Today has been the most marvellous day. We knew that today was going to be a bit of a special day not only because it was Meg’s 75th birthday but it was also the day when we had plans to go ‘up north’ to Bolton to see Meg’s cousin (who we had not seen for decades) and her daughter who we think we have not seen since she was 3 years old (we are now half a century on) We set an alarm for 6.00am and leapt out of bed to make an early start. As a birthday present for Meg, I had ordered a dressing gown from John Lewis which had been delivered to our local Waitrose down the road. I brought this present up to the bedroom together with Meg’s early morning cup of tea and she tried on the dressing gown for size. As it happens,it was perfect size and one of John Lewis‘ best sellers and she was delighted to try it on and then to wear it. After we had had a ‘quickie’ breakfast, I walked down into town to collect our copy of the ‘Sunday Times‘ and then we had a schedule for the journey this morning. I remembered from the fuel crisis of the 1970’s that we needed to be very economical with the use of the accelerator and the best wasy to achieve this was to drive either in stockinged feet or in slippers. I decided to drive in a pair of old slippers and I figured out that as the distance of the journey was about 110 miles, I should allow for two hours actual driving time. I then suspected that I would have to queue for anything up to an hour at one or more petrol stations to top up before the return journey. Then I had allocated ½ hour for a ‘pit stop’ probably on the motorway and then another ½ hour for ‘getting lost’ or ‘fishing about’ time – some 4 hours in total. But .. the best laid plans of mice and men! The weather turned out to be a beautiful day for motoring and we kept to a steady 60-65 all the way up the M5, M6 and M61. The rest of the traffic seemed to be moderating their speed somewhat so we were not much slower than fellow motorists. We arrived in the vicinity of our destination address in Bolton and about a mile short of it, saw a huge Tesco store wih its own petrol station. We swept into it and filled up to the brim ready for the journey back. As I was paying the cashier, I mentioned the steps I had taken to conserve fuel and shot me a glance as though I was slightly mad. When I enquired about the availability of fuel in the Tresco store, I was told that they had plenty of fuel and in effect was told ‘Fuel crisis? What fuel crisis?’ As a result of my economising efforts, I discovered that I had used 9 litres of fuel (practically 2 gallons) and had travelled some 110 miles so I achieved a mpg of 55mpg which I don’t think I ever achieved before (and probably never will again) in a conventional petrol driven car.
So we arrived at the house of the cousin’s daughter and her husband an hour and a half earlier and had to make our profound apologies for arriving so early (but we had taken along some fizzy and pot plants with which to appease the household gods) Then we spent most of the next 4-5 hours catching up on family matters, filling in some family back history, talking about our current family members and generally making up for decades of neglect. The one question to which we needed an answer was follows. Meg’s family was rooted in the Potteries and we are in contact with several members of one branch of the family on Meg’s mother’s side. We are also in contact with a similar number of family members from the branch of the family on Meg’s father’s side. What we did not know was to extent these two branches of the family were cognizant of the other – whilst they knew of each other and might have met fleetingly at weddings and the like, how much did they actually know each other? The answer as it turned out was – not much! So after the most enjoyable of meals, sharing of family photos, stories and reminiscences , it was time to head for home. As we were not now having to super-careful of our fuel supplies we headed for home not bothering to keep our speed particularly low but kept up with the rest of the traffic and so we got home in a couple of hours. To complete our pleasure for the day, we watched a reprise on BBC4 of the life of the famous cellist, Jacquline du Pré which we had seen once before but was always worth worth a second viewing.