I had known that the radio is a great medium which can capture the human condition in ways even television struggles to beat. But over the course of the week, I have had my conscience juggled.
With my children on holiday and the extended prospect of a dreary weekend of rain, rainfall and more rain I thought it was best to do a bit of sun chasing. Between me and my wife, we had recycled so many ideas on how to keep them entertained, now the week was suddenly upon us and typical to our skill on managing these drawn out scenarios, we took the fire brigade approach of finding what we could do with them.
The rain was doing what it does best and with the promise of more to last the weekend, we decided we needed a bit of sunshine of our own. Ten minutes later on the old PC and I was able to spot the rays of hope on the coast of Bridlington. In a trice, I was booking the caravan, calling to my wife to make all the necessary finesse to make the journey to, during and fro as smooth as she could. She’s never one to disappoint, and once again, she pulled a stunt only Evel Knievel would dare. Balls for play, nibbles and deserts sorted, games for the road, and snack for the aged that our children are keen to share whenever we tuck in. It was all set.
We were particularly keen to put the dreariness behind us as we did not want to live through a whole day of constant random interrogations about our fostering adventures. I had unwittingly mentioned (while I thought they were out of earshot) that I had heard from the fostering agency and that had opened the floodgates to the millions of questions to follow. As we attempted to answer them as politically correct as we could, there were a few hard truths we had not really thought would impact on our children the way they saw things in fairyland.
Questions like: “why can’t Uncle foster look after his children?” (as it happens, we know a John Foster). I explained this was not John Foster, but that fostering is the act of looking after other children. “If Libby sleeps in my room, where will I sleep?” (Libby is John’s daughter), I still mentioned that Libby will be staying at her house, with her father. (John’s wife, Libby’s mother works abroad) "Will she be in my class?” (they happen to be the same age). You can understand why even we needed this break from our little hell, a chance to channel their mind away from our daily grind and push other challenges their way. However, with the whole south of England facing rain, more rain and continuous rain, the nearest beach we had harped upon was a good three hours away. We had hired the van, the food was in the car, the children were over the moon about leaving the house to a “surprise” and of we went. But challenges come with their peculiar problems.
At home, I could walk away from a question, delay by boiling an egg, going to the next room, making a snack, anything...anything to get away from it all. But with all five of us (two in reality) trapped like we men are want to be when we are quizzed by a wife on matters we don’t necessarily want to discuss, the rest, as they say, is history. I really felt trapped. With traffic building up as I exited one way into another equally crowed road, (other parents escaping the weather no doubt), I veered the conversation the way I thought would be best. I asked about school work, school friends I wanted to keep at bay, and so on. Children being what they are, mine managed to stir the conversation back to the issue of fostering. If only we had the answers; especially of when we were getting another little nipper, not knowing if in fact we were to be approved. If only. Our highway to redemption was turning out to be like the Israelites’’ journey to the Jordan valley.
I had been driving over an hour and the rains were drenching the road like there was no tomorrow. Meanwhile, inside the motorcade, all the mod cons of luxury were not enough to keep my children away. The DVD player, music choice (their choice) games all held no sway. My wife suggested some nursery rhyme and miraculously they were agog with excitement. I must confess: I got conscripted to belt out the tunes of “The drivers on the Bus”. Another five minutes of my life embedded in my psyche, my hearing will never be the same again. My voice doesn’t stand a chance either. Well, suffice it to say that as the young ones found a route through music and song, a lot of them paraphrased, the weather outside drizzled to a Scotch mist and by the time we arrived the sandy Yorkshire beaches not only had the had the cloud lifted, we actually had a peek of sincere sunshine.
Beach, check! Hot dog, check! Candy, check... rocks, tantrums, check! Fun, toys, petrol, family all checked and now it was time to go. As I drove the beast of campervan slowly down the motorway back home with the English countryside returning to give us the serenity of a late setting sun pursuing a summer solstice, my supposed tired angels refused to slumber off. All the walks, all the rides denied them, the tears, temper on high tide, grumpiness on low tide; none of that was enough to make my children want to sleep off so easily. The sweet overdose was kicking in. Great! So I promised the lot a bath if they were not asleep by the time we got home, and that did the trick. Just as the sun dropped into the horizon, they slouched off. My wife’s worries were lifted and even she was snoring gracefully in the seat next to me. Success! I had managed to scare the hibby gybbies into them at the prospect of a hygiene function. I finally was the master of my domain. Children asleep in the back, wife in the land of nod, me on the motorway, I destiny was in my hand, at last.
I had the steering wheel ready to do whatever manoeuvre I desired, skip lanes, change lanes without the back seat driver screaming every time I over take a sleek Merc. With the walks between piers, trips to restaurants and toilets, shops and cash machines, I had managed to tire them out at the talk of a bath. I could not believe it. I could do whatever I wanted; listen to whatever rubbish they did not want to hear. Flicking through the FM stations, I stumbled on a not so scratchy drool as a child narrated a story that caught my attention. I turned the volume button clockwise, cranking up the volume renting the air with a clarity I was craving since we left home that fateful eight o’clock. I had had a non- stop thirteen hour children intimidation and now I had managed to effect a half hour reprieve before life was to return to normalcy again. So I listened.
The child spoke, through a narrator, how she had survived the ravages of war, been kidnapped and enslaved across her orders, raped and forced to mother a baby seven years before she attained the legal age of consent.
As I listened, my white monstrosity of a caravan trailed the lanes and I drove into a bout of rains, depriving me of my thirty minutes, back to the present. I had fifteen minutes to be home, needless to say the child on the radio, now a grown woman, managed to free herself from her nightmare. Suddenly, my thirteen hour extravagance didn’t seem so noble after all. I feel so ashamed.