (so it's all his fault of course!), I managed to completely burst my front tyre. So, four girls, probably already splattered on the tarmac at the bus stop, now had their Responsible Parent with a burst tyre in her own drive. Stunning. Now, this is where the absurd luxury of a third car (sorry - it was going cheap from N's work, if that helps to justify it), comes into its own. I at least had another vehicle, wheels intact (albeit with bald tyres, it now transpires - another trip to Selecta beckons before it will pass its upcoming MOT), in which to go and scrape bodies off the tarmac.
Thus I arrive hassled and apologetic (as ususal) and pathetically grateful that they are all intact and playing happily on the swings and climbing frames at the pub opposite the bus stop (and at least not in it ordering pints). Now, one of the great things about living in this village is that I have a lovely garage mechanic at the bottom of my lane. Given that my car is now 10 years old, and that N's has always got something wrong with it, this is very handy indeed. So I bobbed in there on my way back home and waved my female-in-distress flag and got a promise out of him to come and change the burst tyre for me (so that I could conceal the evidence from N) when he had finished what he was doing. And needless to say, the poor man pitches up and blocks me in the drive again just as I was rushing out to get L to her ballet lesson (late again). So just as he'd opened up the van and got all his tools out (so to speak) I had to ask him to move. (There were people who didn't buy our house before we did because of the drive situation and I am beginning to understand why!).
Now, I didn't drive my car all weekend, but N did. And he put it back in the same ridiculous position in the courtyard. So on Monday morning I go to take the girls to the school bus stop (late) and have to perform same silly manoevres with same silly levels of mounting stress and frustration and am concentrating so hard on the left hand side of the drive (sound familiar?) that I failed to pay attention to the right and CRUNCH! Yep, that will be the wing mirror then. Smashed to smithereens. I could have wept. I simply couldn't believe that, after eight years of rushing in and out of this driveway, I had inflicted major damage to my poor old car twice on the trot.
I kind of thought that that would be the end of the bad luck, bearing in mind that I already have my work cut out for me getting the family away for five weeks to France and all the sorting, packing, organising, laundry, ironing, admin, fridge clearing and garden panicking that that task entails - let alone the hair appointments, the optician appointments, the entertaining children in the holidays activities which also accompany it. But no. Last Friday (a rare sunny day) I passed through our back hallway only to notice a puddle of water on the floor. I looked up. Huge crack in ceiling, plus drip. Oh. Can't leave that for five weeks. At which point the doorbell goes. Woman to read the Water Meter. How serendipitous is that? So I take her down to the cellar where the meter resides, only to find water dripping there too - from the main stop cock which the plumber had 'operated' (Water Board Woman's word, not mine) just the day before when he was fixing a broken tap in the girls' bathroom. So I now have leak in hall and cellar (which may or may not be being caused by leaking loo). Good. Call to plumbers again, burst into tears (rather unexpectedly and embarrassingly - think I'm rather stressed) and get someone booked in to come and check it all out on Tuesday. So, just as I have rid myself of 16 weeks of builders, I now am about to have my house ripped apart by plumbers while I am trying to pack and sort and organise for going away. And, of course, just as the children are on holiday, the weather has turned unspeakable and is doing nothing but piss with rain (that wind-swept slanting kind which you should really only get in winter) with the clouds touching the fields, so I can't even kick them outside.
On the same day that I discovered the leak in the hall, I also found myself peering into the washing machine wondering why I couldn't open the door. I turned the whole thing off and waited the requisite few minutes for the door lock to release, only to be met with a flood of water and a very wet kingize duvet cover. My faithful Bosch had suddenly decided it no longer wanted to spin and drain. So I remove sodden linen and wearily ring up appliance engineer who, mercifully, had left his details on a helpful little sticker on the top of the machine from when he came to fix the dryer. The dear man said he could come on Sunday morning to fix it and that is indeed what he did (cause of malfunction = numerous shreds of something hard and unknown, highly likely to have been lurking in youngest's school blazer pockets). But you just don't need it do you? Why do these things befall you just when you are at your most squeezed?
