We had to go and buy MsDD’s walking boots for her Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition that’s in two weeks’ time. I needed to restock the BYMT Saturday Morning Music School tuck shop too. For some reason the young wind players have denuded the shop of fruity sweets whilst eschewing the chocolate bars. I’m sure our local (and internationally-renowned) woodwind mender is grateful to our tuck shop for keeping him in business unclogging sticky corks and keys.

I set off to collect MsDD feeling most disgruntled. The date of her expedition has changed at short notice so she is unable to perform in a concert at the Fairfield Halls. This news generated a grovelling email exchange with her Head of Woodwind, who made it clear how put out he is at having to find a substitute second clarinet. I have every sympathy with his frostiness. I made sure MsDD returned the borrowed A clarinet but she inevitably forgot to return the sheet music so her substitute cannot have it for practice.

This sort of carelessness, the negative externality that makes everyone else run around to pick up the pieces, annoys me intensely in anyone and, as soon as she got into the car, I had no hesitation in asking her quite forcibly to think through her actions. And so began a rather bad tempered journey to the Cash and Carry.

We bought the sweets and carried on to Bluewater for the boots. Caught in tailback traffic caused by an accident on the A2, our mood mellowed. I have come to cherish the time I spend in traffic jams with MsDD, my gorgeous 15 year old. She’s usually so busy doing schoolwork and homework and music and drama that it’s rare for her to have time to chat. We try to eat together but she’s usually straight back up to her room to get on with things. So when she does have some unallocated time, she’s a great conversationalist and has a lot to say for herself.

We comment on the drivers in the other cars and their dreadful driving. Exhibit A:



The exit lane at Junction 2 of the M25 starts almost 3km away from the actual exit and this is where the traffic had slowed to a halt. Cheekily, we continued on the actual carriageway, ducking into the exit lane a short, yet dignified distance from the exit. As we queued, witness these drivers who had joined the exit queue only AT THE EXIT, had stopped on the actual carriageway and were indicating hoping to join the queue at the front, thus causing a dangerous obstruction for the speeding through traffic.

This is an excuse for a general slagging-off session in our car. Living in the London suburbs, we get lots of practice at this and other driving sins including people who hesitate at roundabouts; people who will not expend the extra calorie it takes to indicate their intention to change lane or turn; people who nose in to traffic from side roads forcing others already on the road to swerve to avoid them; drivers of Range Rover sports who think they have priority over everyone else in the universe. All of these road abusers receive a severe excoriation and usually a few choruses of “Slap him in the face,” (To the tune of Funiculi Funicula) from the safety of my Smart car.

We bought the boots at North Face, assisted hugely by a helpful young man named Oliver and, hungry, stopped at Prêt A Manger for a sandwich or, in my case, macaroni cheese with brassicas.




The conversation for the whole of the journey there; the walk around the shops; the lunch; the return journey included, in no particular order: religion and philosophy; feminism; the scary part of a mortgage; schoolmates’ perceptions that we live on a farm; my delightful companion’s debating victory over a classmate in which she forced him to admit that he was a feminist; application of blusher and eyeliner; the selfishness of some separated  and non-communicating parents of her friends who rely on their poor offspring to schedule separate slots at parents’ evenings so that their parents won’t come to blows; her compositions and how she might use them as GSCE entries; the quirkiness of our dogs; the importance of open-mindedness; her wish for some independent work experience; her favourite teachers; Greeks and the lewdness of Dionysus and Lysistrata; the purpose of education.

That last one: to me a good education is one that will turn out well-rounded, interesting people who are confident and happy to chat to anyone. As their mother I’m hugely biased, I know that, but it seems that people enjoy spending time with my offspring. I adore spending time in traffic jams with them.