Friday, 29 June 2012

Freaky Friday.....and the rest of the week too

Well, I am now officially on holiday, having finished up for the summer last Friday at the nursery. The last day of term is always a bit of a strange day of mixed - and fairly high - emotion. Since the education authority, in their wisdom, decided to only pay us in whole weeks, the last day has also always been on a Friday irrespective of when the schools are actually finishing up. This, however, was a genuinely Freaky Friday (loved that book, film was awful.)

We always have a wee  "graduation ceremony" for the children moving up to primary school and of course it is the end of term for all the children so there's a need to give out certificates and things too. This unfortunately means that I have to do the one thing in my job that I really am not very good at - speaking. 

OK, pick yourself back up off the floor and behave. I mean PUBLIC speaking. Speaking itself is something I am fairly well practiced at, some may even say I am quite proficient, accomplished or even over-qualified to just speak, but it's the public bit that I genuinely don't like doing all that much. I have taken my cues from Siggy for this, which is probably a mistake. he often has to make some public address or another, whether at work or in his various other roles, and for a Scout, he never, ever bothers to "Be Prepared." As a matter of fact, I remember some years ago heading down with him to a weekend training course he was leading in Manchester (not my favourite place at all now, but more of that later) and we stopped at a service station on the way down. This would have been at about 4pm or so and the course started with a Friday evening session at 6pm. After calmly finishing his coffee Siggy opened the boot when we got back to the car and I asked him what he was doing. "Oh, just checking what the course is this weekend." He then sat for all of five minutes looking over the course - which run for over two days - before pronouncing "Right, let's go" and putting away the notes. I don't think he looked at them again all weekend but apparently the course went really well!

I don't really have notes either for my annual half hour (ok, ten minutes) of horror, but I have to go over it again and again in  my mind before I can stand up in front of the assembled parents and tell them all how wonderful their children have been. It should be easy and it's always honest as every child has loads of good points to comment on. In my heart of hearts, after all, I know I could probably stand up and say "gibberish, garbage, nonsense, KATIE, blah, blah, blah" and the cameras would still flash and the mums and grannies would still cry beacuse there's only one word they would hear. I'll let you decide which one.

As I was practicing my words of wisdom in my head, our resident "psychic" gran, we'll call her Meg, came into the nursery and started to talk to me. At first, it was a bit off putting as I was listening to voices in my head - sorry - concentrating on my own inner monologue - until I realised that I was getting a bit of a free "reading".

"You really are right up here," Meg was saying and holding her hand a foot or so above her head.

No, it was definitely a hand, not a foot.

"Sorry, Meg," I replied a bit absent-mindedly, "I was miles away, just thinking about what a busy morning it is in here"

Undettered, Meg went on, "No, I wasn't meaning in here, Aud, I just mean in general. Those boys of yours really are OK, you shouldn't worry so much about them"

Now, I'm no believer, really, in all this kind of stuff, but that was me hooked. You see although - or perhaps because - we all know that Meg is a bit of a psychic and she has been with the group for a while as her eldest is just leaving us and her youngest just starting next session, neither I nor any of the other girls have spoken with her much about any family things, etc. As soon as she said I shouldn't be worrying about the boys, I had to know more. Why? Of course, I do worry about my boys a lot and how could any fake, charlatan, or shyster possibly know that without speaking in some depth to a forty-something mum with three TEM's (Teenage Eating Machines) and one wannabee TEM that she was worrying about her kids? Anyway, she went on telling lots of really, really accurate things about the boys and I have to say I was somewhat freaked out. She also told me - really freakily - that whatever I was doing with Siggy that night, I should have stuck to my original plan. My original plan was to stay in a hotel, but more of that later too.

So, Freaky Friday was well and truly underway and even if I say so myself, the Graduation went well. All the kids were happy and well-behaved, all the mums and grannies needed to re-apply their mascara and all the dads and grandads tried to look really bored and unaffected by it all, but there was definite moistness around their eyes, too. The staff and I also got some very nice gifts - the usual smelly stuff and bottles of wine - and I also got a really bracelet, Thanks, DJ!

