David and Lizzie go home on annual leave every summer but having lived overseas for some years now they find it increasingly difficult to adjust to the developed world.
While Lizzie dashes up and down high streets of English market towns, David can be found in the nearest Starbucks café taking the waiter to task over the bill of £20.50 for a cappuccino and three chocolate chip cookies. The children have taken their shoes off again and are running rings around the coffee shop tables, leapfrogging customers as their father takes no notice. They have been in there for over one hour. Lizzie finally shows up feeling frazzled and laden with bulging bags from M&S, Next, Gap and Karen Millen. It is drizzling.
“I couldn’t find a sleeveless, zip up fleece or any short, thigh length shorts for you darling. Apparently they are no longer in fashion.” She tells her husband who depends on his wife masterminding his annual wardrobe update. He frowns as he pulls out of various bags garments that are peppered with pockets, zips and visible logos.
“Acacia!” Lizzie cries as she spots her three year old daughter wandering out of the café unaccompanied. They shamble out of Starbucks into the rain with not a waterproof between them.
On return to the car the family are dismayed to find a parking ticket. Not sure what on earth to do with it, they ask themselves while looking up and down the street,
“Were we were supposed to pay? I didn’t see a parking sign?”
They then strap the children into rather less than road legal car seats that they hope no policeman will pull them up on.
“Why do we have to have seatbelts?” the children whine, “and why do we have to always squeeze into such a tiny car!”
Relieved to have negotiated out of the town centre having only driven down a one way street the wrong way once, they head to the out of town supermarket. David concentrates hard on the smooth tarmac ahead as cars speed past with no fear of potholes or wildlife hazards to slow them down. Windscreen wipers at full speed in the slow lane, he is momentarily blinded by the spray from a passing lorry. He never ceases to be amazed that vehicles that indicating do in fact follow through by changing lanes or turning in the correct direction.
‘Careful! That bus might pull out!’ shouts Lizzie,
‘No Darling, this is England remember’ counters David.
The children are squabbling in the back as a result of the sugar high. David and Lizzie have a policy whilst on holiday to allow the children as many sweets as they like on the basis that they rarely get them at home. Their mouths are sticky, hands and feet filthy. Acacia’s shoes are off again.
David has sent Taro off to get a shopping trolley but he comes back empty handed saying that they are all chained together and refuse to pull apart. The children disperse amongst the aisles playing hide and seek. After shopping, Lizzie stands at the check out gazing into space for some time before realising that it is she who is supposed to be packing the bags. David splutters over the £200 bill for a few electric toothbrushes, bottles of sun cream and ‘Any-way-up’ cups.
David’s trip to Head Office the day before had been a disaster. He was stopped at the barrier at Victoria Station for having purchased the wrong type of ticket mistakenly bought from the automated ticket machine, then was refused entry onto a red double-decker bus for not possessing an ‘Oyster Card’. Finally, when he wanted to buy few new music CDs he was told by a spotty youth in HMV that his credit card had been refused. Back home Lizzie’s parents are increasingly exasperated by their house being taken over by thousands of shopping bags, marauding grandchildren and to add to their woes, persistent muddy footprints all over the beige fitted carpets.
Only five more days and the looming dread of the West End production of Lion King to go before finally getting home….
(slightly shameless re-posting of a piece I wrote circa 2008 but still rings true I think and yes, it’s that time of year again!).
Image Credit: BBC Newsround: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/21101421