Pass the Valium

The phone rings, the number lights up and I see it is the garage. My heart almost stops and I hold my breath. Dare I answer it? I tell myself be calm. But why is it I do not feel it?
In just over two days we are supposed to be travelling to Scotland for a restful two weeks while my stepson takes care of the cat, house and the internet server, the latter it seems is so important that our whole holiday has been planned around it. What is it? I have no real idea, except that it is connected in some way to my husband’s business and should there be a power cut-god forbid, the whole world may come to an end.
This is our first holiday alone. In so much as it isn’t connected to one of his children’s weddings, or the birth of one of their children of which there seem to be aplenty these days. No, this is two weeks away, without any hassle of flights, in the heart of the highlands. I cannot help wonder why we seem destined not to be blessed with a simple holiday without the added burden of some hassle to go with it? You are probably thinking what is this hassle she is so hung up about?
The hassle is the stupid server. This thing is so important, that when I was googling cottages in Scotland I had to revise my search to cottages in Scotland with internet connection, which severely reduced my choice from two hundred cottages to six. Of course, if we didn’t have the stupid thing Hubby’s son would not have to house sit and reset it, should we have, this so-called power cut.
I could simply ask my neighbour to feed the cat, and I could clean the house before we leave feeling secure knowing that it would stay that way.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with the garage phoning as I have digressed somewhat.
The stupid server is why I put my car in for it’s MOT today.
So, if it wasn’t for this stupid inane thing that sits in my husband’s office, I would be settling off on saturday without a care in the world. But can I? Oh no!
The stepson needs a car to get about if he is to stay here. After all, we do live out in the sticks and Hubby prefers to take his car on the holiday, so that leaves my car at home. Last week I, or I should say he, realised the MOT was due. I really do not have a clue about cars, insurance, MOT’s or anything else. I am totally blonde in that area and proud of it.
I mean, I could simply have left them to collect the car while I was away. No stress, no hassle. Oh no, now we could not have a life without hassle could we? Andrew says get it done now so it is fine for his son. I am already feeling stressed about the holiday and we have not even left yet. I am trying to keep on top of the washing, make lists for what we need as well as make sure everything is right for stepson. I even tried to organise the car insurance for him as Andrew is almost unreachable during the day aside from receiving emails.
Today, they took the car and just phoned with the result. It failed of course, I mean when do they ever pass the damn thing? Then he told me the problems my car had. The list seemed endless and all of which meant nothing to me but the cost registered very quickly and had me flat on the floor for some minutes and of course, I cannot phone hubby for advice. I have to stress myself by sending texts and emails asking him to try and find a way to phone me as the car is going to cost £800. Amazingly he phones me. I am at a loss. The son needs it, he needs the son, the server needs the son. I just need a bloody holiday.
‘What am I going to do,’ I sob down the phone. ‘I don’t have that kind of money and what about Tom? What about the server?’
The cat seems to have come bottom of the list now.
‘Don’t worry I will help you,’ he offers.
I come off the phone thinking, oh god, what will happen. Stepson has organised his insurance and now they cannot fix the car until Monday and even then what if they cannot get the parts right away? How will he get to work? Will I have this on my mind the whole holiday?
Then suddenly enlightenment hits me. Why the hell am I worrying? Is it my server? Do I care? Can I get someone to feed the cat? Yes. So I have it sorted. He said he will help pay for the car and we will work that one out. I shall relax and leave him to sort out the son also. After all, is this my problem? For once I realise it isn’t.
I shall place the Valium back in the bottle.


Wedding Cake To Turin

How many problems can you encounter on a weekend away to Turin? My only concern was could we as a family actually transport a wedding cake from London to Turin and make sure it arrived in one piece? Well here it is. Diary of ‘Wedding Cake to Turin’

Thursday: Arrive home, feeling relaxed. A nice long weekend ahead and in Italy, which can’t be bad.  We are off to my husband’s nephew’s wedding in Turin. I unpack the shopping and begin tidying the house. There is nothing I hate more than coming home to a mess. I am prepared for the odd dead rabbit with its head missing and a couple of dead mice and even some live ones should my cat lose them but I cannot leave the house with beds unmade or toothpaste in the bathroom sink. I have decided to make a Thai curry as a treat and am just preparing the vegetables and frying the curry paste when my blackberry bleeps several times in urgent succession. Already, on my way home from work my husband had emailed me asking when would I be home as there was a problem with our flights. Shortly another followed saying no problem as he was leaving early. I ignore the bleeps and continue singing happily as I prepare dinner. A few seconds later it bleeps several times again and I sigh. The kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it. I quickly check my phone convinced they are all facebook emails and am stunned to see four from hubby. There is no phone signal where he is working.