So, the day had been going fairly well and when I got home I recounted all that Meg had told me to a cynical and fairly grumpy Siggy. I put the cynicism down to his genuine and long-held disbelief in all of that kind of stuff and his grumpiness I put down to the fact that I was on holiday and he still had two weeks to go.You'd think he would have been a bit cheerier, given that we were heading off to Manchester that night to use his Christmas pressie of tickets to see The Boss - Bruce Springsteen for those of you who live under a rock or think that Rod Stewart is the epitome of musical talent - in the Etihad Stadium. After weeks of really intense work preparing for the Day of Action the day before, though, Siggy was still really busy, ergo, really grumpy.

We got away very nearly on time though and mad it through some really horrendous weather to arrive, park up and walk into the stadium complex just after 7pm and just as "Badlands" was belting out as the opening number.

Now, I have to be totally honest and admit that I was not a huge fan of The Boss, but I am close to being converted. Anyone who can go on for three and three quarter hours, without once leaving the stage and still leave thousands wanting more after an amazing set of absolute classics, has to command some respect. Siggy was beside himself and was Dancing in the Dark with the best of them. He was near to tears himself when the entire stadium stood applauding in the middle of one of the later songs - Tenth Avenue Freeze Out - when the antire band and The Boss went silent to watch still photos of their late, great band member and all round Big Man, Clarence Clemens, fill the enormous screens. the outpouring of genuine emotion rivalled the scenes at my earlier speech and I was actually near to tears myself.

Of course, my heightened enjoyment may also have been down to my fantastic discovery. Around the stadium, to save you wandering too far from the space you had managed to find on the pitch, there were mobile bar people with refrigerated packs containing beers and ciders and - hugely importantly - glasses of wine. Yes, glasses. They may have been plastic glasses with a foil lid, but they were decent quality glasses and the wine was OK, too. I now have three at home, which I brought back in my poncho at the end. I was even a bit of a role model as there was woman in front of me who seen me drinking my wine from a glass and complimented on what a good idea it was. I had to explain to her that you could buy them in their and that it wasn't really my idea, I say role model, but thinking of it now, what kind of girl does she take me for? Did she think I was the kind of person who would take glasses of wine with me to an outdoor concert? Fair play to her I suppose. I am now.

I thought I had been well-behaved in only drinking three glasses of wine throughout the concert and as it turned out this was a very good decision.

You see, everything began to unravel as we were leaving the concert and this was when I remembered that my original plan had been to stay over in Manchester as part of Siggy's Christmas present, but he had typically moaned about the cost and using babysitting credits, etc., so we had decided we would just drive back up the same night, just like we had in 2007. that was with the kids, though, and while it was a disaster (Zenit won 2-0), it pales into insignificance now.

We had got back to the car and Siggy handed in the security ticket that I had been entrusted with by the nice lady on the way in  (£10 for parking, but the money went to school fund and it was manned by some nice PTA types). Siggy, trusting as ever, had taken it from me on the grounds I had not zip pockets and no handbag and I have to admit there was a tiny piece of me hoping he lost it. He didn't, but it might have been better if he had.

if he had lost it, we wouldn't have got out of the car park until later when the crowds would have thinned down a bit, but he hadn't lost it and we ever so slowly crawled through the surging crowds heading back towards the city centre. I was just BBMing freinds to let them know we had had a great time and that the ETA for home according to SatNav was 2:14am as a taxi came up in the opposite direction, Siggy guided the car into the towards the side of the road and that's when we heard it.



No, no-one had bombed a snake. Siggy had clipped a steel pipe left at the side of the road works in the street which couldn't be seen for the crowds.

He drove slowly on, knowing there was nowhere to stop and no point anyway as there was no way he could change the tire in such a big crowd and if he stopped, the small but significant queue of traffic behind would quickly become large and angry.

A puncture is never a good thing, but to get one amongst such a large crowd, most of whom think they're being really helpful by tapping on the windown and yell "You've got a flat, mate", is even worse.

Eventually, Siggy found a quieter area where he could pull over and survey the damage. He pulled into a bus stop as it happened and looked at the tyre. Now, he knew when we got the car that there was no spare, just one of those compression gun thinks that seals the tyre so you can get home. As the pipe had actually ripped into the side wall, though, there was nothing to be done and so it was obvious it would require a new tyre.

