I had to stay in London for the night a couple of weeks ago, which necessitated a raft of childcare arrangements as my husband was working. I called my mother from the hotel room to see how things were.
‘Oh yes, we’re alright now,’ she said.
There was a short pause while I digested the implications of this.
‘Now?’ I enquired lightly.
My mother had duly turned up at nursery at 3pm to collect the twins. She rang the bell and explained she was there to pick up Ben and Ellie.
‘We don’t have a Ben or an Ellie here, I’m afraid.’
Not at all surprising, as Ben and Ellie are my sister’s twins, and they live approximately fifty miles away. However, gentle insistence from my mother persuaded the member of staff to go away and double-check. Whilst she was gone, it dawned on my mother that she was thinking of the wrong set of grandchildren, apologising profusely to the nursery teacher on her return.
‘It’s Evie and Georgie I’m here to collect. I’m so sorry.’
By now the nursery teacher was looking a little suspicious.
‘We don’t have an Evie or a Georgie.’
‘Really? Could you check?’
The teacher left my mother at the door once again (presumably after having bolted it securely) and was away for some time. Perhaps the police switchboard was busy. She returned with a steely glare and a second member of staff.
‘Definitely no Evie or Georgie here,’ she said.
Because my mother was at the wrong place.
So she tried the one around the corner, but guess what? It wasn’t that one either. By now I’m quite sure the All Ports Warning had been issued, and children everywhere were being given a hasty lecture in ‘stranger danger’.
Half an hour later, my mother arrived at the last nursery in town.
‘Hello!’ they said, cheerfully (they obviously hadn’t received the alert), ‘You must be Evie’s and Georgie’s grandmother. Did you find us alright?’
‘Eventually,’ said my mother, ‘I had a few problems along the way…’