So that was five things, could there be any more? I hope to God that I have been punished enough. And to the villager who saw me UTTERLY lose it in the lane after the pothole incident on Saturday (you know who you are), I can only apologise. If it had been caught on camera it would have seemed like a scene out of Fawlty Towers where Basil rants and raves and has steam coming out of his ears and froth from his mouth with his blood vessels bursting out of his head and neck and goes into irrelevant Nazi goose walk. Well, that was me. On full display, the talk of the town no doubt. It is completely humiliating, yet it has happened so often of late that the girls seem unaffected. It is just Mummy being normal. God help me. My husband does not think it normal at all and we are having big problems trying to communicate. He is stressed and over-tired; I am stressed and overtired. It is not a good recipe and sometimes the pot simply boils over, as it did then. And I was bursting for a wee and had to stomp off into a field with NO-ONE in it when I settled down, but hey, before I knew it a black dog had appeared from nowhere with its owner and was running over to me and barking while I had my bottom open to the four winds. Quite unbelievable.
Safe to say that all dignity has now been lost.
Meanwhile, everyone says to me, reassuringly, 'you'll be on holiday soon'. I know I will, but N won't. He has two major transactions going on (why do the b****d clients always have to choose August to do this?) and will be spending most of his time travelling backwards and forwards on a plane rather than having much-needed and certainly deserved down time with his wife and children. And the knock-on effect is that we don't relax either because we are sad and irritated and inconvenienced by all his comings and goings and troubled that he is not getting the holiday that he desperately needs. Added to which, he pushed through a project (much discussed and agonized over) which I was broadly against, to have a pool put in in France. Everyone waved hands waftily (including the pool people) saying it would all be done in a few weeks, sans problemes. I envisaged problems and problems there have been. Electricity cables running in just the wrong place (unmarked on the site map), water table being much higher than expected (by all except me) which meant the hole was flooding, so the depth of the pool has had to be reconsidered and gallons of underground water pumpted out. Oh, and the bit which, for me, was most predictable and most understandable - the neighbours. They hate us. One lot have been to complain to the Mayor on a daily basis (despite having a pool herself which presumable must have been constructed at some point rather than fallen from the sky) and our immediate neighbours with whom we have until now enjoyed an easy relationship with who are pissed off and are being obstructive. And someone's nicked the wood from the tree that was cut down and which we were going to re-use in the landscaping. The pool people and the electrician have had their own Basil Fawlty moment in the garden, screaming bad language at eachother, just to further upset the neighbours. Because of the problems encountered, it will not be finished before our arrival and instead I will have another building site to live with.
There is no peace for the wicked. Or, looking at it another way, I always said that too many possessions were a burden. For years and years I have been trying to advocate a simpler life, in a well-chosen place close to sea and mountains and good state education; a place where you do not have to spend a fortune on holidays just to get away from the endless English rain, or the madness of the rat race; a place where Nature is on your doorstep offering you all that you could need, in a political system and society which works. This is of course Utopia. But, there are still better and worse lifestyle choices and I have to say that Italy came very close (if you ignore the politics!) and we are still toying with a year living in Bordeaux, with the girls in French school, just to see if it is any better...
I think though, my energy reserves are a little low for more major upheaval. Perhaps it should go on the back burner for now.
N and I were sitting eating supper late and exhausted tonight when he came out with the bombshell that the awkward neighbours in France have indeed managed to get the building of our pool halted. So we now have a huge unsecured hole in the ground and no garden. They will begin work again on 1st September, three days after we leave. It is possible we will not be there next summer which means we may not get to put a toe in the wretched thingl until 2013. More disappointing and frustrating than any of that is what I was hoping for my mother who is coming out for a week with my father and brother. Since her stroke she is not very steady on her pins and she is worried about walking across the large stretches of sand at the beach. She also still gets very tired. So I was looking forward to being able to offer her the chance for some real rest and relaxation, some quiet time by the pool, and the chance to do some gentle water exercises to try and help her regain some strength. Now she will probably just fall into the hole. I think I may join her.
Since writing this, the shocking massacre in Norway has happened and put all my irritating troubles into perspective. Wherever you look, there is always far worse happening to other people. I am alive, I am loved, I love and I am very lucky.