Siggy phoned the insurance, who pointed out that he didn't have breakdown cover included and he remembered at that point that he hadn't added that as the car had been brand new and therefore covered by warranty for recovery for a year when we got it just under a year ago. Unfortunately, we had no details at all of the warranty company and we werent even sure if there was a 24 hour number.

In hindsight, we should have know the details, but we didn't have them to hand, so we called home, explained to Twitter (TM) and my dad what had happened and asked them to check for any 24 hr tyre replacments in Manchester. They duly did this, as did Gordon who can be  really good with crises (must be all the practice), and texted us the numbers.

Not a single one answered and we faced up to the fact that we were going to have to find a hotel for the night. Which is when I remembered Meg's warning that I should have stuck with my original plan. I decided not to mention this to Siggy at that point as he was a bit hacked off at his own stupidity. Deservedly so.

We moved the car as SIggy decided we couldn't sit on in the bus stop and he asked a taxi driver where he could put the car that would be safe. The taxi driver suggested we use the railway station car park and so we parked up there and headed off looking for a hotel. By this time it was just about midnight and the pubs were emptying, so the streets were teeming with drunks and stag and hen nights (I know, I know, that's all the same thing basically) and this did not help Siggy's mood.

We tried three hotels before we had to accept that there weren't going to be any rooms. Anywhere. Also, I don't think Siggy could trust himself not to lamp the next doorman who helpfully told him "Bruce Springsteen was playing tonight, so all the hotels are full"

It was then that we saw some police standing nearby, just watching the crowd. We went over, explained our predicament and the WPC called through to her control room to ask if they had numbers for a 24hr tyre specialist. They, really helpfully, told her to google it on her iPhone! I was incredulous, but she just took out her phone and Googled away. honestly, what are the police coming to? How can they afford iPhones?

Whilst she was googling, the young PC was doing a good impression of an emergency plumber as he sucked in his breath and shook his head. As we walked away, having not surprisingly had any different numbers from those my dad and son had googled from some 200 miles away, I asked what the PC was on about.

"Bloody station car park! £7 I've paid for that" he ranted.

"What about the car park?" I asked.

"The cop was saying, he wouldn't leave his car in there in broad daylight and certainly wouldn't sit sleeping in it" he replied and we both sped up and headed back to the car.

Siggy manouvred very carefully down the streets looking for somewhere safer to park when he spied a bit more upmarket hotel with a well-lit car park.

"Think we'll just try and park up there" he said, but the hotel was on the side of dual carriageway and could we find the way in? Not a chance. Three kerb-crawling trips past later, Siggy took the decision that "No Entry" and "One Way" did not apply in what he now viewed as an emergency situation and so he swerved into the street that clearly led to the hotel. Of course, as you would expect, there had to be another car coming down the street who, as ever, blasted the horn and shook his head.

Siggy was out his seat like a shot and I had already decided that he was going to kill him. it was about 1245, though, and I really didn't care any more. Amazingly, he somehow composed himself and just half got out the car, pointed to tyre and made an apologetic gesture, waving his hand towards the car. The guy immediately understood, gave a thumbs up and waited for us to manouvre past him.

We still had to circle the hotel twice to find the entrance to the acr park, which was an imposing, solid set of elctronic gates. "Bugger, we won't be able to get in" said Siggy. Then we had a stroke of luck as the gates were obviously set to pen on the approach of a car and in we drove.

Another stroke of luck - there was one space left in the car park.

The luck had to end somewhere though- I mean, we'd been having so much luck it was beginning to feel really weird. We got out and walked back to the gates, only to find there was no way out without a code. There was an intercom button though, so we pressed that and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Siggy trudged back to car, got his phone out again and called the AA. He explained things and they helpfully allowed him to join on the spot. A bargain at £158 and the man would be with us by 1.50am, Then, we got out of the car and went back to the gates, from where Siggy called the hotel. He started with "You don't have any rooms do you?" and I waited for the reply. "Oh, right, worth a try. yes I was there too. Yes, he was fantastic, but we have a problem in that our car is now in your car park with a puncture. We are waiting for the AA to come but can't get out of ....oh, forget it"

The "Oh, forget it" was because, by sheer coincidence, someone else was coming into the car park and so we could nip out when the gates opened for him. This was really lucky as I, after three wines and building on my boot camp capabilities, was begining to eye the fence and had decided that ten feet was easy enough to climb.

