Ever had such a good idea that it wakes you, in head clutching oh-my-God-I’m-so-fantastic clarity, at 2am? To know that it’s such a good idea that you want to ring everyone and tell them, particularly those you want to rope in on your scheme? Do these good ideas actually ever pan out? Yes? Well, you’re luckier than I am.
Picture the scene, if you will. 2am, Wednesday morning, David snoring alongside me, Gladys making noises in the bathroom (too much to hope she was actually cleaning it – if it were my mum it would have been done) and contented sleep talking coming from Mac’s room along the hall. I’d just been woken up by a dream. In my dream I was walking along a never ending beach, seagulls squawking overhead, the sun beating down, the smell of the sea, the sounds of waves breaking on the shore and the knowledge that I was heading for a right royal feed up for my lunch.
It was then that it hit me: what’s to stop me making that a reality? Pack up a picnic lunch, Mac and the dogs and head off to the wide blue yonder for the day. David would be working in a stuffy office whilst his wife and child scoffed candy floss, got a nice tan and breathed in fresh air. Hah!
It was barely 7 o’clock when I rang Charlie and asked her if she fancied bunking off work for the day. I didn’t need to ask twice and, one quick “I’b do dick” phone call to work later, she’d be with me. Lydia. Lyd’s could do with some sea air, good for her and the baby. Eliza and the kids could do with a break too: I rang her and she screamed down the phone. Ahah! David grumbled that he had back to back meetings which merely renewed my glee at escaping.
Mac was up, washed, dressed and ready by half seven. The dogs, sensing adventure, were whining by the front door. The assembled travellers were on my doorstep by ten past eight and responsibilities handed out. It was agreed that Mac would travel with Charlie, Eliza, Ashley and Jack and I’d take Lydia and Bump and the dogs with me. Charlie had a hastily made shopping list in her mitt along with a cool box and bottle bag – she, Eliza and the kids would stop off at Sainsbury’s on their way in so we gave them a half an hour head start. Destination: Hastings.
We’d just slid off the M25 onto the A21 when I remembered Nora. A phone call was made to both Jack Next Door and then Jane Opposite - however did we cope without mobile phones? – Jack to use my housekeys to collect the Stewart’s keys (he has a cat allergy) for delivery to Jane. Lydia reported that Jane was keen to get in and “have a good root round”. I managed to swallow down any concerns I had about that and reminded her to feed the cat while she were there.
Hastings beach, 11am and no sign of Charlie and Eliza, my son and (more importantly according to Lydia) the food. They had got lost and were coming cross country. Six heavily sugared ring doughnuts and an hour later still no sign. Another call revealed they were “half an hour away”. “How do they know that they’ll only be half an hour away if they’re lost?” Lydia asked as she sprawled on the shingle. I could feel my brilliant idea ebbing away fast.
At ten to one we got a phone call telling us they were in Rye Harbour and did we fancy meeting up with them there? “Charlie’s found the pub and won’t budge” Eliza reported before screeching “Mac! Watch out for the cars!” I was packed up, off the beach and in the car before Lydia had the chance to finish her chips. She watched mournfully as they were attacked by a flock of seagulls.
Rye Harbour and no parking spaces, thankfully we were in my car so I managed to wedge it very precariously on the edge of a bona fide row of cars. Mac was incredibly pleased to see us and chose to show this by hugging Senior Dog at length. Senior Dog had caught the whiff of the shellfish stall and was keen to get over there for a cockle or six.
Charlie had indeed found the pub, several glasses littered the table and she had a pub food menu in her hand – they never made Sainsburys. “We got lost practically the minute we left your road” Charlie whispered as Eliza took the kids down for a paddle. “These are alcoholic drinks, I’m coming back with you” she added, clutching onto my hand, a crazed look on her face.
Still. The pub lunch was nice, if a little overpriced. Mac’s burger could have doubled up as a Frisbee but it was my fault for asking it to be well done. “I liked the ketchup though mummy” he said, shooting me a grin that is so like David’s.
We had a walk along the river, with frequent pitstops for the Pregnant One. “This baby is sitting on my bladder” was a regular complaint, as was “is it me or is it clammy?” . The smell from the far end of the river was enough to stop us proceeding any further so we turned back and got a rollicking from a riverside resident who was fed up of “people just turning up and walking about”. I suggested that if he didn’t like people walking about at what was, to all intents and purposes, the foot of his garden, then he shouldn’t have bought the house in the first place. He was shocked rigid at this and mouthed like a surprised haddock.
We had exhausted all that Rye Harbour had to offer. The dogs were wet and sandy and tired, Mac wanted to “go home and lie down”, Charlie had decamped all of her stuff (jazzy sandals, suntan cream, big packet of Murray Mints and ginormous handbag) into my car and ejected Lydia’s travelling accoutrements (neck pillow, packet of ginger biscuits, baby wipes, cooling spray and, bizarrely, a headscarf) onto the gravel of the car park. Eliza had caught the sun rather effectively down her left side and was “dealing” with Jack who was grizzling and kept throwing his Space Donkey out of the pram at his sister, who had been sick twice since lunch. Lydia was wondering if she should go to the loo now or be dropped off as we left before deciding to do both.
And me? I was stuffed full of (rather excellent) chips, hot, tired and irritable, worrying about Mac being on the receiving end of projectile vomiting but not able to face the thought of swapping all of the car seats into my car (you need a degree and a double jointed body) or driving Eliza’s tank of a people carrier so that I could be with him. “I’ll be okay mummy” he said bravely, with the air of someone going into battle as he stared into the distance. The dogs, who always panic when we’re about to leave anywhere in case we leave them behind, were pleased that I wasn’t abandoning them to Charlie who, after drinking her sixth vodka and lemonade, was singing “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside”.
The dogs, Mac and I have spent today in the garden, drinking cool drinks and eating Doritos 'n' dip and it's been lovely. The dogs have taken the shade of the gazebo as their own, Mac has created an epic story using just the washing line, several pegs and many of his action figures and I've read nearly all of Faces. So, the next time anyone hears me say “ooh, I’ve just had a really good idea” that involves actually going anywhere, run for the hills.