Since, my parents crashed their car, I have been struggling to break the tight-fingered grip of small children and get down to see them. My four-year-old hates me going anywhere at the best of times and he was unconvinced by my argument that granny and granddad needed me. He told me: "Granny can look after herself. She's old enough."I just hope he does not go into a caring profession.
Every time I rang, I could hear my mother's agonised groans as she inched her way across the fitted carpet to talk to me or to fetch my father. My mother's best friend was looking after them which was an enormous help to them but made me feel even worse. There she was, popping on the kettle, persuading them to eat while I was miles away, effectively letting them get on with it. First of all, I could not go because I was too sick with flu, then I was told no one would thank me for giving my mother what remained of my cough so I was to stay away until I shook it off. When I was relatively cough-free, my eldest came down with the same thing which kept him awake half the night and out of school the next day, then the four-year-old needed a hospital check-up for a recurrent stomach migraine. I finally thought I had everything organised and everyone well enough for me to be able to spend a long weekend with my mother and father. I was heading for the breach - a bit late, but better late than never. The builders start on Monday but I had already told my husband that he was going to have to clear out the house next door by himself this weekend because I could not reach on that. I had, however, booked childcare to provide weekend cover so he could shift boxes and rant about how much rubbish we have accumulated. I was set - the guilt eased slightly. That was till this morning when my nanny rang to say she had vomiting and diarrhoea and was not coming in. The roses were bought and lay gorgeous across the back shelf of the car, the leatherette bag was zipped, the baby all but in the car-seat, but I was going nowhere. I ended up wailing down the phone to my broken-ribbed mother - she really needed that, by the way: "I'm so sorry, I wanted to look after you but I can't. I've got to look after (sob) everyone else (gulp, sob.)" And I felt so guilty. I felt as guilty as I would have if I had been calling to say: "Look, I'm not coming. I've decided to take a city break in Prague. I'll drop you a postcard."
Actually, from where I am standing Prague sounds quite good.