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.


Phivos Nicolaides said...

Hi dear friend! Heartly wishes for a lovely and enjoyable Valentine's Day!♥♥!

Akelamalu said...

Did you get 'dolled up' when you went back for the car? LOL

BRUNO said...

Hell, I dunno WHO, or WHAT, we'd get on this side of the pond, if we were to actually CALL the Operator, anymore...???

TechnoBabe said...

Well a pair of shoes and grab your cell phone as you head out the door, to hell with the bra though. Great ending and helps keep things in perspective to know there are still people out there willing to help.

jinksy said...

Should I be worried that this sounds like a perfectly normal story to me? :)

Anonymous said...

hahahahaha - oops, sorry for laughing. Add a jacket, hoodie or button down shirt to the shoes you keep in the boot... hairspray, make-up, breath mints, battery charger, inflated spare tire... (wink)

And what? You jumped into the wrong car????????

Shrinky said...

Thank you Phivos, happy Valentines Day to you, too.

Akelamalu, by then I was waaaaaaaaay past caring (laughing)!

Bruno, having lived most of my adult life in London, I never fail to be touched finding how caring the folk on this isle are. It's a wonderful spot to be living in!

Yeah TechnoBabe, I've learned my lesson, it's time to carry a phone, I can't afford not to. But as you say, there still are more good folk out there than bad, eh? (Smile)

Really Jinksy? Oh, how lovely to know I am not alone!!

Chewy, breath mints?? Sod off, I'm not about to snog ANYBODY for a bloomin' lift home, I'd rather stick my thumb out and hitch!! (Giggle)

TechnoBabe said...

Thank you for your encouragement. You are right, it is painful, that is why it is in bits here and there and in third person. I enjoy reading your adventures and I want to tell you how I admire your dedication as a mother. It means so much to someone like me to see mothers able to show love and to be human but present for their children. You warm my heart. Hugs.

Hilary said...

You do get yourself into situations, don't you? Tis a good thing you're among bloggers. Who else would nod in recognition?

SJ said...

Yes you do get yourself into situations. I assume you do ti so that you will have something to blog about.

As for the posts tag you did make two boys if you do make one of them a scout you could still claim to have MADE a boy scout.

Shrinky said...

TechnoBabe, I understand perfectly how writing of those times feels like ripping the flesh from your bone, to recount it is to re-live it, which is why you can drown if you don't frequently come up for air.. but it can be cleansing too, yes? I hope you keep with it, but on your own time, and only on those days you feel able. (Hugs)

Ah Hilary, is it any wonder I try not to venture too far from home? (Grin)

SJ, that is really funny, trust you to see the literal side - yes, I may well make a Boy Scout yet, huh? (Smile)

mrsnesbitt said...

Oh yes, this I can well picture! I need to have my mobile with me "just in case" as we too are quite a way from civilisation!I remember the time my car played went down hill from there. Fortunately postman turned up, with his mobile....well his new mobile which he didn't know how to use, and did I mention he's deaf! Yep, a bad start to a day ending up with me cooking a plastic chopping board together with some meat balls! There was me thinking "Hey those meatballs have a lot of fat coming out" Turns out it was the plastic chopping board! lol!

Suldog said...

One of the best investments anyone can make is in a pair of jumper cables to carry in the trunk (boot) of a car. If your battery dies, there is almost always some kind soul who will allow you to take a jump from theirs. AND, you can be a Good Samaritan yourself, if someone else needs a jump.

Great story, in any case. Can't wait to hear about the startled driver whose auto you entered :-)

~Babs said...

Oh, life does get tedious as a part time 'single mom', doesn't it?
I too lived that way for a good bit of our marriage, and as you say, became QUITE used to it.Some say his trveling is the only reason we stayed married all these hundred years.
Needless to say retirement does have it's 'moments'.
I only had the one kid to haul around though,which was a major difference, but my full time job added a lot of color to the mix.
We got through it, and you will too,,,that is, as long as you don't contine to jump into the wrong car.

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Mummy has days like that too. That's wy she always carrys ME wiv her.

Jinksy's reply mayde us larff :@D

*Goddess* said...

Since I don't settle until all of my brood are safely under our roof

AMEN! I'm exactly the same way. And it doesn't matter how old the offspring is either!

Shrinky said...

Denise, it's comforting to know it's not only me (smile)..

Jim, I think I may well take a leaf out of your book, it makes good solid sense!

Hi Babs, ah, seems you well know where I am coming from.. (grin)

Hi Bob, gosh, what I wouldn't have given to have had you batting on on my team the other night! Your mummy is very blessed to always have a wise bear to hand when the crap hits the fan. And yes, Jinksy does tend to have the uncanny knack of putting things into perspective, doesn't she? (Smile)

Yeah Goddess, that's ANOTHER thing they forget to tell you BEFORE you get pregnant, huh? (wink)

jay said...

Oh, heavens ... I can just imagine the sinking feeling! :(

I make it a point to carry a phone with me these days, and a purse with a card at least in it. I've been caught too many times. Eventually, even thickheads like me do learn! LOL!

She Writes said...

Ugh. I poured myself a glass of wine and vowed to think about it tomorrow.
:), I know the feeling!

simon said...

Funny- We are considering something similar that will require a period of time away from the home to continue our jobs.

I like my space, and I like solitude, so we a re considering a small farm 100 acres. If it works I will need to work from home in order to set it up.

Also- where we live I am rarely away from my car as maalie can attest!

Anna said...

Shrinky you kill me lol, only only you. And you know 'I'll adapt when he does finally retire' you said, oh it will be like starting your marriage over again, lol. Oh again that was funny, now I can go and get some sleep. Anna :)

Anna said... should consider publishing your posts into book, the real stories are the best. Anna :)

Nancy said...

LOL - and maybe a bra?

I know how hard it is when your husband works in another city. We did that for over a year. He flew home on the weekends and family life became strange. He said he felt like the odd man out. He'd make a suggestion and everyone would look at him like - whha? (That's his story.) But what I remember about the year was all of the driving and handling problems. I was working at the time, and I remember I couldn't wait until my youngest, (soccer practice four nights a week across town thru commuter traffic...), could drive. We bought her a little VW Bug and then all I had to worry about was her driving.!! But it gets crazy, I know.

Calamity Jane said...

I hereby dub thee, Calamity Shrinky! Welcome to the club.

Shrinky said...

Yeah Jay, this serves as a wake up call for me, time to get a little more organised, eh?

Amy, when in doubt, prevaricate, it's a sound motto! (smile)

Hi Simon, ooh, this sounds an exciting venture - do you have a farm in mind?

Hi Anna, it wasn't too funny at the time, but I guess in retrospect it had it's moments (grin). And as for a book, my kids would certainly divorce me if I dared reveal our adventures to the world (wink)!

Cheers Jane, I guess I've kind of earned that one, eh?

Joker the Lurcher said...

oh my! this could be my day - except it is too cold here just now to be without shoes!

Shrinky said...

Oh Joker, this was written before the snow came in hard, even I clad my tootsies now before venturing out.. sheesh, all this white stuff is bang out of order (shivering as I type). Welcome back hon, it's great to see you in here again!

imbeingheldhostage said...

Oh bless! The things you put yourself through for a great blog post ;-)