We headed into the hotel, explained what had happened and asked if we could use their toilets The staff were very helpful and obliged. They weren't so helpful as to allow us to sit around and wait in the plush lobby, but you can't have everything. 

We went back to the car and waited again. the next time I looked at the clock it was 2.14am - the exact time we should have been home and I may have started to cry at that point. Partly because the AA hadn't turned up and partly because the three wines were really worked through now, my bladder was about to explode and I wasn't up to navigating past the gates and the hotel front desk again.

I have to admit it, and I am not proud of this, but it was then I realised that a brightly lit car park, whilst much safer for parking in, is also much less dignified for peeing in. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure of anywhere outdoors without either walls nor canvas surrounding you which has any degree of dignity when you're squatting behind your own car for a pee after two o'clock in the morning.

That indignity over, I got back in the car and Siggy was back on to the AA. he had been on to them when I had left the car and they actually hung up whilst trying to locate their driver. When he called back, he was greeted with the news that the driver wouldn't be with us until 3.30am.

"Better get him to call me when he's near then," said Siggy.

"Why?" the controller asked.

"Cause I'll be bloody sleeping as I'll have to drive up to Glasgow later" he yelled into the phone, and hung up.

We chatted for a while and I was brave enough to mention Meg warning again. SIggy was obviously really tired too because he just shrugged and said, "Yeah it's been really freaky tonight" and stared out the windscreen at the already lightening sky. Then he said something else that as really weird "You know, I sent a text as we were leaving the stadium to Marie (a female work colleague) and said the gig was fantastic and we'd just been twisting ans shouting" That was the last number and it really went down a storm , so the memory brought a smile to my face.

"She texted back straight away," he went on "And said, "that's spooky", it's playing on the jukebox here right now".  Freaky.  

Astonishingly, a local garage van did arrive and somehow found us as early as 3.45am, only 15 minutes late. The driver hopped jauntily from his cab, tyre wrench in hand and asked Siggy if he had the spare.

"No, there is no spare. If there was a spare, it would be on the car and I'd be in bed in Glasgow" Siggy said through gritted teeth. "I told the office that when I signed up"

"Oh, I'll have to call them" he said, much less jauntily, and got back in his cab. Two minutes later, he was back out, told Siggy "It's a recovery job now, someone will phone you," and left.

Brilliant. Some two and a half hours after we had told the AA that it would need a replacement tyre, they told us that it would need a replacement tyre. Thanks AA.

A recovery vehicle was then scheduled to be with us by 4.30am. This was good and bad as Siggy had still had no sleep, but by this stage we would take anything that could be seen as progress.

At 4.40am, the driver called to say he was 7 miles away and he eventually showed up at 4.50. 

I have to give this very nice man his due, he got things moving. He called control, asked them to check if they did Chevrolet warranty recoveries - which they did and he knew this as he had done one recently anyway - and before we knew it we were offered to either be taken home to Glasgow or to a garage for 8.30 to get a new tyre. We were also told that we could get the £158 back, which was very, very nice.

There then followed what seemed to be a lot of phone calls for 5am - the control were call Siggy to explain the options, the very nice man was phoning the control room (apparently he was due off shift so there was no way he was taking us back to Glasgow and that meant trying to find another very nice man), the control were phoning the other very nice man and our very nice man was phoning another local supplier that he thought opened at 5.30am! I have to say, this chink of light in an otherwise bleak night (albeit it had been daylight for well over an hour by then) was very welcome indeed. Before we knew, the car was on the back of the lorry and we were moving through the backstreets of Manchester, which was by now slowly coming to life for the day.

