It is not so much cousins as close relatives. Three times a year, we go the extra mile(s) to see my father and other relatives in Wallasey. Wallasey is a big brooding town living in the shadow of Liverpool. I say shadow because the powers that be who decide where re-generation should occur, seem to have bypassed this historic old town. From the promenade, you can look across to the famous Liverpool waterfront, now punctuated with refurbished docklands and shiny new buildings.
This is a big shame; because in addition to its colourful past and unique location, this place is packed with wonderful people. It also has the potential for spectacular open spaces and activities. Unfortunately the only clear evidence of anything new is a retail park dumped on the seafront of New Brighton. An ageing holiday resort left to rot from the seventies onwards now graced with all the blandness associated with modern builds, shop conversions and familiar high street names. Does New Brighton really need those cheap soulless sheds fronted by the brightly coloured signage we associate with motorway service stations?
While I welcome the influx of new jobs to any part of Merseyside, I just cannot help feeling a little cheated.
Sorry, I digress. Back to the journey. If there is anything that focuses the mind on convenient, expedient and comfortable travel, it’s doing it with a three-year-old. Firstly we need to pick our times. Facing the M25 clockwise through Kent and Surrey is something best done early; especially during a working day. Wednesday proved to be relatively quiet. By getting on there before 7.30 (at the very latest) we are amongst the frantic daily commuters and haulieers who are generally experienced at surviving the four-lane circus.
Our breakfast stop came at Oxford services on the M40. What did we do? Did my lovely wife haul out the heavy wheelchair from the back of the car and push me in whist grappling with a waking child? No. I stayed put. But what about the toilet? You know how we are with toilet! I’m afraid to say that I have taken advantage of being male by using a bottle; a specific toilet bottle. One of my best ever purchases. It has totally transformed car travel. No longer do I need to demand an emergency stop followed by a less than quick act of release on the god-forsaken theatre that we know as the hard shoulder.
Of course, there are tailor made female travel Johns but they involve a bit of shifting and balancing to be successful. It’s more of an inconvenient inconvenience for those with moblity problems. There is also the boredom factor. I try to think of something to keep me occupied; books newspapers, music etc. Although I actually like people watching. I’m used to sitting in car parks!
Then after 50 minutes they returned with a cup of tea and a newspaper; all very helpful. We met some congested traffic just after the M6 toll (you can get a pass for this if you’re disabled; it’s a one off fee but it pays if you use it) but I’ve known far worse.
The rest of the journey was spectacularly ordinary, as was the return to Sussex. We came back on the Sunday. The weekend following a holiday weekend is often quieter than an average weekend. We also invested in a DVD player for the little one. In the background, we had a variety of Disney and CBeebies.
We can’t always guarantee the traffic and I still get anxious about the whole thing but I think we can make the best of a bad job by a bit of planning and use of helpful kit.
Plus, the relief of getting back to a nice big steaming cup of tea cannot be equalled.
Best wishes, Steve.