May 23, 2012
Had arranged to go and see a friend’s new baby today. Got there and she wasn’t in. Hmm. Second time in two weeks she’s cancelled our arrangements. Maybe it’s…me? Ha! No. Don’t be daft. I’m such fun, easy going, non judgemental company – that can’t possibly be the case. She’s probably kicking herself. Bet my mobile’s been ringing OFF THE HOOK with…oh, no, no missed calls. She’s probably too busy crying. It’s okay Jen, don’t worry about it, honestly. So I invested in petrol I can’t afford to sit in a sweltering hot car with a tiny baby to drive twenty five miles to see you on one of the very last days of my rapidly dwindling maternity leave while accompanied by a melted box of choccies for you. But really, don’t worry about it. I’ll just eat the chocs, spread malicious rumours about you and never speak to you again. It’s fine.
So. The weather’s beautiful, and we’re in the middle of Wilmslow. What are we going to do with the day? Having irritatingly left my invite for cocktails at Coleen Rooney’s pad pinned to our cork notice board, I rummaged through the outer corners of my brain for what there was to do for free out here in Leafy Cheshire. I drove around a bit, then I drove around a lot. Turns out ‘free’ + ‘Leafy Cheshire’ are not bezzie mates. Ooh I know. Cash, pretension, good schools…what’s missing? A National Trust building.
Dunham Massey would sort of be on the way home, so stately gardens it was. With The Poop becoming hotter and more agitated in the Micra, I took to fully winding down both windows, wafting maps and blowing in my daughter’s face. Sadly this combo does not air conditioning replace. It simply ensures that Boo started to smell like my cheese and onion crisp breath, and that I repeatedly mounted the kerb. In Leafy Cheshire. Where it is frowned upon. If I did it in St Helens, people would just be impressed I didn’t hit a pedestrian – but folks round here have values. Makes me feel uncomfortable all this respect for life.
Approaching the Dunham area, I stumbled upon the thought that a car park will, certainly round here, require payment. Before this thought had completed the short trek across my mind, I found myself parallel parking in front of some quaint little cottages in the heart of a beautiful village. Heaving my sweaty carcass from our oversized Micra-wave, I reached in for my daughter. Peeling back her perforated plastic lid and testing her temperature, she appeared to be perfectly cooked, so I poured her in my travel mug and off we went.
I didn’t really know where. We trundled up a few country lanes, then fortunately fell over the stately home. As we strolled along the pavement running adjacent to the walled gardens of the property, there appeared a locked gate, and beside it a wooden ‘stile’ access to the grounds. Sweet.
Or sweet, until you realise you are alone with a baby and buggy that weigh a sum total of thirty seven stones.
Not knowing the area/being lazy/always wanting to find the easiest route out of anything, meant that we wouldn’t be covering the next half mile of pavement that the road sign suggested would be required to enter where all the normal people are admitted. We’ll take the stile and our life in our hands, thank you kindly.
I threw the bags over, then weighed up the route of trajectory myself, Boo and pram must make in one swoop. Not a bother.
Zeus himself would have found the way I mounted those first three steps nothing short of impressive. I sailed to reach the ridiculously narrow plinth at the top, at which, immediately struck by the ludicrous height at which I was balanced with my baby girl held precariously aloft, I bit through my lip in sheer terror, and pouring with blood, had to spin myself and my thirty seven stone passenger one hundred and eight degrees before making our way down the five stepped half of the Contraption Of Death. It was only on planting all four pram wheels on the ground that I actually relaxed enough to poo myself. Which was a stroke of good fortune, as soiling at the top of the stile may have proved quite distracting.
So we were in.
Absolutely parched, desperately needing to rinse the blood from my lips and clearly in need of a toilet, we made our way towards the house. We ambled through the trees, we took in the sunshine, we listened to the birds. It was totally relaxing and thoroughly glorious. We could have been anywhere in the world.
We arrived at the house and searched for places to pay for one bottle of water with a credit card. In searching, I noted the luminous yellow ‘Visitor’ stickers stuck to the lapel of every Tom, Dick and Harry we passed.
Edging away from the heavily populated area which encompassed the toilets, cafe and cash machines, we decided, rather thriftily, not to draw attention to our lack of sticker, and thus ourselves, which is not easy when you are in Leafy Cheshire, bleeding and you smell of faecal matter.
As trespassers we marched nervously around the gardens, waiting for another patron to come straight out and make a citizen’s arrest or some do gooding squirrel to grass us right up. Every step we took I looked over my shoulder waiting for a notice of prosecution. Safe to say, there was no ambling. There was no relaxation. There was no pleasure. Just the need to screw £7.00 out of a heritage site. After an hour of sweating with worry, fear and dread we felt suitably lawless and had begun to enjoy ourselves, so in order not to get complacent and to knock any sense of good feeling on the head, we returned to the stile, which, now as actual criminals, was our only option upon exit.
As we neared its towering shadow, a middle aged woman began to approach. I readied myself for a story about the sticker blowing off. She then hung back, so I progressed towards the stile. She followed. I had to bite the bullet (though fingers crossed not my own face again). I unpacked the bags, traversed the stile, then returned for The Poop. At which point, the woman piped up:
“Want a hand with that?”
Without a thought for her own safety, she selflessly aided and abetted our gaol break. In wheel spinning away from the stile, I almost forgot to thank her. Snatching clumsily at the pram basket, I grabbed the melted box of Thorntons and thrust them at our accomplice.
We arrived home where I bathed my lip, changed my undies and sent Jen a bill for the dry cleaning.