It’s been a while since we’ve all been on holiday together. And by ‘we’ I mean extended family – my parents, my kids, even my brother and family.
In fact, I can’t even remember the last time my brother and I holidayed with Mum and Dad. There’s probably a reason for that.
Anyway, off we went this morning, in the car on a British road trip through the shires to the far-most corner of Wales. A five-hour drive that felt like ten.
I think the reason for this is, in more recent years, I’ve got used to road trips in the US – a wonderful, life-enriching experience, according to my American husband, who misses such trips terribly now we live in Dubai.
And I can see his point: wide-open roads, much lighter traffic and uncrowded highway services along the way mean you can travel for 14 hours or so on American roads, while a three-hour trip on Britain’s congested motorways in drizzly weather feels like a very long way.
Oldest son started asking “How many more minutes?” before we’d even left Surrey and my mum kept a watchful eye on the road from the back so she could tell my dad to slow down – not that we were about to go haring up a mountain. With a week in self-catering accommodation ahead of us, the car was packed full to the brim and straining under the weight.
The A-team, headed by my brother, set off early in order to arrive in good time for the supermarket delivery van’s arrival, arranged by my amazingly organised and capable sister-in-law, who is so much better at thinking about these things than I am.
Our progress was slower: we sat in traffic jams in the West Midlands, made our way through rain and panicked when a phone call revealed that we were about to be barred from entering the holiday home we’d booked because we’d overlooked paying a £100 security deposit (despite having paid the full amount for the week upfront – ********!!).
BIG issue this turned out to be and the A-team spent an hour standing in a windy carpark, making numerous phone calls and trying to figure out how to transfer the money (a credit card payment by phone not acceptable, apparently). We all got really angry and, to cut a long story short, it was only resolved after the cleaner’s house was located up a mountain somewhere and £100 cash fluttered through her letterbox.
Would you believe, the snooty woman we were dealing with ended our conversations with, “And whatever you do, don’t wear your shoes in the house!” Yeah, right.
While all this stress was going on, we tried to remain cheerful while listening to the kids whining in the back, the sound of “Here comes a train!” on the DVD and comedian Eddie Izzard barking directions at us from the sat nat.
The computerised route didn’t hold much sway with my dad who, after a somewhat one-sided but heated argument with the sat nat, switched it off to rely on his instincts (and distant knowledge – we used to come to Wales every year as kids, some 25 years ago).
Electronic Eddie got his own back, though, in the last few miles by sending us up a mountain path, into the clouds, for what felt like ages – with the car, having got some barbed wire caught underneath, making really strange noises and the comforting thought that we didn’t have AA coverage and, even if we did, they’d never find us.
The road got really narrow.
We had to go over a bridge only about 2 inches wider than the car (which gave the A-team a flat tyre at the last hurdle).
And open five gates.
But finally we made it. “Thank God you’re there, I can shut up now,” trilled Eddie.
Thank God indeed. It’s very remote. Rather chilly. And it’s raining. But there are sheep in the garden and it’s really rather lovely.