Le Nephew, La Niece and French Auntie V have gone now.
This is sad of course, with much kissing and weeping on the part of Le Nephew and much squirming on the part of Tricky, but probably best, especially for Sydney's drivers.
I don't really know what's happened to my driving in the past few years.
Actually the driving is ok, it's the parking bit that seems to have gone into rapid decline. Generally I manage to laugh gaily as I admit this, I have other skills I announce, as if a well written birthday card is indeed a suitable substitute for a reverse park.
But this week, as I forced my visiting French sister-in-law to get out onto the road and measure the distance between my car and the car in front so I could exit the space, I realised I had reached a new low.
The French sister-in-law is not herself a paragon of good driving and is infamous for her three billion driving tests before achieving her licence but then again, that was in London.
I got my licence in Raymond Terrace which in those days was neatly summed up by having its highest star acommodation entitled "The Sleepy Hill Motel".
And I failed the first go round. Damn those reverse parks, I say.
As I apologised profusely, French SIL repeated various soothing mantras to me like Take Your Time, and You Are A Good Driver Just Not A Very Confident One and Don't Worry We Can Turn At The Next One. She also took it as read that everytime I stopped the car she would need to get out and measure the distance for me and then wave me into the parking space. I don't know how she thought I parked the car when I was the only one in it but then again I did tell her that once I couldn't find a space in an underground carpark that I was completely comfortable with and so I simply drove home again.
Once parked, my anxiety faded and we then proceded onto frolicsome japes...right up until those last fifteen minutes before the meter ran out.
Then it was time for Le Nephew to come into his own.
As I scurried the party through the city, scouring the streets for parking rangers and mentally preparing myself to tackle them to the ground, a loud piping voice asked me how many minutes remained on the meter.
Oh, about ten, I told him.
And how many minutes will it take us to arrive at the car?
Oh, about fifteen, I told him.
Le Nephew did some swift mental calculations and made some tutting noises.
I'm sure we'll be fine, I said as chivvied them all just that bit harder.
Well, said Le Nephew, this reminds me of when my dad parked the car in London and put some money into the meter.
Very similar, I said.
But, said Le Nephew, the money did not register and then when we came out, the car was gone. Then my dad had to find where the car was hidden.
It was impounded, I said with a fixed smile.
Yes, impounded. And, he went on struck with yet another similar situation, there was the time when my dad put some money in the meter in Bulgaria and we went to buy my mum a birthday present and it was very expensive and when we came out the money did not register and there was a ...yellow thing...on my dad's wheel.
It was wheel clamped, I said between gritted teeth.
Yes! Le Nephew laughed jovially at the memory. Wheelclamped! And so that meant my mum's birthday present was very expensive indeed!
My how I laughed at this, in between the shooting pains from the stitch in my side.
By now we had rounded the corner and were on the home straight for the car.
And at that moment, my French sister-in-law, gripping Le Niece by the hand, started to run.
French sister-in-law is not into running, or indeed physical exercise of any sort, and it took me a second or two before I clocked that she was running towards two men in yellow coats who were delivering brown envelopes to the cars on either side of mine.
I kicked Tricky's stroller into topgear and we sprang after her. F SIL meanwhile, I was quite impressed to see, had flung herself across the windscreen of my car and was saying to the two parking rangers in a pleading girlish tone that was unmistakeably French (nay, Parisien)
Stop what you are doing. I am here!
I wanted to save her the humilation of begging a parking ranger to stop issuing a ticket, knowing too well the futility of such a task, but I was curious to see if her accent and flickering eyelashes would work. Also, I didn't want a ticket.
As I approached, wheezing asthmatically and batting my eyelashes in a sort of hopeful B-Team backup attempt, the parking rangers smiled and waved and walked away leaving my windscreen, miraculously, ticket free.
Wow, that was beautifully done, I thanked French sister-in-law as she collected herself and also picked up her daughter from the kerb where she had been dropped.
Eagle eyed le Nephew stared hard at the ticket I had placed on the dashboard a scant 2 hours previously.
Actually, no, he informed us, this does not run out for fifteen more minutes. We don't need to leave straight away.
We do, I told him firmly. It will take me at least fifteen minutes to get out of this space.
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