Picture the scene: back-to-school Monday has finally dawned. If you listen quietly, the collective sigh of thousands of relieved mothers can be heard drifting across the lough. It is cold. At 7.40am on the dot, Gorgeous Lou from next door arrives, perfectly groomed and pristine (you can set your watch by her – the child is a miracle) and we bundle into the ratty but perfectly serviceable Volvo and head to the bus stop, arguing about who actually is sitting in the spot where the dog was sick in the car the other day (I washed it. I did, honest).
The frost is twinkling in the car headlights, but there is a light drizzle too – an odd combination. We turn left at the four-way cross and start to head down the steep hill to the Nine Eye Bridge (thanks to Poppy’s Mum for not rolling her eyes when I asked for an explanation for its name – it has nine arches over the lough, apparently) on the way to the bus stop. Suddenly in front of us, it is all ahead stop: tail lights and… slightly more mysteriously… headlights can be seen, as well as people. The next ten minutes go something like this:
- A helpful man in slippers appears at #1′s window: ‘it’s nothing more than an ice rink’, he warns us.
- We all panic as, with perfect timing, the car in front of us begins to slip sideways
- Helpful Man in Slippers and various other people decide that the best thing to do is for the cars at the top of the hill (us) to try and turn round, lessening the risk of them sliding into those stuck further down.
- #1 gets out to help and I take the chance to reiterate the fact that if he hadn’t left his school coat lying about someone wouldn’t have nicked it and he wouldn’t now be freezing in his jumper and he’s having a laugh if he thinks I’m buying him another one.
- The white car in front of us goes first, aiming for reverse, but actually achieves a very graceful slide sideways towards the hedge.
- Helpful Man in Slippers and #1 attempt to guide us backwards into a driveway by aiming to get two of the wheels onto the grass verge.
- It becomes apparent that slippers aren’t very good for grip.
- It becomes touch and go whether it will be us, or Helpful Man in Slippers, now being helped by #1, who will end up sliding down towards the bridge first.
- We try to reverse but go nowhere, the wheels hopelessly skidding on the slick black ice, then, with a jolt, we ended up slipping sideways too.
- Gorgeous Lou, from her usual spot in the back seat, emits an involuntary whimper.
- ‘If we start sliding’, adds the Death Wish Child helpfully, ‘we could tip over the bridge and into the lough’.
- I throw the ‘shut the f*ck up’ death glare to the Death Wish Child in the back seat.
- Helpful Man in Slippers and #1 try to guide me into the driveway by yelling such useless phrases such as: ‘hard right… not that hard… now left… no! Yes! but lefter than that…’
Eventually we got turned around and after another false start when we tried to slow down and warn someone else and couldn’t get started again, limped back home and tried the other way around the lough with more success. Abandoning all hope of catching the bus, and with the ‘gung ho’ spirit of those that have cheated a watery tipping-over-a-bridge type death, we decide to drive to school
Result = a grand total of two hours for the school run. We probably owe Helpful Man in Slippers a bottle of something too.