Wednesday 23 February 2011

No dragons

So. Wales. Snowdonia.  Land of Dragons. Where the mountains come down and kiss the sea. Lost worlds under the waves – drowned palaces. Home of eagles no more. Some kites, but mainly a banality of seagulls. Place of ancient wild elemental magic.

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.
‘Ha! Pheasant. 50 points to me.’
‘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.

And the days passed in a kind of blur. Wobbled out shopping for clothes (as nothing fits anymore and I have a pile of Next vouchers burning a hole in my purse) but ended up buying books and CDs instead. Watched more TV in four days than I usually do in two months (and confess I rather enjoyed South Riding and became morbidly mesmerised by The Biggest Loser). Went to Wetherspoons for a bit of Twitter banter and did manage to smile.

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. :(


Eliza said...

Hope you're feeling better now. Roadkill game is pretty gross though

Anonymous said...

*snorts* That sounds like the kind of game my brothers and I would come up with. Usually though it was the 50 states in license plates or the ABC game (find a sign with the corresponding letter beginning a word).

It's a shame there were no dragons, but I do hope you feel better. I'm just starting to come down with something and I want it gone.

Exmoorjane said...

Eliza: I'm sorry, I really am. What can I say? Yeah, I'm getting there. I'll be okay - usually am.

dld: see, the US is much better for road games...(though over there my favourite is playing cat and mouse and getting pulled over by men with guns!). Yeah, there should be dragons but, hey, that's life. I have my small hybrid medieval beast, so can't grumble. :)

Zoë said...

Oddly, I totally understood what you were saying about your Mum. I cant count the times I wanted that nurturing protection, the sense that someone could sooth it better, and have grieved it most my life. Thing is my Mum is alive, not that it makes much difference to my life or ever did.

Hope you are on the mend now? xxxx

Alison Cross said...

I can't get into The Biggest Loser UK. I'm with the US version all the way. Jillian frightens me, but I can't take my eyes off her as she pummels some poor soul into disclosing a hideously personal bit of info.....addictive.

I watch it from the sofa whilst eating Wotsits...

Ali x

Exmoorjane said...

Zoe: nurturing protection is the perfect phrase... ah, it breaks my heart your lack of mothering... I need to make you scones again, my love. xxxx

Ali: I didn't even realise there was ONE version - certainly never knew it was a global franchise! But I guess fat is a worldwide issue... It's the moobs that fascinate me...amazing.

Frances said...

Jane, I really do like that picture of the red dragon. I've always been fascinated by pictures of dragons, but truly don't think I'd want to meet up with one for real!

It can be difficult to be under the weather while you are in someone else's home, so how lovely it is to hear of your mother-in-law's caring for you. And the SP, as well.

Did ASBO have to house sit while you all were traveling?

You brought back memories of longish family car journeys from my childhood. There was always drama about map reading, frequent scuffling between by two brothers, my dad's cigarette smoke in the air, and some attempts to play I Spy sorts of games. Roadkill to avoid were smelly skunks!

These days I rarely travel even short distances in cars. Thank you for summoning up some nostalgia.


The bike shed said...

Should have come to Pembrokeshire - actually, it's pissing down and the beer is pretty crap, so maybe not

Fire Byrd said...

Hello stranger, thought I'd get my act together and find you to say hi.
Sorry you're feeling poorly, hope your getting better by now.
I always found puking was a great game as a child sitting in the back seat of the car.
I will email you whenit isn't 11.30 at night as it is now. I should have been in bed ages ago.