Settled in the Iron Age, in modern times known mainly for its sauce: Worcester, that's where we began our return journey. The journey up encompassed a visit to our youngest granddaughter, who is breaking out teeth and standing up, ready to morph through toddlerhood. In spite of teeth she smiles and cuddles: brave and cute. The journey up was obstacled only by inner Bristol road works. We paused overnight there, guests of my brother and sister in law, treated to fine Taiwanese dining.
I slept like a hog, too accurately, Mr says: snoring, he says. Oh karma, says I. I pour him coffee. Set up the navigation device. Feed him honeyed sesame and the roads are clear and the sky bright. Venue parking is all used up: the next spot is a pleasant canal side walking distance during which we learn that Worcester also homes the world's oldest surviving newspaper. Berrow's Journal, should you wish to look it up. The parking has cost two pounds sterling for the whole of the day. The car is left shaded by a thinly branched tree.
The venue is shiny new. Thick carpet is taped to the floor, to protect it from the tape used to mark out areas for this competition, which is the TAGB English Championships 2014, should you wish to look it up. It is a popular competition and the first venture for us at this new hall and it gets hot rather quickly with all the people and all the carpet and the air conditioning packs up and the site manager goes home to have a lie down especially after the café is eaten out of stock by mid morning. There is only room for 16 rings so it takes longer to get through the categories. I have some weepy faces to comfort and cajole, a smallish clutch of anxious parents, two red sticky noses, one facial graze: not much Welfaring required, which is a good thing. Our chief referee is the best kind: swiftly decisive, gives clear feedback to the less experienced officials: has a humorously bossy ebullience except when reprimanding cadet fighters for unsporting contact. There being plenty to watch and learn, I am not bored. I would like a walk, and when we leave the sun is still out and the canal glitters and it is a shame the car park is so close. I even think of a swim. But home: home is three hours away and I am tired and home is what I choose. Three hours seems like a long enough time for that journey.
We are giving a lift to a student, to Okehampton; he gives some money towards fuel costs and falls sleep which suits us, being also drowsy and content to watch the sky deepen from pink to inky indigo. We wake him before we drop him home. We drive off, to rejoin the A30, so nearly home. The cars spluts along the slip road and stops. It is disinclined to restart. Rain starts to fall, so fine it floats in the air and in the passing headlamps looks like powdery snow. We wait for the repair truck.
The garage chap is cheery in his high-vis yellow coat. Early diagnostics suggest an expensive repair. He recommends; if a spare part must be bought, we should go to Diesel Bob. He writes down the number for us. But there's no roadside repair for it. We wait for the recovery truck.
The driver is jovial with his Willie Nelson playing loud: he never wanted to retire he says. Or listen to anything but Country and Western. I say I like Johnny Cash. 'Oh I've got plenty of his stuff,' he says, and at ninety miles to the hour we can only hope he means the music not the pills and booze. It's been five hours since we left. Maybe now we are nearly home.
At the garage the entrance is impeded by two counts of casual parking. Our driver's forty years of experience are put to the test. It doesn't take him long to figure it out, our sick car is soon clanking down the ramp. Ah, but he can't drop us home. It's a mile too far, a mile over policy. Well, we have cash: the fuel money from our student. We will wheel our cases to the town and get a taxi. Decadent talk! But we wish to be home, we are so, so tired.
A half mile down hill we discover that no taxis are running. No taxi number is answered. It is just before midnight on a Sunday. Every car owner is drunk or asleep. Okay. Some reassessment is required. If we are tired and cramped from sitting in a cold car, a walk wouldn't be so bad. The clouds are huddled over the moors; here is dry with a full-faced moon. We have sensible footwear. And we are nearly home. Every step is nearer. So we walk, it's only three miles. My suitcase rattles over potholes, tacks around the road apples. Tree shapes are at their most magical, under the moon, at midnight.
Boy has left the houselights gleaming. Dog is delighted to make a re-acquaintance. There's just enough energy left in us to slug a large glass of sloe wine for supper. Not quite Shackleton, we agree, not the worst of circumstances: some transport issues and the usual how to afford this. Things that could stack up and tip and squish us if we allowed it: or we could say, that was an adventure, albeit of modest scale.
It occurs to me that this is All Adventure. We have been Nearly Home for years and years.