So in the spirit of making up for general crapness as a mother during a very busy time at work, the first few days of the summer holiday began, ripe with opportunities. Rob is home for the weekend, we are in our lovely house in the middle of nowhere and the world is our oyster. Even the sun is shining! I find myself having the same conversation with people over and over again. Things like, ‘we could be in the South of France!’, and ‘who needs to go anywhere else when the weather is like this? and ‘You can’t beat the UK on a summer day!’ Followed by, ‘ah yes, but you can’t rely on it – that’s the trouble.’
We are all together, the sun is out and I wake up on Sunday filled with resolve.
‘We must go for a bike ride!’ I announce to Rob as he sits up in bed, bleary eyed over a coffee. He grunts.
‘No really! It will be great! Sun, kids, bikes, country lanes. Lovely!’
Filled with enthusiasm I leap up and share the happy news with the children. Son offers me a brief smile between calls of ‘Jamie! Jamie! Behind you – he’s got an RPG!’ on his headphone/microphone headset. Daughter just rolls over in her duvet and keeps snoring. Dog goes wild with enthusiasm, which is a shame, as she’s the only one not invited.
The hours spent between this idea of mine and it’s execution were farcical. I kept joking to Rob, ‘Ha! It’s like one of those computer games, isn’t it? You know, like before you open the door you need to find the key, to get the key you have to tickle the pirate’s feet, to do that you need to get a feather…’ I laugh merrily but Rob just nods. Grimly. To be fair it’s because he had to do most of the work to make my dream a reality. Bless him. And he didn’t lose his temper once… well only a little bit and that was just a bit of swearing.
First, as we had filled both cars with junk to get here we didn’t have room to bring Daughter and Rob’s bikes. So off Rob went first thing to collect the bikes. An hour later he’s back! Two bikes ready! The other two are stored in the back shed in the garden. The route to it is so overgrown with five feet high nettles it is impossible to get to. The strimmer is stored in another shed at the other side of the garden. Locked. We can’t find the keys.
We find the keys. Rob starts strimming. I notice he is wearing flip flops and shorts. I offer a large, sturdy tablecloth to swathe around his hips to protect his legs from flying nettle stings. He shrugs me off with a contemptuous roll of the eyes. Five minutes later I can hear the roars of pain from across the garden. Dog so alarmed she hides in the hedge. I run to Rob’s aid to discover his legs and the tops of his feet are red raw with stings. I offer anti-histamine cream but Rob dismisses this suggestion saying ‘I’m fine.’
He retreats to the house to put on jeans and boots. Strimming recommences. Five minutes later the string breaks. We’ve lost keys again so can’t get into garage for replacement string. Find keys. Find string. Back to strimming.
Success! A path is forged to the shed.
Of course the bikes are at the back. It takes a good fifteen minutes to lever them out over the pile of logs we also keep there. Our excitement mounts as the bikes appear and are dusted off. Rob and I discuss routes. Why not cycle to a pub together with the children and we can lunch in the garden? Sounds wonderful! Rob begins to pump up the tyres.
My bike has a puncture. Do we have a puncture repair kit?
‘I’ve got superglue?’ I suggest.
‘Worth a try,’ says Rob. Sweating. It is a SCORCHING hot day, even though it’s only about 11am still.
Astonishingly, I not only HAVE Superglue, I also actually KNOW WHERE IT IS. This is an absolute first in our household.
Triumphantly I bring it down to Rob. He gives it a squeeze. Nothing comes out. The end must be blocked. Scissors are needed!
Another fifteen minutes of ‘where are the bloody scissors?’ ‘Brother had them!’ ‘No I haven’t! Sister had them when she was making Watermelons sails!'(!?!?) ‘Just bring me the effing scissors!’ the top is snipped off.
Hmm. It would appear the reason nothing came out was because the Superglue tube is completely empty.
Rob is getting increasingly irritated and I can see my dreams of a joyful family bike ride are looking as if they are going to stay as dreams. I suggest Rob takes a break, makes some lunch for the children on the BBQ while I drove into the nearest village to find a puncture repair kit or more superglue. He agrees and already has an ice cold pint in his hand as I drive off.
Success! In a tiny little dusty old newsagent I buy the last repair kit and a tube of glue just in case. I return to a lovely lunch in the garden and then Rob dusts off his hands, gives a bit sigh and prepares to get back to making my dreams come true.
The puncture repair doesn’t work. Despite Rob’s best efforts, which lead to glueing his fingers to the repair kit, the tyre and his other fingers with a combination of rubber cement and superglue, the inner tube still hisses when pumped up. It’s a no go.
Bloody typical! I am the only one who wants to go on this bike ride and mine is the only bike not working.
The children have drifted back inside. Rob is pouring another beer. The dog spreads herself as flat as possible under a tree to stay cool, gives her big huffing sigh and falls asleep. Her twitching eyebrows still going as they flick off thunderbugs.
‘Is there any way it can be fixed today?’ I ask, plaintively. Rob shakes his head.
‘Right! Then I’m going to ride Son’s bike!’ I declare. ‘Come on!’
Son is getting taller, almost as tall as me, almost – but not yet. So his bike, which is a bit small for him, is very small for me. Rob raises the seat as high as possible, but I still look utterly ridiculous. A stout, middle-aged woman with a large hat perched on top of a small, blue and yellow boy’s BMX. Every time I turned the handle left or right the wheel rubs against the toes of my shoes with a loud PPPHHRRRRTTHHERRRPPP sound which caused heads to turn.
I don’t care though. Yelling over my shoulder at an open mouthed son, ‘put a lead on Dog and meet us on the farmer’s track!’ I cycle off into the wild blue yonder with Daughter – looking prim and proper in a pink summer dress and a bright pink bike – and Rob, who immediately overtakes me and disappears up the road.
For a brief moment all is how I dreamed. A big blue sky overhead, my Daughter giggling, Son running behind with a bonkers Dog galloping at 60 miles an hour and the road crunching beneath my tyres. Who cared that at every bump it felt like the seat was going to disappear up my backside? Or that today I can barely sit down due to the saddle sores? It was picture perfect. I can say it was all worth it, but not sure Rob would agree. Bless him, though he worked hard to keep my dreams alive – something he has done for fifteen years. What a husband!
Here’s to more summer fun!