I glare balefully at my “Breakfast Bundle”. It had seemed such a good idea at eleven thirty last night when I was offered it on arrival, cornflakes and milk, a croissant, an orange juice, perfect, just the thing for a 5:30am start. The reality, however, isn’t quite living up to expectations. A soggy limp piece of pastry about the size of my little finger, no butter just a tiny pot of jam, a plastic tub of unidentifiable cereal with UHT milk, and a small carton of orange juice. The only thing remotely palatable is the orange juice. I crack open the top and take a swig. No, not even the orange juice. I set it down on the side next to the rest of the abandoned “Breakfast Bundle”, take a last glance around the clean but spartan room that reminds me of a Swiss prison cell (no idea why, I’ve never seen a Swiss prison cell), and head for the door, the corridor, the stairs, and finally the cool crisp damp morning air of the car park.
I love very early mornings, although ironically I really hate getting up early, which means I rarely get to see them. There’s a stillness and a sense that you’re all alone and getting a head start on the slumbering world that I find invigorating. I make my way to the fly splattered Fiesta Zetec, plip the central locking, dump my bag in the boot and drop into the driving seat. 30 seconds later I’m nosing out of the car park and urging the sat nav to get a fix so I know which way takes me to the motorway. John Cleese is as sleepy as me so I take a guess and swing right, out onto the main road, and call up all of my trusty Fords rampant 96 horsepowers, I’ll soon find out if I’m wrong. Two minutes later I spot a sign telling me to take the next left for the motorway, at that very moment John Cleese bursts into life “take the left left in 300 yards” he intones. Perhaps he saw the sign too.
I love motorways when they’re quiet, almost as much as I hate them when they’re busy. Hence the five o’clock kick off this morning. The Fiesta is far from the fastest car I’ve ever driven, but it settles into a comfortable 80+mph cruise and is recording 40mpg on the trip computer, figures I’ll hopefully be living with for the next 300 miles and four hours. As the sun rises and the countryside flicks by I ruminate on the past week and the reason for my double length of the country trek.
With the pressures of the new job on both time and energy, to my shame The Boychild hadn’t visited Croker Towers for almost a year. I’d (we’d) been to see him of course, but that’s never the same. So with school holidays looming The Blonde and I had managed to synchronise holidays and the school timetable and arrange to pick him up and run him back for a few days R&R chez moi.
We’d combined the run to get him with a visit to Bristol where we’d stayed in the excellent Bristol Hotel and spent a pleasant day catching up with an old friend of The Blonde for lunch and exploring the dockside. What they’ve created is very impressive, most cities with a river running through talk of regenerated docklands, vibrant cafe culture and living the urban dream, but in Bristol there’s a real sense that they’ve actually achieved it. The Blonde and I liked it there very much. That evening we dined in the excellent restaurant of the hotel, had a good nights sleep and then hit the road again. Boychild duly collected it was a late evening run back home sharing the driving.
Rekindling fatherhood each time The Boychild arrives is never easy. Each visit brings fresh challenges. In the early days he’d awake late at night crying hysterically for his mother until the early hours, refusing to be placated until he wore himself out, only to awake the following morning to a frazzled me without a care in the world. Once we were over that hurdle we went through the needing to be constantly stimulated and entertained stage, every activity spurned within half an hour in a constant quest for fresh endeavours.
Now we’ve hit teenage years he’s better able to keep himself amused, but the new challenge is connecting with him at all, as everything becomes “boring” and all he really wants to do is to immerse himself in Facespace and Mybook. I have to tempt him outside into the fresh air with a combination of blackmail and bribery. The first couple of days he was down it was abundantly clear he wanted to be anywhere but, counting off the hours till he could return home. Heartbreaking. Half way through the week, aided and abetted in no small part by The Blonde and her sons The Two Non Blondes, we had a bit of a breakthrough and fun was clearly seen to be being had. We even coaxed him into a long walk home after a fun afternoon out, a new world record in Boychild mileage.
The Blonde couldn’t make the return trip due to other commitments, hence my late evening run and overnight in the Swiss Travelprison, and my painfully early start.
It was paying off though, fiesty Fiesta hoovering up the motorway network as the traffic slowly begins to build. I just had to get through the madly busy sections before 8am and I’d be home dry. I keep the pressure on, dodging down lane three past dawdling middle lane hoggers, signalling left and cutting back into the empty lane one immediately ahead of them, they never get the message though.
Just as it seems that I’m through the worst and about to enter the last easy couple of hours disaster strikes, an overturned lorry on my side 100 miles hence. Only one lane open according to the traffic news, police on the scene, recovery in progress. Time to start thumbing through the options in my mind, ease off and hope it clears or keep the speed up and hope to get in among the inevitable traffic queue before it gets too long? Stick with the motorway and inevitable delay or try and cut off round hoping the time lost in diversion will be less than the time stuck? I keep the speed up, getting closer and closer, playing exit roulette. Do I swing off at the next one or hope to make it further down the far more direct and faster motorway before taking another exit?
I try and figure exactly where it is and how long the queue is by the traffic reports, one more junction, one more junction. I’m bearing down fast, maybe 30 miles away, when the news comes through, obstruction removed, three lanes open again, traffic moving but still big delays. Good work guys! I stick with it a bit further, services coming up, I must be nearly on it but is it clear yet? The radio has gone very quiet on the subject.
I take the slip road up to the roundabout and off into the services for a comfort stop, a break and a think. I don’t have to rejoin here, I can take a different route off the roundabout and attempt to head round it. My GPS has a route block avoidance program, I can use that. But am I going to drive miles at low speed to miss something that isn’t there? Decisions decisions. As I leave the services I spy a couple of big screens showing the Highways Agencies web site detailing all hold ups. I check the motorway I’m on, no delays. Decision made I’m back in the car, round the roundabout and straight down the sliproad and back up to speed. For about three minutes until it all comes to a complete standstill. Bugger. Wrong choice.
I stop start crawl for forty five minutes, cursing the Highways Agencies and their stupid map all the way. Traffic reports are filtering through again, apparently there’s a hold up about where I am. Really? Eventually I break through and the rest of the trip proves uneventful. I slide the Fiesta back onto the drive next to my pretty little MX5 and climb out. Job done till next time, now for a proper breakfast…