Sad news – my Mini adventure is over. When I bought it, I went through a long and convoluted thought process that seemed logical at the time and, to be fair, still stands up to scrutiny. I had started a new job and I thought the Mini would be used for commuting but only very occasionally taking the boys to nursery in it, owing to the time I had to get to work. I didn’t need anything bigger.
As it turned out, the hours I work and the location of the boys’ nursery in relation to my office meant I was perfectly placed for taking the boys in every day. Whilst they can climb in and out of the Mini and even get into their car seats, they could not fasten their seatbelts. That entailed me climbing into the back of the car on a daily basis, which was doing me no good at all.
All of which means I needed a new car, with conventional doors. A simple estate would do. Something like the Volvo V50 I had a few years ago as a company car would be perfect. So this is where I started looking on Autotrader and before long I had purchased a car.
Only I got a bit distracted during the process and anyone who is old-school and used to flick through the printed incarnation of Autotrader back in the day, whilst on throne, will know all too well how easy it is to go off on a tangent when looking for a car.
As a result, there is a nice shiny XC90 sat on my drive. It’s a big old Hector, about as far removed from a Mini as you can possibly get and very much bigger than the simple estate I had planned to get, but I absolutely love it. I have called him Neil.
In the process, I forgot to sell the Mini and because we were going on holiday in June, just a couple of weeks or so after getting the Volvo, there seemed little point in getting bogged down trying to sell a car. I must get round to doing this.
So it seems I am a Volvo guy – this is my fourth. I’ve never really been one for brand loyalty, unlike my Dad who for all of my childhood only bought British Leyland vehicles, then just after I left home very briefly owned a Vauxhall but didn’t really get on with it and finally settled on Subaru as his brand of choice. His second one seems to be his car of choice because he has had for 13 years from new and shows now desire to change it, as it does everything he wants it to.
Time and again, the recurring theme is we turn into our parents and here we are. Again. The only difference is the brand of car. This has now even extended to holidays and this year I had a hankering to re-visit some holiday destinations of my childhood.
For the last two years we have holidayed in Brittany. The first year was so late in September, even though we were only there for a week, we returned in October. The weather was good, although the evenings were so cool it was nigh impossible to eat outside. The second year we decided to move the date forward to early September. The rain in the UK on the journey down to the ferry can only be described as biblical. While we only had one truly wet day while we were in France, just thought of swimming in the outdoor pool sent shivers, well, everywhere. Literally.
This year, we decided to really mix things up. We would holiday in June, rather than later in the year, and go on a road trip, spending a few days on the Vendee, a few days in the Dordogne, and, to break up the journey on the way home, a night in the Loire.
At this juncture, I should point out, that Mrs Aitchworld, for her job, arranges conferences, meetings, international travel arrangements, visas, hotel and accommodation bookings. So why on earth we collectively decided it would be a good idea for me to book a holiday is a mystery. Captain Fuckwit here managed to book the wrong day for the ferry back home. All the ferry crossings for the day we wanted to travel were fully booked. The only thing we could do was stay an extra day in the Loire.
We had planned to go on holiday in the camper van. About a week before we were due to leave the clutch started playing up and although my mechanic said it would probably be fine to take to France, probably isn’t good enough for me, and even if it had sat right with me, giving Mrs Aitchworld such a prognosis would have worried her, so at the last minute big Neil was pressed into action. The Vendee, Dordogne and Loire, Eurocamp, a big Volvo… I’ve never felt so middle class.
It could have all been so different. I pondered this when I drove past an old acquaintance the other day. James (I have changed his name to protect identities) grew up in a middle class environment, much like myself. In fact our respective parents were good friends. Somewhere along the way, James lost his way, got involved with drugs and I believe did a spell inside prison for a while. Now James and I were never close, so I was never likely to get involved and dragged into all of that. Lenny, on the other hand…
I don’t feel the need to change Lenny’s name to protect his identity, because Lenny is dead. Sorry, that possibly wasn’t the gentlest way to break this news. During my first year of high school Lenny was my best mate.
I don’t know how we got together as it was such an unlikely alliance. I don’t even know all that much about Lenny, as he was a compulsive liar and his story would change like the wind. He was definitely from a broken home on the wrong side of the tracks and at the time lived in the local children’s home, a place where they usually sent naughty boys for rehabilitation. He also had an older brother, Paul, who we occasionally hung out with, and he still lived with their mum. There was also another girl who hung out with the three of us whom Lenny claimed was his sister, or half sister, but I never truly believed this.
We were pretty much inseparable and we did everything together. We were blood brothers – we cut our hands with a scalpel in a science lesson and then shook hands to seal the deal. Lenny taught me how to smoke. None of your Silk Cut rubbish – smoke properly or don’t smoke at all! This nearly ended in disaster, again in a science lesson, when we lit a cigarette at the back of the science lab and panicked when the teacher made her way to the back of the room. We hastily threw the still-lit offending item into an empty wooden locker and shut the door, not noticing the handle had been removed, leaving no way of removing it. We still tried to draw out some smoke by sucking at the screw hole the missing handle had left in the door, but the relative lack of oxygen soon extinguished it, narrowly averting a school fire.
Lenny was a hard case, always picking fights with bigger kids. He was good at it too, and was generally feared. Of course this offered me a degree of protection. I would get myself into all sorts of scrapes with my big mouth, but Lenny would get me out of them. For a while I was being bullied by one particular boy, prior to meeting Lenny. When he found out what was going on, he went to find the bully, to have a word in his ear. I think he might have ripped the ear off, or at the very least torn it a bit, because bandages were involved. He was a roughhouse, but he was loyal and a true friend.
I don’t know what happened to Lenny after that first year. I generally have an incredible memory, verging on photographic at times, but that period of my life is a bit hazy. Lenny just seemed to disappear off the scene and I hung around with other middle class kids again. Later in life he got heavily into drugs, eventually losing his legs to them, and I gather ended up taking his own life. I feel incredibly sad about this, but I am under no illusion I would have changed any outcomes if we’d have continued to grow up together.
I also like to think I’d have always taken the path I ended up on, turning into my parents, but who knows. As James proved, it isn’t always the case. I also wonder what my parents must have thought at the time; how much they worried, or even despaired. I should ask them. I will ask them.
The reason I have pondered all of this, is because until now, Arthur and Henry have been very content with each other’s company. Sure, they have friends at nursery, and outside of nursery, but truth be told, they couldn’t give a shiny shit about them and have never expressed a desire to see them outside of nursery.
However, the other day we had a note from another parent saying their slightly older child was soon to be leaving the nursery and would miss Arthur and Henry terribly, wanting to arrange a play date over summer. This is the first time this has happened, and while I have no reservations about arranging the play date with this particular child, one day that note might, just possibly, be from a parent of another Lenny, and then what do I do? Mind you, Lenny’s mum, he claimed, couldn’t read or write, so I might be safe yet. I won’t get that note!