‘When will you be home?’

‘Are you home yet?’

‘I am held up here can you sort out our seats as my brother phoned and we need to do the 24 hour online booking’

‘Are you home yet?’

The Thai curry is boiling over and I trip over the cat that has brought in a mouse as a gift. I curse as I plug in my laptop and then rush upstairs to rummage through the tip that is known as my husband’s office to find our passports. After 20 minutes I get online and into the 24 booking site. Meanwhile, I rush back and forth to check on dinner and email hubby for flight details. It has been decided that the whole family should sit together on the same flight. So, at the last minute I have to rearrange our seats to fit in with his parents, brother and his brother’s wife.  I have done it. Email Hubby.

His response.

‘Can you phone David. I am not sure that is the right row. It was a bad line when I spoke to him’

The Curry has stained the cooker and I feel like crying at the thought of cleaning that up. I phone David who tells me which seats to book and I do the whole thing again. Finally, clean up kitchen and start packing. Now starts my dilemma. How many dresses for the wedding? I need to be sure. I decide to pack three, which means I need three shawls in case. I dither, should I take the travelling iron? I sneak it in between the clothes as hubby always tells me it is not needed.

‘Hotels always have them,’ he is fond of saying and I have been caught out several times now. I am going to a wedding with a sister in law who will size up everything. I decide I will not to be caught out with creased clothes. I pack the dresses, two skirts, two thick jumpers, numerous tops, three cardigans, three pairs of shoes, my diary, books, camera, lap top, perfumes, make up, all my jewellery, eight lots of underwear, magazines, numerous adapters and finally enough pills to sink the Titanic. I am ready for a long weekend in Turin. I cannot imagine any woman thinking I have over packed.

Hubby walks in and I say ‘What a nightmare that 24 hour online booking thing is, even more so without being able to ask you anything on the phone.’

I am pleased I did it and expect a ‘thank you for your help dear’ kind of response.

‘You are an intelligent woman, I would expect you to do it without a problem’

I take that to be my thank you and slam his curry down onto the table.

Later his mum phones panicking about transporting the cake onto the plane. I let hubby talk to her.


Up for early start, hubby questions why the bag is so heavy. I make the usual excuses. We cover the sofa in case the cat brings in its prey covered in blood and then head off. Pleasurable journey, no traffic and I try to relax. I am nervous. My brother in law I feel has never really taken to me and I have difficulty with his wife who believes herself to be assertive when we all know she is aggressive and I am far too passive, at least so my counsellor told me. They have never come to terms with hubby divorcing first wife.

Arrive at the airport nice and early. Stroll around the bookshops and come back to find him talking seriously on the phone. I realise it is about his contract with a long term company and my heart skips a bit as we have been waiting for it to come to an end, but good news they are renewing it and we celebrate with a coffee and flap jack.  We constantly look for mum and dad in law but no sign. Then, just before boarding we see them. Hugs and kisses all round and we go with them on the buggy (great fun) and agree to meet David and wife on the plane. Hubby takes the cake with strict instructions to be gentle with it. It is transported safely into the overhead and everyone relaxes for five minutes and then father in law states he has lost his passport. A frantic search begins, mum in law shouts at him and the hostess helps us and assures him all will be ok. It will!! I doubt it somehow. After 15 minutes of panic but with everyone pretending to be calm, mum in law announces it is in her handbag but has no idea how it got there. We take off.

No one talks to me so I read ‘Prisoner in Tehran’ and it all feels so familiar. Ok I exaggerate. After several failed attempts at conversation, my brother in law reads his book, Andrew extracts his laptop and I sit trying to avoid the germs from the coughing passenger in front of me. At last we are approaching Turin.  It has been one and half-hours.

