Last night Rob crashed on the none-too-comfortable certainly-not-big-enough-for-him seat at the back of the Bear Cave…..and did not move for half an hour. Eventually he mentioned to no-one in particular, “I can’t keep this up!”
Our preferred pattern of *travel for a day and then stop for a few to explore one place* has been replaced with a race from one attraction to another to fit in as much as possible while Aunty L is with us. Perhaps it would not be so tiring if the driving were less challenging or if the children had adapted more favourably to the longer car stints day after day after day and very late nights. But the roads are narrow and windy, requiring relentless conscientious concentration and the children, combining the mixture of not being able to run around much and consuming unheard-of-before DAILY doses of sweets are processing all their energy out their mouths. LOUDLY. OBNOXIOUSLY. So the *parenting* requirement increases.
At the end of the day we are finding ourselves exhausted, and barely manage to keep up with photo downloading and financial record-keeping. Plotting our course on the map, scribbling in journals, reading information pertaining to the next day’s travels have been all but abandoned. Getting washing dry is a distant dream, and food-wise we have resorted to instant potato and boxed cereals (not that any children are complaining about that – or Grandpa, for that matter).
So I guess you can imagine our sense of relief that today was to be a short straightforward drive mostly on a main road.
Indeed, it might have been if one van had not accidentally taken a wrong route out of the carpark, requiring two big loops around the town, trying to get back to join the convoy. To make it all the more fun, Driver, Navigator and Back-Seat Passenger all had differing opinions on which route to take!!
Eventually success was in our grasp and we rejoiced that we had got our daily detour over with so early in the piece (would you believe that we have a “Today’s diversion is brought to you by Garmin” moment Every Single Day? True!)
Up the M5 we trundled, again rejoicing; this time that we were in for a spell of boring straight wide road driving. Only we got more of that than we bargained for, due to setting off in completely the wrong direction. Map-wielding Grandpa in my Navigator’ Seat alerted us to the fact, but it was a good many miles before an exit appeared to allow us to backtrack.
Backtrack we did…..and then some!
Life too boring for you right now? Try being the number two driver, the following car, some day. Driver One is trying to be following GPS directions, which do not line up with the GrandNav System (grandpa navigator with paper map). At 90km/hr discussion ensues as to which route to follow and on a hill where I have just lost speed I am told to take the lead and follow Grandpa’s “we need to take this road but I’m not sure how to get to it” directions. Hesitant about pulling out on a slope at ever-decreasing speed, I am urged on. The truck that flies up behind is none too impressed and lets me know by swerving swiftly in front once he gets past me, close enough to cause me to stomp on brake pedal in panic. There’s no time to apologise or explain I didn’t want to be overtaking or in the lead or even driving at all today!
Backtrack completed, we continue on. Too far. Despite my pointing out the road signs to Where We Are Trying To Go, we overshoot the mark. And by the time we manage to release ourselves from the grip of the M5, we are stuck on minor roads again. Those narrow hedge-lined ones, where you inevitably meet a bus at the worst possible place (oh well, at least it wasn’t a big milk tanker like yesterday – in that case we all had to go offroad and trim bushes before we could continue our respective journeys).
Maybe today was not going to be so simple after all!
But we still managed to pack in four attractions.
WOW! England’s biggest steepest gorge. Magnificent! Climbing partway up would have been both possible and our kind of adventure, especially as Grandpa did it sixty years ago (actually he got three-quarters of the way up and stopped to look down and lost his nerve!)….but we had already endured three detours and had time to make up.
- Wells Cathedral
Our admiration was limited to the outside – we splattered ourselves onto the green for a picnic lunch and Didn’t Get Up. The kids ran and spun and cartwheeled and raced around to catch a glimpse of the little metal man donging the bell on the hour, but us drivers failed to find the energy to venture beyond our perfectly pleasant spot on the grass.
- Wookey Hole
It used to be a cave system and a paper making museum. It is now a theme park and circus and three other glitzy attractions – do people even go to Wookey Hole for the caves any more? At FIFTEEN POUNDS for adults and TEN POUNDS for every child, including the three-year-old, we fast lost interest and settled for locally-made award-winning ice creams instead, and an unbelievable chuckle too.
One of Grandpa’s cycling mates back in the day got a bit keen on a girl with an enormous black gap between her two front teeth. Guess what they called her! Yep, for real. She was nicknamed Wookey. No, not *Grandpa* <gasp> <chuckle> <look sideways at Mama – am I allowed to giggle at his rudeness?> <laugh>
Yes, Grandpa, but not to her face, of course!
”You’ll like Bath. It’s completely unlike any other English town, and so very Roman,” Grandpa had advised as we pored over itineraries. He was right. Crawling through at afternoon rushhour gave us plenty of time to soak in the magnificence, the regality, the sheer substantialness (is that even a word?) of the buildings – so generously proportioned, the columns, the sweeping rows of grand houses…..and we ended up staying in one of them! We had contacted all the couchsurfers in town, trying to find a driveway to legally park on – but the only one who could help lived RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF TOWN. She went way above and beyond the expectations of any couchsurfing request, and contacted the city council to check we could park in a particular street, and then invited us all to stay IN HER HOUSE (all twelve of us), because if we stayed in the vans we would fall out of bed due to them being parked on such a steep street, and then she cooked us all dinner as well. Not content with this contribution, she insisted we leave the dishes and head straight out for a walk around town after dinner. The children were dispatched with instructions to remember the words “doric, ionic and corinthian”, and we headed off to The Circus. There were no clowns or animals, but just as much to hold their attention. Comparisons between this circular arrangement of buildings and Stonehenge were pointed out by our hostess (they’re basically the same!), and we lingered at number 19. This house, one of the end houses, belonged to her parents, but after World War II, the city council passed a law requiring every home owner to clean these buildings. Black with coal smoke, they had to be returned to sandstone, at significant cost. Unable to pay the fee for having two sides cleaned, her parents had to sell their property. So began the evening’s telling of stories…..Couchsurfing Host’s Mother was with us, a lady, who had been evacuated to America at twelve years of age – and in her care were three younger siblings. Imagine the stories she had to tell! Jgirl14 talked with her as we walked through town and home again, late into the night. Her grandfather was governor of Hong Kong during the war….an unexpected story we heard about him. Ending up in a concentration camp, for some reason he was still held in high esteem by his captors, and so he was granted permission to go down to the town, because, as they said, “He was too old to consider escaping.” He informed them it was his duty to escape and so his freedom was curtailed!
photo taken from traffic jam”our” house will turn out to be just round this corner, this one:
It may not have been the quiet day we were anticipating, but it was rich. And don’t you think this is a wonderful way to reinforce book knowledge of Greek columns?
Time on the road: need to check Jboy13′s record!
Distance covered: 119km