We’re back in London after a long break in Hampshire that involved all eight of Roo and Eva’s cousins, a smattering of second cousins and all the aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents you could ask for. The drive back was going well – sunshine along the M3 (not a rainbow…that’s a photo from another M3 trip) and by the time we got onto the A316 both kids were asleep. Then we got stuck behind someone in a very blingy white Land Rover doing a 3-point turn just before the Hogarth roundabout, which I mention for no reason other than to laugh at his personalized number plate (“BIG MR X”).
Then the paranoia started. A funny noise here. A judder there. Something wasn’t quite right. By the time we got onto Earls Court Rd, there was definitely something wrong. We pulled over into Fawcett Street SW10 and a not-very-close inspection showed that the tyre had ripped and was now completely flat. The challenges we had with this were many and varied. For tedious reasons, I had an uncharged phone in a box with no SIM card and Nathan’s phone had 8% battery left. The spare tyre was under the carpet in the boot, which was packed full of Christmas presents and our suitcase. The rest of the car was stuffed full too. So, we decided to unpick this a bit and tackle the problems one by one.
The phone lasted long enough for a call to the A.A. Hooray! The space was more of an issue, but it wouldn’t be if me and Eva got out. She was awake by then, so if I took her out of the carseat and the buggy out of the boot we’d have enough space to rearrange it all. Needless to say, it had been raining a lot so transferring things in and out of the car involved a gutter full of muddy water. It added an element of jeopardy to the proceedings. Luckily, everything in the boot was wrapped in white bin bags, thanks to an unrelated boot leak although the overall impression when you opened the boot was that we had been caught with a flat tyre on our way to dispose of a body. The large spade and petrol can didn’t help.
So Eva and I waved bye-bye to Nathan and sleeping Reuben and set off on an impromptu version of one of our boys vs girls races. In the XY corner, a broken car and a snoozing boy. In the XX corner, a complete lack of electronic equipment and a stroppy toddler who, presumably, wanted to walk rather than go in her buggy (Over Christmas, we’d asked her if she wanted to go in the sling or toddle and she replied “doddle!”). It would be tough on us all. Yes, I love a challenge and yes, I had missed London but being dumped in the middle of Chelsea in the dark and having to find my way home was a bit too much of an initiation ritual.
Still, we were up for it and first stop was a Tesco to buy some crisps. I was hungry, and ToddlaGirl has survived on nothing but crisps for most of Christmas so a 6-pack of Walkers seemed an economical way of feeding us both. Luckily, I wasn’t in one of the most notoriously snobbish areas of London, so no-one would judge me. Oh wait…I was. The looks I was getting at the bus stop as I gave Eva a “bisp” confirmed that. Maybe I should have invested in a more socially acceptable brand of toddler snack, like a pack of Pom-Bears?
No time to worry about that, as we boarded the 211 and Eva tucked into her bag of Prawn Cocktail “bisps”. I should mention at this point that none of the buses from Fulham Road actually went anywhere useful – the first stop I found would take me to either Clapham Junction, or the World’s End estate. One of those I was pretty sure was in the wrong direction and the other was a few stops down the road. So, I looked at other options, including a bus to somewhere I’d never heard of (Sands End, anyone?), and was relieved to find the 211 that went to County Hall, albeit by a slow and roundabout route. I caught it outside Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and got off at St Thomas’ Hospital, making it a pleasingly themed route (we also took in the Royal Marsden along the way). I knew that the 360 went from somewhere in the area but memory told me that it was at the end of a long walk down Kings Road, and it wasn’t the kind of time for a long walk down anywhere. It was only 5:30, but there’s something about having small children out in the dark that makes you feel like a terrible mother, even before you factor in the bisps. I was also acutely aware that I only had enough Oyster for one bus – yes, I could use my debit card to pay (as we all know by now, surely) but that had failed on Nathan once and I wasn’t really prepared to take that risk when I was still miles from home. So, it had to be a bus that took me somewhere I could walk home from.
But my, what a slow bus. Eva threw away the bisps halfway down Fulham Rd and demanded a “nack” instead. Of course, I’d left all the “nacks” with Reuben and Nathan and had foolishly thought a pack of crisps would last a short bus journey. So, she grizzled and failed to be perked up by the twinkling lights of Sloane Square.
We stopped at Victoria Coach Station for what seemed to be all the time in the world. An old man got very slowly on (he would later get off at Victoria station) and someone else hopped on for a 5-minute chat with the driver. Eva was still demanding snacks that I didn’t have and I didn’t even have a phone to entertain myself with. So we read “Mr Daydream” instead. Eventually we made it over the river to County Hall and stood for a few minutes pondering the chilly walk home along the river before hopping on an overcrowded 159 (es, the debit card worked).
It was good to be home, but at the same time it wasn’t really a race I wanted to win. I’d hoped that the boys would be waiting for us when we got there, so when we got back to a dark house my mind naturally conjured up images of them sad and lonely in the dark back streets of SW10. Luckily, they arrived ten minutes later with Reuben bright-eyed and excited about watching the man fix the car. Seems like they’d had a fine old time. Still, I think next time we’ll stay together, especially if we have no way of getting hold of them once we get home. But if you were wondering what the quickest way to get from SW10 to SE11 is, the answer is…not with a broken car. We’ve all learned something today.
Happy New Year!