Today we motored up to Louisa and Errol’s home in Mapperley, Nottingham. We had not used our Tom Tom satnav for a couple of years, and it took its revenge. Throughout the journey it pleased itself whether it showed the road map for a second or a minute or at all. It kept switching from one place to another, and after about an hour suddenly halved the distance and time we still had to go. After much frustrating investigation I realised it was taking us to my one-time address in London, W2. Fortunately this discovery came before it would become crucial. Once, whilst we were travelling along the M1 the device took us on a diversion round a roundabout and back onto the motorway. It had, without being asked, taken us on a demo trip.
Normally when using the satnav, we have Kate’s voice turned off. This young lady’s directions are those we programmed the device to produce. She irritates Jackie, who finds her confusing. I hold the machine and forewarn my driver of movements she has to make. For example I will say: ‘in 300 yards turn left’. Without the screen showing the route, I couldn’t do this so the voice stayed on. That, at least, was consistent.
I became rather less than my calm, laid-back, self. ‘More than somewhat’, as Damon Runyon would say.
Passing through Oxfordshire the skies were full of kites. The avian variety. In Leicestershire, a livid, jagged, lightning scar suddenly split the grey cloud screen ahead, and we were driving through torrential rain, forcing our speed down to about 35 miles an hour. This did not last last long.
We stopped off at Cherwell Valley Services which is a massive fast food facility. There were two one-armed bandit areas, and various other amusements for travellers taking a break. I heard a woman trailing around ask ‘is there anything else to see?’ The place was like Waterloo station in the rush hour. Jackie queued at Upper Crust for her baguette. I tried the Cornish Pastie stand. I stood for a while only to learn that the traditional variety would not be ready for another half hour. So it was a Burger King for me, where I chose a Triple Whopper. As I bemoaned the fact that there was nothing to eat it with, Jackie proclaimed that this was not the place for delicacy and I should just pick it up and take a bite out of it.
Our journey took somewhat longer than anticipated, and, by the time we arrived at Haywood Road, two little girls were sitting on the wall with their Mum, waiting for us to drive off immediately to Lower School for Jessica’s dance show. Errol’s driving was a calm interlude after the previous few hours of mounting stress.
We then sat watching groups of Nottingham’s finest primary school children performing on stage. Everyone had a fun time as those we had come to watch entertained us with gusto.
There was some delay due to technical hitches, and the emcee was forced to apologise for an unfortunate un-Bowdlerised opening phrase in one of the soundtracks. I was full of admiration for the dedication of young teenaged trainers of these after-school groups in enabling the children to achieve idiosyncratic, individually co-ordinated contortions to the cacaphony of sound illuminated by flashing red lights as they emerged from the darkness at the back of the stage. My attempts to photograph this left something to be desired.
Of the several popular numbers performed, ‘Gangnam Style’ was noticeable for being almost as entertaining as South Korea’s Psy’s unlikely hit of last year. Indeed, it was when she heard the introduction to that piece that Jessica, previously a little bemused, became most animated.
Occasionally visible from the folds in the curtains in the wings would be glimpses of the elegant limbs of a conducting choreographer who performed the movements the children were meant to be making. Then we realised why so many of them constantly swivelled their heads sideways. There was the inevitable child who was too small for her skirt and was consequently restricted to one-armed movements as she hitched up the elusive waistband.
This took me back to summers in Newark during Louisa’s early schooldays. These were when we were subjected to NITS, the Nearly Instant Theatre Sessions directed by Alan. Children of varying degrees of talent would throw themselves enthusiastically into rehearsals for the grand opening performance. I seem to remember Louisa, one of the keenest cast members, enjoying a dialogue on stage in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. She has forgotten it.
Back at the Thompson home we were greeted by a surprise visit from Emily and Michael. My son was moving his daughter from Nottingham University to Birmingham where she will be staying for the three months holiday period.
Errol had a go at resetting Kate. We’ll see how we get on on the way home. The problem had been that we had not done this trip from Hampshire before, so we should be more successful even without her assistance.
Louisa made an excellent sausage casserole whilst Emily read the bedtime stories. Jessica and Imogen’s cousin had to be rescued by Errol because the children had, of course, quadrupled the number of chapters Mummy always read to them.
Naturally we stayed the night.