When we lived in South London I always thought life was pretty easy – our girls were walked to school and nursery in a concise 15-minute tour, shopping was local and most of our ‘new’ friends were those we’d met through ante-natal classes. In our final year we were even considering dumping our 8 year-old Sierra estate so rarely was it used.Now, we have 2 cars – one parent/one car takes HS (12) a 90-minute trip to York, whilst the other parent/other car takes IS (9) and ES (7) on a one-hour round trip in the opposite direction.
And then there’s the collection of the girls at later times of the day. And in the meantime, SC and I worry about our carbon footprint whilst wheedling out a few financial crumbs.
Today, ES and her friend K, also 7, had to be collected from their village school on the North York Moors by another dad at lunchtime. We were called mid-morning to be told that the dad had a consultation in the village running over the collection time so the girls would be walking on their own from school to the dad’s car 600 yards away and sit inside it until the dad arrived. SC blew steam and a heated discussion ensued between us ending in, “How about you phoning for once and dealing with this?” Now I know the North York Moors sure aren’t the mean streets of South London but this is exemplary of the lax attitude that some parents seem to have a about their childrens’ whereabouts. A flurry of phone calls followed and I found a solution but us taxi drivers are severely overworked and underpaid………You talkin’ to me?
.....Shuttling back to the year 2000
Apart from the arrival of the new Millennium, the Queen Mum reaching the age of 150 and George Dubya stealing his way to the Presidency, the year 2000 was notable for 2 things – doing a ‘script doctor’ job on a film script and this was our final full year living in London.
As many folk will testify, selling/buying a property is a form of unremitting masochism with the occasional flash of sadism. SC had been in this house for 11 years before I moved in, during which time it had been a post-university house with lodgers. Then there was another 8 years with me and the arrival of each girl and DIY-ing it into a family house. So, SC had never had to sell a house before.
Naïve we certainly were when we walked through the door of our friendly local estate agent to meet Tracy, the pillar-box estate agent with the rictus smile. After that we endured a hellish 4 or 5 months during which we…………suffered surveys, called in council architects, spent hours on the phone to solicitors and estate agents, lost work, shed tears, made visits to Yorkshire, bored friends and relatives with our woes, sought advice, shed more tears, had sleepless nights, spent needless amounts of money whilst all along OUR estate agent seemed to have a double deal with the buyers, Mr and Mrs P and their solicitor who also happened to solicit for the agents. Mr P was about 27 or 28 but looked and behaved like a 16 year-old public schoolboy – whilst in the background lurked the dread legal brain of his father, a reputed QC.
At a very late stage, it looked as if Mr P had us over a barrel about construction work needed on the kitchen to get the sale done. But help came in the unexpected and welcome form of SC’s great-aunt and the largest cheque I’ve ever seen in my hand. The following day we confidently made a delicious visit to smiley Tracy and announced that Mr and Mrs P should really agree to OUR terms within 24 hours or……… Unsmiley Tracy spluttered and spluttered and spluttered.
Hey, lady……You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? Hah!