Here’s to the blinking mundane!

IMG_3223Hello! Happy New Year and all that.  My washing machine is on the blink. Literally, it’s blinking. I suspect that we will have to buy a new one very soon, but so far I’ve seen it as a challenge and one that I’ve met every time – this has been going on since the Summer with increasing difficulty, and takes some patience (not really my forte), absolutely no slamming the load in and pressing the button and running out of the door in any sort of hurry. And particularly not so this morning [20 minutes and counting trying to switch it on, now taking a break]. Luckily I’m already up and over and down the other side of the massive post-holiday washing mountain: H, oldest, has gone back to university weighed down with her whole wardrobe washed; F, in the middle, is also back at university fully laden with his laundered stuff; all the once sweaty ski wear is once again fresh; even those of us currently left at home – me, Mr N and youngest R – have a full set of clean clothes.  We’re just onto the peripherals now, towels, tea towels, stray pants and socks. All, quite honestly, thanks to my superhuman levels of equanimity in the face of the blinking machine.

We’ve just been skiing, hence the particularly onerous pile of laundry. We drove to the French Alps and back, via Nantes and la famille DW for Christmas. It was everything that a family holiday should be – expensive, sociable, stressful, knackering, bad-tempered, squashed, expensive, entertaining, argumentative, funny, unhealthy (a lot of coughing), divisive, inclusive, weepy, laughy, expensive, and a little bit scary. Oh, and did I mention that it was expensive?

Our drive east across France should’ve taken eight hours which is quite long enough. But it took us 15, through a combination of unfortunate factors.

1) We were journeying on an official “black” day on the French road calendar along with every other French, and seemingly British, family, all of us heading the same way;

2) French Easy Jet employees were on strike, thereby forcing even more people onto the roads to the mountains than had been foreseen;

3) The main motorway, the A40, was closed between three junctions, our side, because of an accident, causing standstill traffic both on it and off it on the diversion;

4) There was a heavy snow dump, on the mountain roads, just as we hit the mountain roads;

5) We had ignored many many many people’s advice to practise putting on snow chains in the calm and comfort of our own driveway.  This last element introduced the fear factor to the list of familial vacational emotions.

12 and a half hours in to our journey, and less than 20 miles from our destination, as we crawled up into the Alps, passing lines of cars at the side of the road all chaining-up, we at first considered ourselves superior – a whole, concordant conversation was had about us not being sheep and panicking just because some people were putting on their snow chains when clearly the conditions weren’t that bad and the road was wet and the snow wasn’t sticking. We drove on, higher. Next we were amused at how many of said sheep appeared to be struggling in the dark to read the instructions. We drove on, higher. Then we collectively comforted ourselves by all agreeing that we’d driven, chainless, in much worse back home. And we drove on, higher. Then we went a bit quiet as all eyes flicked between the road and heavy snow outside and the miles to go on the sat nav inside: just seven miles left. And we drove on, higher. Then we skidded. Oh shit. So we pulled over, finally giving in, opened the boot to retrieve the snow chains, and out fell a bag full of wine, beer and calvados, smashing to the ground. I busied myself removing the glass out of the tracks of future travellers while first Mr N, then F, then all of us, flustered and flitted around, trying to put the chains on the two front tyres. Until that very moment, that dark, snowy, -3º, at the side of a mountain road moment, we had not looked at the instructions which, it turned out, were contained, cutely, in three small diagrams on the front of the box with some even smaller captions, in French. The chains, for the first time out of the box, were a tangle of, well, chains. We didn’t even have gloves to hand. Mr N, raging, absolutely forbad me to ask for help. I did anyway, but no-one else in that layby right then knew what the bloody hell they were doing either. There was a black edge of hysteria in the air.  A snow plough forged by. FOLLOW IT came the cry! We threw everything and ourselves back into the car and skidded off up. We clocked another two miles and came to a small town which seemed a safer place to stop. At least if we got stranded we could knock on a few doors (Mr N’s pride permitting, of course). Long story short, we managed (F and me, in the final instance, I would like to point out) to get one chain on and decided that would have to do. It did. We navigated the final five miles safely and in relative composure, beating hearts slowing and food and wine and warmth looming once again as possibilities. We went straight to a restaurant, ordered steak and chips, and sat, all five of us, slack-jawed, shocked and silent, and slugged back the first of many vins chauds.

Anyway, we skiied with two-thirds of the S family (who’d had their own private  nightmare getting there from Sheffield which, the day they left had more snow than the Alps). E, the last third, who is scared when skiing and has never gone fast enough to fall over, made sure we had fabulous fizz and fondue on New Year’s Eve and we clinked midnight in (albeit on Middle Eastern time, being completely exhausted and having to be up and on the piste too bright and early for our lesson the next morning) and wished S a happy 50th.

So now we’re home and back to normal-ish. (Not quite Mr N though who has two more weeks off before a final last ten week stint away Down Under. He has jobs to do while I’m at work which are only slowly being ticked off in between the trumpet playing, long baths and reading in bed but I don’t really begrudge him this r&r – I mean, how can I after my two years with the tables turned? But as usual I’m digressing.) Though we did all learn to ski (and really quite competently too despite a couple of frozen-in-fear-on-an-icy-steep-slope tableaux from me and H), I’m not entirely sure we’ve completely recovered from that journey and there’s still the washing machine to tackle.

But hey, the mesmerising, the momentous and the mundane, from such things are collective memories made. So that was our 2014/2015 changeover. And here’s wishing the mesmerising, the momentous and, yes, a good dose of the blinking mundane, to everyone! X

3 thoughts on “Here’s to the blinking mundane!

  1. This is quite simply absolute utter and innane drivel. You have the audacity, on the day of a such a tragic, multiple murderous attack on French society in Paris, to go on about your post skiing holiday washing. Please don’t be under the illusion that posting the minutiae of your relatively privileged life online is in any way creative or worthwhile. Go to a pottery class or something instead and relive us of this wasteful blog.

    1. I agree that my life is relatively privileged, in fact it’s more than relatively so. However, I’m not responding to you so I can justify why I write the blog. I’m sorry you don’t find it either creative or worthwhile, but that’s your prerogative (though as an aside, it’s been worthwhile for me). I presume that you’re no longer following me or reading it so this is perhaps a pointless reply, but I’ll continue anyway. To suggest that it’s audacious (and by implication distasteful and insensitive) to post something trivial on the day of the Charlie Hebdo attacks is ridiculous. What I wrote on that particular day had nothing to do with, and nothing to say about, that particular event. Atrocities and tragedies happen every day and most of the stuff you might’ve read on that same day, or any other day, is equally unrelated. Perhaps you truly believe that normal, sometimes shitty, sometimes funny, every day life comes to a standstill every time something awful happens, but it just doesn’t. Perhaps you spend all your time commenting on the irrelevance of all of this kind of internet trivia (and all the porn and racism and sexism and nasty trolling too?), but if you do it’s undoubtedly a complete waste of your time, given the amount of cybercrap out there and the general vileness and unfairness of the real world. You have no idea what I think about these serious things because I don’t choose to share them. There are far more productive ways of railing against such horrors, which you might spend some of your time doing of course, but then so might I, for all you know. By all means criticise my blog for what it is (though I’d prefer you just not to read it), but please get off your high horse when it comes to moralistic judgements, we can all find a bit of armchair outrage within us easily enough. Right then, that’s off my chest so I’m away to find a pottery class on which to silently inflict my lack of creativity.

  2. Ha ha – the description of your snow chain debacle had me chuckling in reminiscence of my own awful first snow chain hell stuck alone in Italy. SImon

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