In reality we weren’t far away.
We back-tracked, reversing carefully to avoid the ditch either side of the track. About a mile up there was a right hand turn dipping deep into a copse of trees and disappearing. But there was a huddle of farm buildings on the other side of the moor valley and it seemed sensible that this ribbon of road led to them.
We followed the dip through another ford and climbed up towards the houses.
The car was weighed by a heavy defeated silence. A glum air of we will never get to this place. Broken only by the fricative tug of air through Ana’s mouth as she sooked her sooky-fingers.
Finally, emerging from between tall hedgerows, we arrived in the middle of what would have been a farmyard. At one time. In the distant past. I think.
Is this a scrapyard Mum? asked Jamie.
4×4’s; motorbikes; a rusted mitsubishi; a Y reg Passat; an old mini; a tractor (small); another old mini. And atop it all – the tiara, the crown – there was an eye-nippingly bright yellow ferrari…
We were in Papa-Heaven.
A deep-tanned outdoor face appeared at my driver’s window. Derek the ‘farmer’ (he told us later he did no farming now) to welcome and direct.
I put the car window down and Derek nodded – yes, this was the cottage – and he pointed to our left.
I heard Jamie in the back say thank God – an exaggerated stress upon God. Ana stopped sooking and started unbuckling.
Wait til Dad sees this Mum… and I thought, I can’t wait…
Thirteen miles. 13 miles. Thir-teen miles. 1 – 3 – miles. I tasted the numbers with my tongue, ennunciated the syllables saying them over and over. I thought of the normal meaning of the ordinary words. I pictured the 13 mile long journeys I had made up til then. I despaired.
Jamie and Ana despaired.
The car fell silent. Punctuated by an occasional oh for fuck sake Mum, where are we go-ing? from Meg. Answered by my despairing don’t swear and (more quietly) I don’t know…
At one point the satnav indicated that 13 miles had become 18 miles. And Meg and I decided we’d been abducted by time-travelling aliens with a poor sense of direction.
Somewhere – maybe as we crossed the ford, or climbed the hill side, or even, perhaps, as we turned off the main artery and onto that branch – just somewhere, the ordinary meaning of the distance; the everyday experience of a few miles had become as remote and as unimaginable as the moon and the stars. We had entered a parallel universe of sheep and moor side. A place where miles just grew and grew. Where journeys never ended. Where cars trundled along at 20 mph.
There was an eternity of road. Dotted with roadkill rabbit in various states of decay. Punctuated by sheep who seemed utterly oblivious to the car and to us. Infinity was called tarmac.
Those ’13’ miles took as long as the journey from Carlisle to Scotch Corner. They ended in the steepest dropping road I had ever driven. A road which terminated in a 270 degree bend…the bend which took us onto a track…the track which took us through 4 farms; a ford; down a gully and up the gullyside and finally to a dead-end halt between derelict farm buildings.
The satnav… yes, the satnav… had taken us
The Wrong Way.
Finally Mum said we’re taking the scenic route then.
Dad just said Bloody rabbit back there – had to slam on the brakes…
…and then your Father stalled of course and the handbrake wouldn’t hold us… added my Mother.
I had a sudden picture of the two of them, point-scoring and squabbling (lovingly as my Mother described it; with feeling as my Father would add) right to the end, as they careered backwards off the road and into oblivion.
This was why I loved them. Their absolute adherence to what mattered: getting the last word in.
As the sheep had decided to move – and as Jamie and Ana were unstrapping themselves, intent on escape – Mum suggested I get back in the car and start driving before those two made a run for it. The truth was, she was bursting for a wee; refused to pee in a ditch and we all knew (from the holiday where Mamie pee’d herself) that she had limited powers of retention…
The satnav said 13 miles to Rosedale. Wouldn’t be long now…surely…