‘Ladies and Gentleman, boys and Girls this is the Captain speaking. We will be landing in Turin in just under 15 minutes. Just time to apply the make up and brush your teeth. The weather in Turin is hot. Enjoy your break and we in the cock pit hope the wedding cake has had an enjoyable flight and safely continues on its journey’

Ok, so he didn’t quite say that. We are the last off the plane and the cake is given such attention one would imagine we were carrying the crown jewels. Andrew’s sister meets us at the airport and immediately whisks mum and dad away with the precious cake. A deep sigh is heard by all and I feel the adrenalin rush drop from my body.  David has hired a car because he is ultra organised and the four of us bundle in.

‘Oh I am so looking forward to this weekend’ gushes sister in law, ‘Spending time with you guys’

‘Oh,’ thinks I ‘I am so dreading spending time with you guys’ but say nothing.

We see the hotel in the distance but can’t seem to quite find the way in. Sister in law issues a great number of orders all of which seem to get us nowhere except round and round in the car park opposite.

‘Oh try turning left darling’ she advises again. By the time we reach the hotel she is not calling him Darling or honey anymore and we all silently retreat to our rooms.

The room is nice, not over the top luxury but comfortable. I unpack my skirt for the evening dinner. Hubby confidently phones down for the iron only to be told they don’t have one. I try not to look too smug as I slide out the travel iron.

‘Never mind, we have this.’ I say nonchalantly. He is impressed, hands me his shirt and plugs in the adaptor. Only it doesn’t work. Why it doesn’t work we do not know but the two holes do not match. Now, I know they should and you know they should but they don’t.

I go into massive panic mode. Not a pretty sight.

‘What will I do? The dress for the wedding and everything?’ I feel the tears starting and I am given the ‘don’t over react look’ which hovers on the ‘Is your period due’ statement.

‘I’ll ask my brother’

Oh no! You know how part of you wants him to have one that works so you don’t have to look like the creased hankie at a wedding, but the other half does not want him to be that well organised? I am torn.

‘Ok,’ I say meekly.

Guess what? His fit. I put my pride to one side and plug in the iron. A nice bright light comes on and I relax.

‘Do your shirt first, while I freshen up’

I am sure I did not use that phrase I mean, freshen up? What does that mean?

‘How long does it take to heat up’ he calls out 5 minutes later. I freeze on the spot.

The iron does not work. It is on but does not get hot.

‘How long since you last used this?’ he asks accusingly. Ok, a few years, but the red light is on.

‘But the light is on,’ I say stupidly. It is no good it does not work and they are banging on the door. Time to go for the family pizza dinner. I am wearing a creased black skirt and loose top and no make up. I feel like I am living up to my entire sister in law’s expectations. She looks cool in slacks and fashionable top. Hubby looks cool in crinkled shirt that somehow seems very fashionable. I feel old and frumpy.

The pizza place is nice, very Italian, set in a small village. I hear church bells and decide there and then I must make an effort to enjoy this. The dinner is going well until the wine arrives and hubby’s mum has this overwhelming urge (again) to tell the world that I don’t drink.

‘Poor Lynda, she cannot have any wine, it is such a shame.’

I go from inconspicuous to centre of attention. The room is suddenly silent and all eyes are on the spoilsport who does not drink.  I feel the room closing in on me.  The glass of water sitting in front of me seems somehow shameful.

‘I, I find it does not agree with me. Better to go without I think’ I stammer.

They all look disappointed. I imagine they were hoping I would say one drop and I would go straight into apoplectic shock.  The moment passes and I fleetingly wonder if I brought my Valium. We take photos, toast the groom and make our way to hubby’s sister’s house. Four go off to live it up in Turin and the rest of us; ten in total go back for tea.  Sister in law dominates the conversation so I eventually shut up and daydream.  Soon it will be tomorrow and the wedding.

Saturday: Up early and into town for breakfast. We are alone and it is pleasant. We talk of holidaying in Italy next year and I feel positive. My dress is fine and crinkle free.

