It’s half term, we’re at my parent’s house and we’re trying to escape from the children, just for one night, but Youngest is sobbing.
“I don’t want you to go! I’ll miss you and Daddy. Please don’t leave me.”
“It’s only for one night and you have your two brothers…”
I look up at Middle One who’s lying on the top bunk engrossed in his book.
“…and you’re here with your grandparents.”
“I know, but I’m still really going to miss you! You’re always going away.”
“No we’re not. The last time we went away was in October 2008. We went to Venice, for three nights.”
“Yes but I was by myself here in York just recently!”
“That was last October, four months ago, and Daddy and I didn’t go anywhere, we stayed at home in London with your brothers. You were the one who went away that time with your cousins, to stay here with your grandparents. And you are nearly nine now.”
“I know! But I cried then! I didn’t like it!”
I look to his middle brother for support but he doesn’t take his eyes from his book.
Brothers aren’t big on loving reassurance.
“Aren’t they even going to come to the door?” Asks husband when I finally make it back downstairs to the car.
“No.” I say. “Eldest is still in bed asleep, Middle One is reading My Family and Other Animals and Youngest is inconsolable. I think it’s best to leave them, we’ll be back tomorrow.”
We’re using my parent’s second car, an old Honda Prelude. It’s an automatic so husband is nervous about driving it. “Just remember to chop your left leg off!” Shouts my mother from the curb.
We manage to navigate our way out on to the bypass and from there into the countryside without too many problems, and then lapse into an exhausted silence. I stare out of the window, cramming in views like a starved person: large brown fields, spiky hedgerows, skeletal trees; it’s all so sharp against the wide sky and especially wonderful because we haven’t been out of London for six long months, since we got back from camping in August.
After parking near an old church we set off for a short walk before lunch keeping an eye on the time so we can get to the famous Michelin-starred, Star Inn, at Harome, before last orders at two. (We’ve never been.) And all goes well despite the irony that even out here, in the middle of the north Yorkshire countryside, we’re on a deadline, until husband, spotting the car on the other side of a river and checking the time on his iPhone for the twentieth time, says, “we’re going to make it for lunch!” and begins reading from the guidebook…
“Cross the river at the bridge to head back across the last field,"
There is no bridge, but just a little down stream near the far bank there is a suspicious looking jumble of wood and metal. Clearly there was a bridge. Once.
We weigh up the options: retrace our steps: a two mile walk back to the car with no possibility of lunch at The Star in Harome, or anywhere else probably, or, wade across an icy Yorkshire river - in February. Husband takes off his shoes and socks and prepares to give me a fireman’s lift.
And so it is that, with less than ten minutes to spare, mud-caked right foot flat on the Honda floor, husband screeches the clapped-out car up to the Star Inn in Harome and I am unceremoniously disgorged onto the grassy verge. And after rapping on the door with the urgency of a… well, with the urgency of a hungry Londoner, a cheery waitress ambles round the corner,
“Can I help you?’
“Oh yes!” I gasp, “Yes please! We’re here for lunch.”
“I’m so sorry, Madam,” she says, “but we don’t open for lunch on Mondays.”