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Not so good Thursday

April 14, 2017

A not so good day yesterday. It started out just fine. I was writing a letter (yes, dammit, a letter) to my big-brother cousin Peter in England. He’d sent me a book, which I’d just finished reading and I wanted to thank him for it and let him know what I thought. (And encourage him to send a letter back, as he is one of the few people who is old enough to appreciate how lovely letters really are.)

I’d written most of the letter when I checked the calendar to confirm the date. That’s when I was reminded that it was Good Friday today and I was flooded with memories of Easters past.

For many years, when I was working as a journalist, living in Finchley Road, I would take a weekend bag with me to work the morning of the Thursday before Easter. After work I would go to Euston and get a packed train to Liverpool. Arriving there I would get a local train out to the Wirral and walk to Peter’s large house. Unless something went very wrong with the train, I generally got there in time to make it to their local for last call with Peter and Jackie.

They have four children, all of whom I adored, all of whom adored me. (I was the cool adult amongst their older relatives.)  They were my family. When people talked about going home for Easter, this is where I was going.

These long weekends were great fun: long walks in the Cheshire countryside or by the sea, card games and board games with the kids, boisterous family meals, evenings in lovely old pubs, sitting up into the wee small hours with Peter and a bottle of single malt, the two of us putting the world to rights.

Here’s the best Easter travel story: Giles, my flatmate and friend (occasionally, in our cups, with benefits) had changed jobs and with the new job came a company car. His family lived the next village along from Peter and for years we’d been travelling up on the same train. This particular year Giles offered to drive, which we assumed would be a vast improvement on the packed train.

We set off after work, expecting to be at our destination well before last call. Outside London, traffic ground to a halt. The three lanes of the M1 had been reduced to one by miles and miles of traffic cones. In the 1980s everything that went wrong was bloody Thatcher’s fault and so we complained about bloody Thatcher deciding there should be major roadworks on the main motorway out of London on Easter weekend. A snail could have easily beaten us as we sat stationary or moved at a crawl for at least an hour up one lane. The book I had with me was one of short stories by Damon Runyon. I decided to distract Giles (and myself) by reading some of them out loud.

What seemed like hours later the road finally opened back up to three lanes. We whizzed past Birmingham, thinking we’d probably get to our destination by midnight. Then, just before Walsall there was a bang like a rifle shot and the windscreen began to shatter in front of our eyes. To this day I am glad it was Giles who was driving, because I suspect I would have driven straight off the road in shock. Giles pulled over to the shoulder, we got out of the car to examine the damage. The glass was completely splintered, visibility almost nil. I seemed to remember hearing somewhere that what you should do was kick the screen from the inside, forcing all the glass out. I got back into the car to do this. Turned out to be a false memory, because, of course, as soon as I kicked, all the glass fell into the car. We then spent several minutes clearing all the glass off the seats.

A properly brought up young man, it was ingrained in Giles that in an emergency you should find a police station. We turned off the motorway and did just this. Giles explained our situation, asked if there was a phone we could use to ring the company contracted by his employer to repair damaged windscreens. We were directed to a pay phone. Giles made the call and was told it would be at least a couple of hours before anyone could get to us. We went back to the desk and asked if there was anywhere we might be able to get some food. It was gone 11pm and we weren’t holding out much hope, but we were told was a Chinese takeaway down the road which might still be open. We hastened there. Although in the process of closing up the proprietor agreed to make us a couple of large egg rolls. They were the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten.

We found a call box, rang first Giles’ parents to explain what had happened and arrange for a bed to be made up for me, as I didn’t want Peter and Jackie having to wait up until god knows when to let me in. I then rang them and explained the situation. We headed back to the police station and sat down on a bench to wait. After half an hour or so, Giles asked me to read him another Runyon story. The Walsall police clearly didn’t believe in wasting money lighting their waiting room which was “illuminated“ by the dimmest bulb possible. Although it was a bit of an eye strain, I managed to read two stories before my headache was so bad I had to pack it in. After I did, a voice mumbled, “Don’t stop. I was enjoying that.” The voice came from the only other occupant of the waiting room, a man who’d been stretched out on the other bench, clearly being allowed to sleep it off without being placed in a cell. I apologised to the audience, but my head really was pounding.

The repairman eventually arrived, replaced the windscreen. We set off on the final leg of the journey, arriving at Giles’ family home just after 3am. The door was opened by his mother, who’d waited up, despite his assurance that there was no need to do so. “Well, at least you’re both all right,” she said, after hugging us. Which was when it actually occurred to me how much worse things could have been.

Anyway, I’ve digressed.

Realising yesterday that it was the Thursday when I always used to travel up to Peter’s for a long family weekend, hit me a bit hard. A reminder of how far away I am from the people I consider my family, how seldom I get to see them. Not that there are regular family Easters these days. The “children” are all long since grown up with homes and children of their own. As Thomas Wolfe said, you can never go home again. In fact, that “home” no longer exists. Peter and Jackie have long since moved into a much smaller house.

But it did make me feel alone.

What did I do in response to this sad feeling? I played stupid fucking spider solitaire all bloody afternoon. Despite smacking myself on the side of the head every time I hit New Game, I could not make myself stop. Eventually I had to pee. Having moved twenty feet from the computer I finally got a grip.

Yes, the prospect of another Easter weekend, spent alone with no family was depressing. But did I really need to spend the weekend alone? No, I did not. Just because no one had invited poor little me anywhere this weekend, didn’t mean I couldn’t invite people here. So I rang two of my best buddies on the island and invited them for dinner.

Although they’re coming on Saturday evening, I’m going a bit mad and doing a Sunday dinner – chicken, roast spuds, veg. This is not my specialty, getting multiple things ready at the same time. I am in awe of people who can seamlessly do this. But every now and then it’s got to be done. Sunday dinner is family dinner and these people are my island family.

I can now enjoy memories of lovely Easters past and look forward to this one I’m making for myself.

happy easter

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3 Comments
  1. Mariam permalink

    Have a wonderful dinner with your island family! Xx Mariam

  2. krysross permalink

    Happy Easter. Hope the dinner went well.

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