Patience, good humour, and grace

Thursday April 13, 2006

13 days to M-day

It will probably horrify some people but I completely forgot that today was Maundy Thursday, tomorrow is Good Friday, and the four-day holiday weekend is upon us. Thankfully, Graham reminded me in time this morning, and saved me from too much hassle.

“Oh, lawks,” I said. “And here’s me, no shopping done, and completely unprepared.”

“You’d better get your act together, then, and go over to Tesco’s toot de jolly sweet.”

“Soon’s my diuretic has run its course I’ll be on the road.”

It was too early for the weekend traffic to have built up on the main road. The country roads were relatively clear, too, and I only just touched the very edge of the Great Boston Holiday Gridlock as I pulled in to the Tesco’s carpark. My luck held here, too. It was just about filled to capacity but I located and slid into an Annabel parking space smooth as smooth. [‘Annabel’ — a family joke from Swansea, corrupting the Welsh language word for ‘Disabled’, which is ‘Anabl’. Once you’ve lived there, you never quite escape from Wales.]

The supermarket was heaving with a mix of local and holiday-making customers. Each aisle seemed to hold a flustered mother screaming or shouting at errant children, halting my progress. I kept my balance, though, and felt an enormous sympathy for the poor loves, lumbered with a useless husband and a gaggle of kidlets, with a long, long weekend looming. Though I never shall understand “If you don’t stop crying I shall give you something to cry for.” Yer wot?

I got my provisions easily enough, sufficient to see me through to Tuesday if I feel unwilling to tackle the holiday traffic again, took it out to the car and stowed it safely away. Then I straightened up and took a look about me. Oh dear. The gridlock had reached Tesco’s, and there were solid lines of cars queuing to get in and out of the carpark. Tempers were getting short, with a deal of tooting, gesticulating and shouting. Not a lot of point joining that lot before the blockage was cleared.

I glanced at the time. A bit early, but not too early for lunch, so I wandered back into the supermarket and made my way, haltingly, to the coffee shop. I did that quite well, too, picking a not too unhealthy meal up. One of the servotrons gave me a good telling off for using a vegetarian scoop for a non-vegetarian pasty, grabbed it and flounced off to wash it before returning it to the self-service tray where it rightly belonged. The bad tempers had reached the staff, clearly. I smiled sweetly and with a hint of apology, took my tray, and claimed a table for myself by the window where I could keep an eye on the traffic. No hurry. Still gridlocked.

Slowly, the coffee shop filled with harassed parents and protesting children, the noise level grew and the bad temper factor grew with it. I was delighted to catch the eye of a very small child sitting in a high chair, smiling happily and quietly enjoying the private world that protects young children from the hassle about them. She gave me a lovely, serene smile, and I smiled back, doing my best to return the gift of serenity. For a moment we were joined in fellowship, a tiny tot and an old duffer, both sitting back happily and waiting for the rush to finish.

Couldn’t last of course. I finished my meal, stacked my tray, and made my way back to the car. Still no discernible let up in the crush of cars waiting to get in and out of the carpark, so I turned the radio on and settled to enjoy a strange play about Samuel Beckett. I was waiting for Godot in my own sweet way, I suppose, but no matter how many explanations I hear I still don’t really get the masterpiece as anything other than a perfectly crafted instrument on which accomplished actors may showcase their art.

Coincidentally, or it may have been wishful thinking, when the play finished there seemed to be a slackening off of the amount of the traffic queues that’d barred my exit, so I pulled out gingerly and joined the queue out of the carpark, along the access road and up to the main road. All of it was solid, and the road into Boston even more so. Fortunate, then, that I could go off in the opposite direction to track across the country roads to Sibsey. I got stuck in the fringe of the Boston gridlock just the one more time, at Hubbert’s bridge, and then it was easy going all the way home.

Ye gods and little fishes but if it was as bad as that on the very edge, goodness knows what it was like in Boston itself.

“You know what, Dolly,” I said as I stowed all our goodies away in the fridge and larder. “I think I done pretty well there, keeping my cool in the face of the big Easter rush. And you done good, too, waiting so patiently for me to get home. What say we have a little treat?”

And that’s my recipe for successfully managing a trip through British Bank Holiday traffic. Start off with a full tank of fuel, an empty bladder, and as much patience, good humour, and grace as you can find within yourself. Works for me.



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