It sounded like a good idea. A week away with my two sons, ten and twelve, all blokes together, give Abigail a break. It would also drag the two of them away from the obsession that’s occupied most of their summer and driven her and I crazy. We pack tents and stoves and sleeping bags into the car and set off on the five hour drive to the ‘Lads and Dads Week’ campsite.
It doesn’t matter how much stuff they’ve got to occupy them in back, it’s not enough. Soon they are bickering with each other. I thought my daily commute was stressful, but two boys in the back of a packed car on a hot summer day, stressful isn’t the word.
When they start chanting in unison, “Are we there yet, are we there yet,” I lose it. I yell at them, but they take no notice and carry on. Usually I’m good at joining in these games, but the A303 is choc-a-bloc with traffic, my back aches and there’s nowhere to stop for miles.
I know I shouldn’t have, but what parent hasn’t? Turned around when they’re driving and yelled at them in the back. Who hasn’t done that? And most of the time it’s okay, isn’t it?
It would have been okay this time, but I turned the wheel and we hit the kerb. We weren’t going fast. Only about walking pace. There must have been a weakness in the tyre, or a sharp stone, but something caused the puncture. It wasn’t serious, there were no injuries, but I felt the tyre deflate, and my mood followed. I put on the emergency flashers and pulled in as far as possible. A Saturday in August on the A303 and I’m causing a major traffic jam.
I get out and hustle the kids out of the car and behind the crash barriers. The traffic might only be doing five mph, but they are boys aren’t they, so better off behind the barrier. I need to get the spare on, but I can’t manage with the emergency jack, not with this traffic. If another car nudged us when I was taking the wheel off it could be nasty. I phone the AA, explain where I am.
They arrive surprisingly quickly, from the opposite direction, and do a U-turn in the road. The traffic stops to let them. I feel the withering contempt of other drivers for causing a delay.
As the AA man gets his tool kit out I begin unloading our stuff from the boot. I push most of it into the back seat where the boys have been sitting. The boys are quiet now. I think they realise how serious this is.
The AA man comes around just as I lift the floor of the boot to get at the spare wheel. He sees it at the same time as I do. Where the spare wheel is supposed to be, there are two skateboards.