We passed the Etihad Stadium, now an unwelcome sight for more reasons than ever, despite the fantastic concert which seemed a dim and distant memory. We paased a 24 hour Asda, but noticed breakfast didn't start until 6am. Somehow, just about 5.20, we found ourselves in a real run down industrial estate in which there was an even more rundown tyre suppliers. This was a real, traditional looking workyard, right down the mangy cat patrolling it's territory and the wet and clearly mad cocker spanile bounding around looking for all the world as if would lick any intruder to death. Despite my love for cocker spaniles (since we got Dappy at any rate), I can't say I was well-disposed to playing with the mutt that morning and to be fair he gave up investigating the new visrtors pretty quickly.

For 5.30 am on a Saturday morning, with no sign of any other customers around, there seemed to be a lot of people working in the TYre place. The head man had a word with the very nice man and Siggy and disappeared behinn an enormouse Pisa-like tower of tyres to look for a spare for us.

One of the other workers, a friendly-looking man in his fifties, cam over to me.
"Oh dear, love, you look you've had a rough night."

"I have, thanks," I responded poabably a little too dully, but by now every part of me ached and I just wanted to sleep.

"Wanna brew?" he offered, miming a tea cup at the same time. I couldn't help thinking of Peter Kay, except this time it just wasn't as funny.

"No, thanks," I said, I think we're going to nip back to Asda for breakfast"

"Are you sure? Don't need to go back there - we've a room with a kettle, a telly and couch through there. There's even a shower if you want."

Now, I really don't think I've led a hugely sheltered life. Granted, I like my mod cons, luxuries, even, but I still think I can rough it a bit when required. I even used to go camping when I was in Venture Scouts and have recently considered doing so again, but only for a night or maybe two. How, the, do you get be 40-something and and now get to have a really worrying new experience. Honestly, I didn't know that flesh could actually crawl. I mean, I've felt a degree of abhorrence before, been turned off in many, many, ways (sorry, it's true Siggy), but I had never, ever actually felt my skin try to pull itself away from my body before to head for the "comfort" of the front of an AA recovery trucks.

"No, it's OK, thanks," I said just as Siggy appeared back.

"Wanna brew?" the oder man said to Siggy

"Yeah, that'd be nice" he said.

WHAT???? WHO IS THIS GUY? I was screaming in my head. Had Siggy gone blind and lost all sense of smell? Why in the name of God would he take a cup of anything in a place like this?

He turned to me "Apparently, he's got a spare and should have it fitted in 20 minutes. Then we'll be on our way, so no point in going back to Asda for breakfast."

Another new experience. My flesh re-conected to the rest of my body and suddenly, from nowhere, the tiredness and grumpiness melted away.

" Oh, go on then, " I said, "If we're only going to be twenty minutes"

And twenty minutes - maybe twenty-five - later, we were back on the road and only £30 lighter. The tyre was "very" part worn but it would get us back to Glasgow and that was all the mattered.

We made one quick stop at a Tesco on the way out for essential supplies - Red Bulls for Siggy as he still hadn't slept a wink and hair bands for me. A girl has to keep care of herself, after all.

Astonishingly, the journey home was really uneventful, though wet and including two further stops as Siggy was so tired (however, not so tired that he would succumb to being a passenger and I had after all, had three plastic glasses of wine 8 hours earlier and only about an hours sleep). We got back home aroun d 1015, some 8 hours later than expected but at least that was my Freaky Friday out of the way.

The rest of the weekend passed in a a bit of a sleepy haze and things sleepwise were'nt much better by Sunday night when SIggy went to bed just before midnight to get two hours before taking Peter up to the school at 2am to catch a bus to Alton Towers. This is part of "Activities Week" which, as far as I can see, is teacher-sponsored skiving for the pupils in the last week or so of term and Peter had been lucky enough to get one of the seats on the two buses for the most popular trip by far. After our experiences down the M6 on Friday, I did feel a little apprehensive, but just told myself I was being silly and should forget about it.

Instead, I decided to start on my own activities week and chose shopping as my activity. I am actually quite good at shopping and obviously my choices were really outstanding as Siggy was quite speechless on my first return. It could have been the fact that I showed the various garments whilts he was in his office on a phone call that contributed to his speechlessness, but I thought the best way to check was to see if his reaction remained consistent. Therefore, it was time for day 1, part 2 of my holidays. I headed bravely back out to some different shops.

