Did you know that car batteries are quite likely to develop faults after about five years or so?
I didn’t, and neither did Barry. This is rather a shame, because it means that neither of us realised that his car’s recent tendency to have some difficulty starting up might be due to something more serious than just "Oh, well, we’ve only been on very short journeys in the past few weeks and the battery’s probably just running a bit low – we’ve got the trip to London coming up, and that’ll charge it up." So it came as rather a nasty shock when we got into the loaded-up car for aforesaid trip, packed and ready to set off, and discovered that the battery was making the average pancake look well-rounded by comparison. Well, not that we knew it was the battery to start with – all we knew was that the car wouldn’t start. At all. Not a cough, not a flicker. All packed up, somewhere to go, and no way of getting there.
"Sorry, little one," I told Jamie as Barry got out to see what he could find under the bonnet, "but Daddy’s car’s not working."
"Maybe battery," suggested my two-and-a-half-year-old.
I agreed that this was indeed a possibility, although we could not as yet be certain.
"Get new battery put in," Jamie advised.
Which was exactly what we had to do, once we’d headed back into the house and Barry had rung the dealership for his car barely in time to catch them before they closed for the weekend and confirmed with someone slightly more qualified that that did indeed sound like the problem. Barry tried going round to our next-door neighbour to see whether he could jump-start the car, but the neighbour checked the voltage on the battery and told him that it had just become too defective to rely on. We were better off just getting a new one. Which pretty much seemed to put the kibosh on the planned weekend at my mother’s – even if we could manage to get one today, by the time we’d done that and Barry had put it in it would be too late to be worth setting off. (My car is a lot smaller than his, and not practical for a lengthy trip with a six-foot-four husband and the vast amount of luggage that we always seem to need whenever we travel anywhere.) We explained regretfully to Jamie that we probably weren’t going to get to Granny Constance’s house this weekend after all.
"Can walk to London," Jamie suggested helpfully as he sat down on the bottom of the stairs to pull his shoes off.
It was an enterprising suggestion. We felt quite bad having to tell him that it just wouldn’t be possible.
"Can see Granny Constance and Great-Grandma Martha on ‘puter instead," Jamie concluded philosophically, toddling into the living room to look for the webcam.
This did, indeed, seem to be the option we were left with, but it was a shame. As Jamie had said, the proposed trip was meant to give us the chance to see my grandmother, who had arrived from the USA that week for her annual visit and who was longing to see just how much her one and only grandson had grown. We had also discovered the change in plan too late to tell my mother, who even as we discussed the situation was out buying food for the weekend in quantities that, if past experience was anything to go by, would be comparable not just to fatted calves but to entire fatted herds. This seemed like somewhat of a waste.
Fortunately, when we did manage to get through to my mother, she was willing to throw all the food into her own car and drive to our house at extremely short notice, and so she and my grandmother are now here for the weekend instead. Barry did indeed manage to get a replacement battery (and Jamie had great fun climbing up and down the stairs in the shop, an activity that holds quite amazing levels of fascination), and so that problem is now solved. And we had an extremely pleasant evening with my mother and grandmother admiring Jamie’s charms and Jamie admiring the new toy car, book, and set of number cards they’d brought for him. So, as annoying as the whole business with the battery was, it has at least all ended up well. Not to mention that we now know that my son will, at the rate he’s going, clearly be ready to go into business as a car mechanic advisory in just a few more years and support us all in our dotage.