We take our own photos and stroll with leisure, stopping for a croissant and coffee. Finally we head back to the hotel where I spend all of an hour deciding which shawl I should wear. Amazingly all goes well and I think I look quite nice. Hubby looks like the godfather and when we get down to reception he amazingly gets respectful glances from the Italian men. The sense of power is quite intoxicating but quickly wears off when my sister in law bounds into reception in a hugging dress that only a twenty year old would wear, but she looks great and I dwindle in an instant. Then, my moment is lost as she takes over, only to be taken over herself by Dave.

‘Right are we all ready? It’s a short walk so we should head off now’ he orders.

I hand our small camera to hubby. I do not want his brother to see it who is already aiming his Nikon at everything in sight and visions of Paparazzi begin to haunt me.

The wedding goes perfectly and is beautiful. We all have a bag of rice to throw and have strict instructions not to throw it until outside. Just when we all think it is over, there is Holy Communion.  Everyone rushes forward, except us and my husband’s father who leans over and quips.

‘I thought we were getting a sit down meal not just a biscuit.’

Our stifled laugh gets a dirty look from my sister in law who is also horror stricken that we have not gone up. Well, Andrew is an atheist and I am a lapsed Jew, so it seems a touch inappropriate somehow. Finally we get outside and there are the photos and the usual hugging and kissing and then the flurry of who is going in what car with whom to the reception. I figure as I am near a church a bit of prayer would not go amiss. I pray like crazy that we do not go with my brother in law. God answers and off we go with some German guests. They are very nice and no one mentions the war, which I think very admirable. No one mentions my lack of wine drinking, so during what must have been at least 10 courses, I actually had a glass or two. Inhibitions drop and I discuss Middle Eastern politics in depth and sister in law looks a touch lost. I worry constantly about the farm animals that are wandering around further back and in particular the crying goat, who someone said must be in pain and may give birth any minute. I cannot understand why I am the only one who seems to care.  Then, cutting of the cake. This is the highlight for me. We had struggled to get this thing here in one piece and now they are going to cut it up. Will I be able to control my emotions? Well, amazingly I do and even opt for another glass of wine in an attempt to drown out the screaming goat. Of course the inevitable happens and I get my usual headache, this may have been the goat rather than the wine of course.  We all make our way back to the family home, stuffed full of food and with our goodie bag of more wine and a first edition print, courtesy of the grooms father. By now my head is thumping and we decide to go back to the hotel and skip the dancing which only the young people were staying on for. A snoring peaceful night is had by hubby while I toss and turn and swallow painkillers, which eventually send me to sleep. I wake with a sore throat and a heavy head. I remember with dread the discussion the night before.

‘I though we would all go up into the mountains and then back here for pizza.’ Andrew’s sister had suggested and everyone in our party seemed keen. Well, I did at the time. This morning it is the last thing I want to do. I decide I can stay back with the in-laws. After all someone should guard them. Good plan. Dave meets us at the front of the hotel and we climb into the car and sister in law greets us with the news that the bride and groom were not officially married after all. Is this a joke? Please don’t tell me this. I cannot cope. Surely I have not endured lost passports, pregnant goats, possible swine flu and creased clothes for a wedding that never was.

‘Too many witnesses invalidated it’ she says gleefully, although I can’t imagine why it is funny to anyone. I am relieved to hear that all has been taken care of since.  They are all dressed appropriately for the walk of course, shorts, trainers, hats.

‘I have a sore throat so will stay with mum and dad,’ I say weakly. I am given a look that clearly indicates I am the wimp of the family. Oh good, I continue to live up to expectations then.

More swapping of cars and this is the moment when I nearly do die on the spot. Luciano, my Italian brother in law will drive us to the mountains. Oh god no!!  I clutch my husband’s knee and grit my teeth. We are the last to leave but manage to overtake the others. We drive along cliff top roads at 90 miles per hour with Zucchero blaring and horn honking. We overtake at break taking speed and I begin to feel like I am in a James Bond movie, except Luciano looks nothing like Daniel Craig.

‘Aren’t the views spectacular,’ says Andrew’s sister.

Are they? My eyes are tightly closed. Like a child I ask in a trembling voice

‘Are we there yet?’

