Water works

In the last week of the holiday I’ve worked hard to maximise outside shenanigans, for tomorrow my sensible (inside) head needs to reemerge when I walk back into the classroom.  I’m not sure that you can bottle fresh air, but perhaps the memory of it will see me through that fetid after-lunch gas cloud that often accompanies a Year 9 back into the classroom.  Much of my outsideness over the last weeks has taken place near water and perhaps this is why – although I’ve struggled to see any insects but wasps for weeks – I seem to have been hit by a squadron of dragonflies.

I choose to stick to my belief that dragonflies symbolise change – change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity (we can but hope). My dragonfly research discovers:  dragonflies are agile and can move in six directions at once (useful when you work in a school) and a dragonfly can see all the way around itself because it has over 30,000 lenses (my new Specsaver varifocals are working nicely, no complaints, but some additional peripheral vision wouldn’t go amiss with a Year 11 class). I’m caught between excitement to see such an influx of dragonflies and some angst as I start overthinking this in terms of a metaphorical tsunami of change barrelling towards me after 12 months which haven’t exactly allowed boredom to settle in.

I squeeze in a long run on the last day of August – just testing my plod pace out really to see if there is any real chance of taking up the places I’ve optimistically booked in two Autumn half marathons – I was slightly alarmed to hear from the organisers of the Oxford Half that I’ve mistakenly predicted a time of an elite athlete when I registered (whoops) – I’d better correct this error before they start booking press coverage, escort vehicles and pacesetters for me.  Dragonflies move fast, but this damselfly has a hint of shin splints and a lardy arse.

Anyway, as I ran across miles of flat marshland on my tod (my running partner had forsaken me, mistakenly believing that being a spectator at an important rugby match will help his performance in the Oxford Half in October), I was constantly buzzed by dragonflies which reminds me that I’ve been good at keeping moving over these last months – albeit slowly – and that there’s nothing wrong with flitting about.  I then over-celebrate bagging the longer mileage by overdosing on energy gels and post-run carbs; this is counter productive because my sugar crash promptly tears the wings off any plans to go out and perform an early recovery run the next morning before driving Favourite Daughter to her new flat in London.

So regardless of the fact that I’d not run,  next day, September sun finds us driving along the Embankment to Vauxhall Bridge and Mama J subjecting daughter to a deluge of reminiscences to while away the slug-like pace of London traffic and the contrasting Kamikaze attitude of metropolitan pedestrians. Funny how suddenly driving along a stretch of road you haven’t thought about in years suddenly dusts down a random memory from a former life in press relations.

Back in my day, as a very green Press Assistant working in the West End, my job, with my thankfully much more experienced Press Manager, was to wine and dine Fleet Street’s finest (journalists were still vehemently resisting the move to Wapping at this time and the ‘rules’ were very different) in the hope that they could be persuaded to wax lyrical about properties and country estates our company were instructed to sell.

I can’t remember who had the idea that the perfect summer press trip should involve a six-wheel-drive amphibious modification of the 2.5 ton CCKW trucks used by the US in the Second World War.  Said vehicle, or DUKW (not an acronym*) met us in Sloane Square – and we attempted to shoe-horn the journalists on board.  Unfortunately, taking the full day out of Fleet Street, the journalists were well up for this junket and had already met  at breakfast to down some G&T to get their ‘sea legs’.  By the time we arrived with the vehicle there was no easy way to assist a rather large – and by reputation,  dragon-like –  female from the agricultural press up the DUKW’s metal ladder; my mortification knew no bounds.  She insisted on boarding while still clutching a glass in her hand and as I offered an encouraging push on her ample behind to assist ascent, I heard a loud rip of trouser and saw that an impressive amount of bottom cleavage was now facing the spectators who had gathered below. She flew over the top rung of the ladder, belly-flopping onto the deck and nearly wiping out the captain, but held onto her glass throughout.

Fortunately she found this dragon flight  hilarious (pre-dating social media, she was lucky not to be trending in Farmers Weekly by lunchtime).  She insisted that we break open the bubbles intended for lunch to toast the incident.  I was sent off to buy needle and thread and shortly after we bombed down the Embankment, splashing into the water at Chelsea, inelegantly, and continuing our booze cruise downstream.  I seem to remember that our ‘dragon’  insisted on sewing up her trousers herself, and spent a large part of the day sitting in her big girl pants, drunkenly trying to thread a needle and waving a glass cheerily at any one who sailed past.

Strangely, Favourite daughter doesn’t seem to be quite as fixated on my fascinating story as I intend, and I glance across to the passenger seat just in time to see her finish filming me to update her snapchat story.   Good that I can still provide media copy I guess. Good to know I’ll be making her friends laugh, even if it’s not for the reasons I intended (@mumandherprehistoricstories).

We arrive at the new flat safely and Favourite Son meets us to perform all the grunt work involved in decanting FD’s wardrobe up three flights of stairs.  I pretend to look busy and offer to guard the car – although I missed my run earlier, I’ve suddenly lost the appetite for exercise.  I am fascinated to discover that the flat has bright pink kitchen cabinets.  It’s definitely a look.  I’m less fascinated by the arrival of her new landlord who is, quite frankly, very creepy and clashes with the kitchen.

As ever son and daughter make a great team and the move and subsequent lunch fly past smooth and quick.  It’s a great flat and I know my work here is done; both my two now in London, both on their way and both have each other – albeit, as siblings, safely on opposite ends of the tube line.  Proud and grateful hardly scratches the surface, but I’ll leave it at that.   I say goodbye to them both.  True my eyes are a little leaky, but we’ve established that dragonflies are good around water, so no tissues needed.

This dragon starts her slow flight home – three hours in the car will allow plenty of time to tell myself some more hilarious stories and to plan some changes ahead.

*DUKW – D means 1942, U means utility (amphibious), K means all-wheel drive, W means 2 powered rear axles.

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