What's that? You think I need a more original opening? But it was a dark and stormy night, and it was All Hallows Eve and things were turning a little weird on the Fair family Half Term outing.
It had started out well enough. Those were the days when a trip to Ikea meant two hours on the ferry, three hours in the car, and a borrowed trailer to bring home our treasure. But we liked that. It was an adventure. Story tapes, colouring books, plenty of snacks and we all got there happy. And after our traditional trip to Burger King and a night in the local Travelodge we would get up the next morning full of high anticipation. Flat packs get us that way. What can I say? We took this trip several half terms, bringing back catalogues so friends could place orders for next time round. hey, we had a whole trailer to fill.
And fill it we did. Everyone piled back into the car, furry black bat from Children's Ikea in one hand, sticky spider sweets from the Swedish Shop in the other (it was Halloween, don't forget), and we started the drive back to the boat. We had this thing down to a fine art. We thought. Timed exactly. We knew when to leave Ikea, when to stop for fish and chips on the way, when we would arrive at the ferry terminal to meet the evening sailing. We drove and we drove and we drove on a bit more. And we listened to the story of Meg and Mog's Halloween over and over again. We stopped for tea and we drove and the darkness started to creep in and the suddenly it was black. As we passed through the villages on our route we spotted small Trick Or Treaters slipping in and out of the fog, For there was a swirling mist now, and the rain was coming on. It couldn't have been any darker, out there in the countryside, just us on the road..
Except that, all of a sudden, it was. Much, much darker, inside the car at least. A black blankness ahead of us. The dashboard lights had gone out. We crossed our fingers and waited. I gave the dashboard a little tap. Then I thumped it. We had headlights and wipers, but the dashboard was gone. And that makes quite a difference on a dark night. We could see very little inside the car. But wait - we did have a torch
I turned it on and from the passenger seat I was able to hold it above the steering wheel and once again we could see what speed we were going at. We drove on. And you know, for a little bit it worked. We made progress through that blanket of black. We passed through another little village "Oh, look, Robbie Burns cottage," I said. "I've never noticed that before". I peered through the fog at the little white house with the thatched roof.
Wait. I really hadn't noticed that before. Never passed it. ever. So now we were on the wrong road, on Halloween night, with no dashboard lights and a torch to show us the way. I'm sure I heard a cackle drifting out from among the trees. An owl hooted.
"Dad, Dad, are we there yet? Are we at the boat?"
Inside the car the torch flickered and the colour drained from Dad's face.
"I don't understand it," he said. "It was six o'clock the last time I checked and it's coming up on seven now. Where's the last hour go? We'll never make the boat in time. We've lost an hour. We're in a twilight zone..."
And then the torch went out.
What else can I tell you? We made it through. We found the right road. Maybe I closed my eyes for a bit. But within minutes, it seemed, the lights of the harbour appeared mirage-like and magical and we drove onto the ferry. By midnight we were carrying two sleeping children up to bed and unloading our trailer. It had been an unusual Halloween Night. But isn't that the way Halloween is supposed to be?