Wednesday, 23 February 2011
And we came to it as grumpy pilgrims; all out of sorts with the world. Adrian stressed. Me still sick and despondent. James pending sick, in a foul mood. And, as we turned onto the motorway for the endless slog, with the mood in the car hovering somewhere below freezing, I didn’t dare suggest a jolly game of Twenty Questions, or Who am I? or circular storytelling.
The silence got heavier and heavier and then, out of the blue, Adrian said: ‘Badger or Pheasant?’
‘Roadkill roulette. Badger or Pheasant?’
He was pointing ahead at a small bloated hump on the side of the road.
‘You sick bastard.’
‘Come on. We’re nearly on it.’
‘Oh, for God's sake. Badger.’
We passed it.
‘What?’ James forgot to sniff for ten seconds to peer at the corpse.
‘Yeah, new game,’ said Adrian, and went on to spell out a hugely complicated set of rules and scoring.
‘Do dogs count?’ said James.
‘This is revolting,’ I said and stuck my headphones on. And thought about an email I’d had from some parenting website asking for my tips ‘as a top Mummy blogger’ (hollow laughter) on how to keep children amused on long journeys. And felt almost tempted to send them an example of a ‘typical Exmoor game’.
And Wales was cold and wet. Adrian visited pubs and breweries and went on long hikes in the pelting rain. James sulked and watched TV. And I felt sicker and sicker. I needed fire but was drowning in water; frozen by cold. No smoke on the water; no fie-yer in the sky.
And bless her, my lovely mother-in-law sent me to bed, in the middle of the afternoon, with a hot water bottle – swinging me right back to childhood and reminding me (again) how strange and sad it is not to have a mother anymore. Even when you’re a grown woman with a child of your own. Even when for years upon years you had to mother your own mother. She took James off to see The King’s Speech and I curled up in foetal position, clutching the soft heat, head spinning while the SP took up his newly discovered protective stance, glaring out the window, growling at squirrels. My funny little medieval hybrid beastie turned brave knight.
But it was a strange trip, unsettled and unsettling, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we came home.
Final tally? Badgers = 4. Pheasants = 10. Plus one partridge; two faithful black bin liners (20 bonus points) and one man peeing by the side of the road (50 point super-bonus). But no dragons. :(