When I came back in a few hours later, Siggy was again on the phone. Result! Except his reaction was slightly different this time and he finished his call too quickly and I had to actually ask what he thought of each outfit.

In the end, I got seven "Yes, that's lovely"'s, so I kept all of those.I also got three "maybes", so I kept all of those too. And then he had the cheek to say "No" to two outfits that I wasn't too sure of. So I'm only keeping one of those.

I'll show him the rest next week.   

I was out on Monday evening too, just for one my annual few sunbeds to get myself up from "pale to the point of see-through" to "one shade above standard foolscap paper" before we head off on holiday. I was probably only out for about twenty minutes, but when I came back in Siggy told me Peter had phoned. " They on theire way back then, " I asked.

"Kind of, " he said and I knew by the look on his face that this was not good news. He then did what he always does - spoke really quickly so I would get the good bits as well as the bad. "There's been a crash. Not the bus he's on - the other one. No-one is badly hurt but the bus driver of his coach drove away with no teachers on board." He pasued and could see I was about to speak, so he ploughed on quickly "Anyway, Peter called the teachers and they sent the police after the coach. They caught up with them at Sanback services and the drivers being questioned just now by the police." Another pause, I began to spe-"So now they're waiting to get another bus and they will be a bit late, probably about 2 in the morning rather than midnight. Peter's fine. I think he kind of took charge as he always does. Sit down - wanna brew?"

I skipped the coffee but did sit down and there followed several hours of calls between me, Peter (on one of the teachers phones) and my friend Joanne, whose son was also on the bus. She was even more frantic than I was and I think, perhaps beacuse she is a single parent and has young foster children too, she felt even more helpless. Siggy had offered to drive down and get them if needed, but eventually we got messages through that another bus was heading down for them and would bring them back up. That produced a fresh panic that the driver would be too tired, but we accepted it was the best way forward. Last text, 3.36am . Absolutely shattered again.

Siggy picked Peter and his pal up just after 8am and that, we thought, was the end of that.

It wasn't quite. That evening, beacuse we had clubcard vouchers to use and it was already booked, we went out for a quick meal in Cafe Rouge. Whilst we were there, it turned out that our friends Phoebe and Bobby, who were on holdiay in England, were also in a Cafe Rouge (different one, of course).

The usual BBM's and Facebook posts followed and I noticed a comment on the FB check-in which read " Does your Cafe Rouge also have a speccy, pretentious student sitting alone (obviously) reading a French paperback?"

I looked around and sure enough, just to my right was exactly that - a speccy, pretentious student sitting alone at the next table reading a french paperback! I alsmost pee'd myself with excitement, looked at the FB post again and drew a sharp intake of breather, looking up at Siggy, "you'll never belive...." I begand, but very quickly stopped myself.

The look on Siggy's face really told me all I needed to know, but I thought I'd try to cover it up anyway. A million thoughts ran through my head all at once "What an incredible coincidence","Who would believe that", "Why is Siggy looking at me like that", "Shit, who posted that again?", "Damn, it was Siggy.", "Wonder if he noticed me pee myself with excitement?", "Shit. He did", "Wonder if I can cover it up?"

No, I couldn't. So we both just dissolved into laughter and the pretentious French student looked over disapprovingly. Who cares, I needed the laugh.

Just then though, another friend posted on FB that the bus crash story was on the news, so we had to compose ourselves and call the grannies in case they saw it and panicked. They hadn't and didnt.

Anyway, we were home by 945 and all was fine again. Two days into my holidays and all the excitement, hopefully was over.

Oh, and I had another wine glass to add to my collection. Except this one was full size and made of glass. No-one noticed it on the train home and I'm sure they would grudge me. And neither would the pub it came from. Sorry.

The incredible thing was, I didnt even feel like drinking it on the train on the way home and so Siggy had to finish it off for me before we got off. Just as well, as the same bladder issue was beginning to become a problem and I really didnt relish the idea of squatting in the busehes in the local park. You'll be pleased to know I didn't have to.

Things can only get better?

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