There have been a few miles added to my car in recent weeks. I had been to Leeds Castle a couple of weeks back for an evening corporate do - I wasn't actually on until about 10pm, and then only briefly, but the group seemed to enjoy it, even the Italians who were there and didn't speak much English. Shortly after this it was half term and I was off with my lovely son James for a visit to his grandparent's house in Wales for a few days. We had a great time and James even managed to produce a fabulous oil painting with my father of his cat Dru. It turned out to be a true masterpiece and now has pride of place in his Mum's front room. It was also nice to find James getting on so well with his reading, something he was really struggling with till recently. Whereas before when he would do anything to avoid reading in front of us he now almost has to be reigned back in, such is his desire to show off his new skills. Bless him.
After a brief day in Somerset to try and catch up on life, I was off down to the Isle of Wight again for a return visit to St Francis' School in Ventnor, only this time, my life was going to be a lot easier as the teacher from my previous visit Hannah Larkin, had offered me a room for the night before. Therefore there would be no getting up in the wee small hours for me - oh no! No, I would have a nice gentle drive down on Sunday afternoon, enjoy a relaxed crossing of the Solent and then pootle across the island to Ventnor, enjoy a large glass of wine or some such, exchange a few bon mottes with my hosts and then sleep a long restful sleep, safe in the knowledge there would be no early morning rushing about. Well, that was the plan. I left Crewkerne at about 4.30pm, booked as I was for the 6.30pm crossing from Lymington to Yarmouth. The weather was a bit grim - a mixture of rain and fog in places, but I made steady if unspectacular progress. That was until I got on the area of road between Wimborne and Bournemouth where the traffic ground to a halt. Various emergency service vehicles roared past us as we sat there - a huge smash shortly further up the road had closed the carriageway in both directions. Time plodded on and after an hour it was pretty clear I had missed the 6.30pm crossing. It was just after this that the Police came along announcing that the road would remained shut for some time and we had to turn round and find an alternative route. I cut across country for a while, but loads of other people had the same idea and masses of cars suddenly descending on narrow country lanes in fog and rain was a recipe for problems, and so it proved. After less than five miles there had been two other minor shunts as cars bumped into each other. I tried various turnings down anonymous pitch dark country lanes and succeeded in merely finding myself back on the blocked main road I had started on. I headed back to the last major junction I had gone across before heading onto the cursed road only to find this gridlocked with cars descending on it from all directions. I'd just about had enough by now, so I gave up and headed back home. By the time I got back home I had found I had driven just over 100 miles and got precisely nowhere. I phoned Hannah on the Isle of Wight and she encouraged me to try again by a different route later as the ferries ran until quite late into the night, so after a quick bite to eat I set out again, this time along the A303 to the A36 and then head down towards the ferry via Salisbury. All was going well and I arrived finally at the ferry terminal at about 22.32 to discover that the previous boat had sailed at 22.30 and the next one was not due until 23.59. Bugger. Buggerbuggerbugger. I phoned Hannah again and she sounded exhausted and near sleep, so she couldn't guarantee there would be anyone up to meet me when I arrived. I finally crossed the inky black Solent and was on the island, but this then necessitated a 45 minute drive from Yarmouth to Ventnor. Hannah sent me another message saying if there was no reply when I arrived she would leave the front door open and lights to lead me through the house to my room. That made sense. I found the house and called the mobile number, but inevitably there was no reply. So I wandered up the driveway in rain spotted darkness to be confronted by a front door left wedged open and a series of lights up a range of stairs. I walked slowly up the stairs praying that this was the right house and I wasn't about to be confronted on the steps by some irate home owner with a shotgun and a real bad attitude towards Tudor impersonators turning up in the middle of the night. I found my room, clambered into bed and fell into a deep and very welcoming sleep. It had taken me until quarter past one in the morning to get to Ventnor from a 4.15pm start. Now that was a Long March. Eat your heart out, Chairman Mao.
After that sort of start the actual day at the school could only be a bit of an anticlimax. They were an odd little group of kids today - relatively quiet and not seeming really on the ball. But they laughed in some of the right places and even fed me one of my best comic lines in ages. I was doing the question and answer session just before lunch when one little lad pointed to my new big shiny blingy ring on my right hand and asked me why I was wearing a girls ring on my right hand. I told him it was my feminine side. This garnered me a round of applause from the teachers. Thank you! The cheque is in the post. The afternoon whizzed past and culminated in a stunning win for the ladies in a fine jousting tournament. This makes our score for the year now:
GENTLEMEN 4 - 6 LADIES
The drive home threatened to be as bad as the drive down to the island with stark warnings on the radio about appalling traffic on the A31 AND the A303, but luckily by the time I got to the A303 it was clear and I shot through to Crewkerne and found myself at home before 7pm. Heaven. I made a few phone calls, ate some dinner, watched a bit of TV and comforted myself that being three floors up in my flat and with a broken front door bell I wouldn't be disturbed by bloody trick or treaters. And very soon I intend to go to bed and sleep until my name becomes Rip Van Good King Hal. Next show is on Thursday with a return visit to the lovely Knightwood School in Chandlers Ford.
Oh, and I nearly forgot - Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6. Bliss!