My Spectacular Weekend in the Midlands

After a hectic morning at work counting down the hours and for once having more to do than I could handle. I could finally be whisked away on a magical long weekend for my Nan’s birthday. My Nan is in fact called Mama, something to do with my cousin having the inability to say Grandma.

So of course, my train was running late. Only four minutes behind schedule but it was enough to set me on edge. Come on! So the normally relaxed stance reading whichever book I’m halfway through was replaced by some nervous pacing. The train finally arrives with a relief and I don’t hesitate in boarding – in fact I may have elbowed some people out of the way in my haste. Not deliberately of course.

I make it home to find my Lover hasn’t made it home from work, after reassuring me he would only be half an hour. Well that was forty-five minutes ago. I double check and then recheck everything I’ve packed and with nothing left to do, I pull one of the barstools up to the window, pull my phone out and play the new storage hunters type game that I’ve downloaded. I won’t deny this is strange behaviour, and not something that I’m normally prone to do, but I was excited so we’ll let it slide, just this once.

An hour later, the Lover is home, showered, mostly packed and almost ready to go. As with my usual tact, I’m hustling him to hurry up and practically ushering him out the door. The time is now 2pm and we have a three hour journey head of this – that’s providing there’s no traffic – and there almost always is.

Having been added to the insurance three days earlier, I jump to the opportunity to driving the car. After selling my Mini Cooper in July, the Lover is on edge with allowing his beautiful machine in my hands – the Vauxhall Astra. An hour in and we haven’t yet reached Oxford. Two hours in and we’ve managed under a hundred miles. My tiny bladder is in need of relief and I’m hungry.

Like every time I drive, I’m prone to singing along to awful music and desperate for some mental relief, the Lover offers, nay insists that he drives. That’s fine by me. My back is aching and it frees me up to enjoy more time choosing a music station and singing along. Takes over four hours, close to four and a half before we finally get to the Travelodge. And after driving down a random road where no Travelodge can be found, we decide it’s time to ditch the Sat Nav for the more obvious choice of Google Maps on my phone. So back the way we came, round the first roundabout and towards the strangest set up in the world. The entrance to the motel is in fact on the slip road as you go back on the A1 – bizarre! We finally pull up and with a sigh of relief are able to check in with the most unenthusiastic individual. Don’t get me wrong she was polite but the ‘Enjoy your stay’ was definitely insincere and I’m not sure she knew how to smile. I guess it’s quite lonely in her job, but still.

After dropping everything in the room, the Lover didn’t hesitate in eyeing up the Little Chef menu that had been left on the bed and his indecision on what to eat only encouraged me to take a look. The long journey and rumble of my stomach decided that now was the time to eat so we went back downstairs, past the empty reception desk, out into the freezing cold and next door for a bite to eat.

We stood awkwardly by the sign that said ‘wait here to be seated’. An odd thing for a services restaurant to enforce, but sure, we stood there and we waited. The only waiter in the place was running around serving people. He came up to us, asked us if it was a table for two and then walked off into the kitchen. Again, quite strange. So we helped ourselves to a small table for two and began perusing the menu. I decided fairly quickly, opting for the chicken and bacon salad. The Lover however, was still undecided, flicking between one option and another, severely tempted by the All Day Breakfast.

Once his mind had been made up, the order received by the same waiter we’d met on our way in, we waited. A couple with new born twins sat in a booth to our left and the dad was calmly trying to quieten the one that was crying. The waiter cooked our food, which we could see through the open plan style kitchen – the kind you get in a gourmet restaurant – and then it arrived, looking glorious and delicious. My goodness, it tasted great. That earned him a generous £1 tip on our way out and we went to bed.

The next morning we were up bright and early only for me to discover that for all the skirts and dresses I’d packed, there weren’t any tights. Now this wouldn’t be so much of a problem except for two things. Firstly it was absolutely freezing outside, super cold and super windy. Secondly I hadn’t shaved my legs in goodness knows how long and not only were they an embarrassment to the female world, I hadn’t brought a razor with me. The theory being the extra layer of hair would probably keep me warmer. Well not only is that a hundred percent gross and a little ridiculous, it left me with a serious problem. And if that wasn’t enough, the monthly cramps that are gift to all females decided to descend upon me with no pain relief to take the edge away. Great. Panic mode was almost beginning to set in.

The service station is bound to have something, whether it’s tights or paracetamol. They always do and I always think how ridiculous. Why would anybody need some new tights when they’re driving on the motorway (or A-road) why indeed. Well now I knew. They were for poor, clumsy, forgettable sods like me.

So we get dressed. I decided to wear my fur-lined leggings underneath my dress so as not to cause too much embarrassment and still be in a position to breach going into the public should everything fall through. Clever thinking eh?

Once we were ready for the day, we head over to the service station, the only shop in the vicinity. I tentatively open the door and enter, glance around the shelves. Pringles, chocolate, car care. I moved further into the shop. Drinks, crisps, pastries. I rounded the corner. Hot drinks, sandwiches, more chocolate. And there was the till. Bugger. Still, I bought some croissants and kindly asked the man at the till where the nearest convenience store was.

‘Ben’ said his name tag. Now Ben desperately needed a haircut. It hung over his face and down to his shoulders. Now when I say haircut, I mean the mop of grease that he was claiming to be hair had been combed over the wrong way and hung like a limp hand next to his cheek. But, he was very helpful. And greasy hair aside, he was actually quite nice. You know the ‘looks-can-be-deceiving’ and all that? Well here was a prime example.

It turns out there’s an Asda just ten minutes down the road. Well this was music to my ears. I could get some tights at an affordable price, even have pick of the bunch. I’d be able to pick up some painkillers and lady necessities just in case of an emergency.

Following ‘Ben’s’ careful instructions, that really weren’t that clear at all, we made our way towards Retford, past the Esso garage and into Asda’s car park. In a quick dash that was laced with desperation to once again look fashionable, I entered the store and returned ten minutes later with a bag of goodies. And of course, I hadn’t really thought ahead and had to by a bag for my goodies. *Damn new law charging for plastic bags* I pulled out a pair of girl boxers that I found in the Christmas clothing section that said ‘You’ve pulled a Cracker’ and flashed them at the Lover with a grin of triumph on my face. He looked at me with that ‘what-the-hell-are-you-doing’ type look and I realised that he didn’t really see them being comical enough to purchase. I shrugged and put them back in my back, at least I’d found them funny.

The Sat Nav was all set up and ready to go so we began the hour-long journey to Derbyshire where, nestled in the rural countryside, was one of the most stunning country houses in the UK. That’s right, we were going to Chatsworth.

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