Thursday, February 11, 2010
The Kindness Of Strangers/Island Life
It was my choice to opt to become a part-time single parent, a price I willingly pay for the luxury of moving to this beautiful island. Hubby's employers are very accommodating, and for the past eight years he has virtually led a double life, working one week from home, and the alternate from London.
To be frank, I've not only got used to this arrangement, I've grown to kind of prefer it. I enjoy the space it affords me, and not being joined at the hip, we do at least have something to catch up on for the weeks when he is actually home. In fact, I freely confess I'm not at all sure how I'll adapt when he does finally retire, but then, being as how we have at least another five years of crippling school fees ahead, not to mention the additional future costs of further education, the blunt truth is this poor lad is hardly likely to stop punching the clock anytime too soon.
When he is here, he truly is the devoted family man, and most particularly with Sam, who utterly worships him. And (bless his prematurely greying side-burns) he always takes the morning school run from me, including serving up a fully cooked breakfast to the troops.
That's not to say parenting four teenagers alone, on the weeks he when he's away is exactly a breeze, particularly with one so dependant, disabled as he is. It falls to me to be the discipinarian, which hardly earns me many mummy-of-the-year awards. Still, keeping the plates up and spinning has got a lot easier with time, and the only real bug-bite I have these days, is being the only source of transport for a house of five. Living miles from any public transportation, with the kids always having some form of extra curricular activity outside of school, I tend to find myself in the role of permanent taxi-driver.
Bad enough as it is, it usually also clashes with some other essential, life-or-death sibling activity. The two girls represent both their school and the island squads in various sporting events, and they often need picking up or dropping off at opposite ends of the island at the same given time. Likewise, Sam only has two social outlets, and both of these are mid-week, and in the evening. As for Matt, now most of his friends drive, he does make the effort to arrange most of his own rides, but it doesn't always pan out that way.. and being as how he is now an adult, he tends to keep later hours than the others. Since I don't settle until all of my brood are safely under our roof, whether he likes it or not, I am often doing the late run for him too. I do have a few car pools running with the girls, but for the most part, it is largely down to me.
The trouble is, I don't really know too many people here, other than the odd acquaintance, I've not gone out of my way to be very sociable. My baby sis' has a young family of her own, and she lives miles over the mountain from me. She is also an acute diabetic, and has more than enough on her plate just coping with her own family demands, willing as she wants to be, it simply isn't an option to call on her. Having no immediate neighbours, the buck rest solidly here.
Which is why I am so mad at myself for never thinking ahead.
See, being the house-hermit that I am, I look upon the Tardis (our car) as just a further extension of my home. I rarely exit it, I drive, drop and collect, that's all. Even my grocery shop is delivered on-line. The only time I ever meet my public, is if the postman has a package I need to sign for.
So, last week, when I set off to pick up our youngest from her netball match, it never even crossed my mind to take any cash or a phone with me. Hell, I never even thought to put something on my bare feet, never mind to wear a bra under my t-shirt.
She wasn't there when I arrived, but much as it drives me demented, that tends to be par for the course. I switched off the engine, turned up the radio and dipped the headlights, assuming she'd arrive any minute.
How was I to know she'd take over an hour??
Seems the coach taking them back to school had a few more pick-up's en-route. It was dark as pitch and raining by the time she dragged up. Naturally, being the social butterfly that she is, she was also one of the last of the ones to appear, most of the others were now just a disappearing red rear-light driving off.
What a time to find I've drained the battery flat.
The car gave a hiccup and died.
We are MILES from home. No sense in looking to Abby for her phone, she never has any credits on it.
Which is why I found myself flagging down the only car left in the car park, the state-of-the-art Jaguar with the very smart lady inside.
Luckily, I had Abby with me to prove I was who I said I was (thank God for school uniforms, eh?), and she kindly drove me the ten miles out of her way to drop us safely home.
Lord knows what she made of the crazy bare-foot mad-woman with the protruding nipples. That's the trouble with sending your kids to a posh school, the mothers there tend to be as designer as their vehicles. I felt Abby cringe as we drove past my broken down old banger. (Hmph, it could have been a Jaguar too, if it weren't for her and her sib's extortionate school fees, but so much for gratitude, eh?)
Worse was to come, I don't know my car registration (du-uh), and I had no idea if we were in the AA, or even where the documents might be even if we were. Hubby wasn't in London last week, as luck would have it, they had sent him off to a jaunt in the Middle East, and he was unreachable by phone. I'd not parked the car legally in the school grounds, and was currently blocking the main artery.
Ugh. I poured myself a glass of wine and vowed to think about it tomorrow.
I didn't get the chance. The phone rang in the wee small hours. There was an "incident" at the school, three fire engines were now blocked from entry. Luckily, I had forgotten to lock the car up, and they had found a receipt there leading them back to the culprit, a.k.a, me.
The "incident" turned out to be a false alarm, and I was given dispensation to leave the ruddy car where it lay 'til the morning. Of course, our phone directory was no where to be found, and I had to call directory enquiries to ask them to recommend a garage in the end. This is where living on a small island has it's advantages..
"Are you sure it's the battery that's flat? You don't need a garage, you just need a jump start!"
"Yeah, I know, but I don't have anyone who can give me one.."
"Give me your number, and I'll call you back.."
Bet you never get that kind of service from your directory services operator, do you? She found someone who was willing to pick me up en-route (in his lunch hour) and kick start the battery for me. Well, um, he arranged to pick me up on the corner, and I did jump into the passenger seat of the wrong car first, much to the alarm of the driver, but I simply don't have the energy left right now to relay that particualar story back to you.. it's a whole 'nother post on it's own.
Anyways, it all ended well, the car started in seconds, and the good Samaritan charged me less than it would have taken for me to have even hired a taxi down there.
But all the same, think I'm gonna' keep a spare pair of shoes in the car from now on.