It takes an hour. I am a quivering wreck and feel certain my legs will give way but amazingly I do not crumble and begin taking photos of the view. When I look round everyone has gone. Mum and dad are sitting outside the café. We cannot see the others so we go inside for a coffee and a chat. Father in law strolls off to the loo and mum in law and I continue chatting, or I should say she chats and I listen. Twenty minutes pass before I realise father in law has not come back.

‘He did say he was going to the loo didn’t he?’ I question mum in law.

‘Oh he always takes a long time.’ She says unconcerned.

But twenty minutes.

‘They will be back from their walk soon’ I say and which she ignores.

She considers ordering another cappuccino, I consider organising a search party. While she orders the coffees I sneak to the loos. It is pitch black and I fumble for the timer switch.

‘Thank Goodness,’ sighs a voice I recognise.

Father in law unlocks the door of the loo and walks out. I stare in disbelief.

‘The light went off. I couldn’t find the door and when I could I couldn’t find the lock.’

I whisk him back to mother in law and then use the loo myself. To put things very bluntly, they like you to be quick in Turin it seems. No sooner had I finished and was ready to tidy myself up (a neat description) then the timer clicked off. Darkness. I fumbled for five minutes and finally fell through the door panting. Deep breathes. I had the journey back yet. Note to self-pack Valium for next trip.

The sun is shining and we sit outside soaking it up. I take a few more photos and then father in law says worriedly.

‘They are a long time aren’t they? What time is our flight?’

I check my phone.

‘Plenty of time, they will be back soon’

‘What if they have got lost?’


‘That is unlikely,’ I reassure him.

‘One of them may have fallen’ says mother in law anxiously and he nods.

Fallen? Fallen from where?

Another couple are looking at us and mother in law explains her worry to them.

‘My son and daughter, walking on the Alps with family, very worrying,’ she shouts at them, which is understandable as they are Italian and are bound to understand if we speak louder.

They smile at us and I let out another deep sigh.

‘How long have they been gone?’

I hate to tell them it has been almost two hours. I zoom in with my lens to see a group walking back.

‘I see them,’ I lie, unable to cope with mass panic. Luckily it is them too. After Much picture taking and arguments about who is going in what car. We end up going back with the cousins from Scotland. It takes forever. There is a slow driver in front and everyone is afraid to overtake and then cousin Colin says.

‘Do you think I should flash your brother, I am very low on petrol and there is a station coming up’

By the time any of us answers it is too late and we pass the garage.

How much more can my frayed nerves take. Luckily we make it just as the light comes on.

Lunch is a rushed affair as we are late back and have 25 minutes before we have to leave for the airport. We say our goodbyes, lots of hugs, thanks for a great time and all that stuff and then we are in the car (yet again). We go with Dave and wife and arrange to meet mum and dad in law at the airport. Off we go, a bit late but we will make it, until…

‘Oh honey, my handbag’ says sister in law.

Dave screeches to a halt and I fly forward in my seat clutching my laptop for dear life.

‘Where did you leave it?’ he asked, and I envy his calmness and shoot hubby a glance. Huh, I think, my life would not be worth living right now.

‘Back at the house, oh so sorry Honey’

I am getting nauseas at the honey stuff now.

He pulls out his blackberry.

‘Best to check’

Oh yes lets. After all there are a hundred other places it could be. Meanwhile we all look around us as though it might magically materialise. Visions of missing the flight begin to torture me.

‘It’s there, we’ll go back’

GO BACK! Can’t someone bring it to us? No, it is decided that idea is far too impractical. So back we go. Hubby’s sister is dangling the offending bag as we screech round the corner. It is grabbed and we shoot off yet again.

‘Look for a petrol station, we need to fill up the car’

Oh for goodness sake.

We point out three, all closed. It’s a Sunday. Guess they never thought of that?

‘We have enough to get us to the Airport,’ says a confident Dave and they are the only words I want to hear.

The sight of the airport feels me with such emotion I need to don my sunglasses so no one can see my tears of happiness. Ok, a bit extreme.

There were surprisingly no problems with our departure and before we know where we are we are on the plane.

I am now fully recovered from my ordeal in Turin.