Just call me Mrs Reliable – unless we’re travelling together

reliable cleanerI was thinking today about all the people I rely on. By that I mean everyone apart from family and friends who are important to me in my daily life. My dentist, for example, who keeps me smiling and who is very gentle with her injections. My cleaning lady, a star if there ever was one – regular as clockwork and always cheerful, who just gets on and does what needs doing, sews beautifully, gives me foolproof recipes for Victoria Sponge, and lovingly looks after our dogs when we are away. Then there’s our lady gardener who works so hard she hardly ever drinks the coffee I make her while it’s hot, as she’s too busy wielding her secateurs and showing the ground elder who’s boss. The butcher we found two villages away who has unfailingly good organic meat and unpasteurised Brie. Our curly haired plumber who will come and rescue us if a pipe bursts, even if it’s in the middle of the night. The list goes on and on. All the lovely people we’ve found over the years who are totally reliable and make our life run smoothly. We’ve all got them in our address books haven’t we, names that we’ll only ever share with really, really good friends. So, I got to thinking…. who relies on me? Well, when it comes to travelling, no-one… and with good cause.

Unlike BackPacking Granny, who visits far flung countries with unreliable transport systems, complicated connections and tricky visa requirements, I just get everything wrong if it means going from A to B.  I get hopelessly lost when I’m driving the car – even with a talking satnav. My poor dogs never go on an adventurous walk with me clutching an Ordnance Survey map and a compass – we would end up God knows where… it just isn’t worth the risk. Once, I was so engrossed racking my (limited) brain over the Telegraph crossword (in my defence, the cryptic one) on the train, that I discovered to my horror that I’d forgotten to get off at my station. All this isn’t so bad when I’m on my own – the only person my idiocy affects is me.

travellingHowever, unfortunately, there have been a few occasions when I wasn’t travelling tout seule. For example when, many years ago, Husband decided to whisk me away to Paris for the weekend: it was an exciting prospect that was much anticipated by both of us. When the day finally arrived, we drove to Heathrow and with happy smiles and hand in hand, walked up to the check in desk. “Is your wife travelling with you today sir?” the ground hostess asked. “Of course she is” my husband laughed. “I’m sorry to contradict you sir, but she isn’t” came the reply. My passport had expired. Let’s just say the journey back to our Chiswick flat was undertaken in stony silence. The weekend was ruined before it had had a chance to begin.

Then there was the time when we were driving to Gatwick for a flight to Madrid. “Which terminal is it darling?” Husband asked me “North or South?”  I fished the boarding passes out of my travel wallet, glanced at the itinerary and replied “Terminal 5“. Even though my Husband is an excellent and speedy driver, we didn’t get to Heathrow in time for our flight and ended up paying through the nose for two more tickets and lost an entire day of our city break.

The last incident that I’m going to own up to was when we were in Oman. We were coming to the end of a fascinating week in this hospitable country and had spent a fun evening having dinner with ex pat friends. On returning to our hotel at 1am, I suggested to Husband that, before we went to sleep, we should print off our boarding passes for our flight home the next day. When I went online to the airline’s website I discovered, to my absolute horror, that our flight had already departed for London at midnight. To his absolute credit, my wonderful kind adorable long suffering husband stayed calm and booked, at huge expense, the last two available seats, for the following day’s flight. “Ah well” he said “at least we’ll have another day by the pool.