My husband has been particularly spectacular recently, and I decided he deserved something a little bit special for his birthday. He’s a keen golfer, so I eventually settled on a surprise break at The Belfry (spiritual home of the Ryder Cup, for those of you who find the sport as yawnsome as I do) and set about making arrangements.
The last time I planned a surprise trip we were cash-rich and child-free. It was oh-so-easy to snaffle his passport and whisk him away to the airport, buy a change of clothes and some toiletries and bask in the glory of wifely perfection. Unsurprisingly the introduction of three small children to the mix makes the whole thing somewhat more complicated.
The plan was to pack the kids off to school and pre-school as normal, then casually announce a game of golf at a secret location. I’d drive him up to North Warwickshire, he’d realise he was playing on a world-famous course, declare me the best wife in the world and promptly tee off. Meanwhile, I’d loaf about the spa for a few hours, find a sun-lounger and promptly nod off. Only when we’d met up at the nineteenth, would I casually lob a room key onto the table with a suggestive wink. Perfect.
The school pick-ups and overnight chaperoning were taken care of with a combination of fabulous friends and a long-suffering mother, armed with a sheaf of illustrated instructions I have no doubt she wisely ignored. The one remaining challenge was how I was going to smuggle an overnight bag into the car without being seen.
Our family-friendly car is fitted with a myriad of secret compartments. The week before our trip I began swiping clothes from the ironing pile and hiding them in the car. Underpants in the glove box, toothbrush in the CD changer, shoes under the spare tyre… Within a few days I had an entire wardrobe hiding within the very fabric of the car. Ha! I was invincible. I was the Uber Wife.
And then I came home the day before The Big Surprise to discover the car missing. My husband, ever the conscientious car-owner, had deposited the car at the garage for its annual service, where it would remain for twenty four hours.
“But we’re going out tomorrow for your birthday surprise!” I wailed.
“So we’ll take my car instead,” he reasoned.
“But, but, but…” I flailed, spluttering my way through a pathetic excuse about leg room. It was to no avail; we would take the other car, and all my covert packing would go to waste. Unless…
I put in a call to the garage. I begged. I pleaded. I flirted mercilessly from my whispered position in the understairs cupboard. Would they lie for me?
Half an hour later my husband answered the phone and I held my breath, innocently flicking through a magazine.
“What do you mean you can’t finish the service? Well can’t you keep the car until you can finish it? Just park it on your forecourt… What subsidence problem? Really? Well that seems extraordinary… “
He sighed and put down the phone. “Looks like we can take your car tomorrow after all. Bloody garage. I’ve a good mind to book it in somewhere else. I certainly won’t be recommending them to anyone. What a fiasco!” And he stomped off to collect the car and complain to anyone who would listen about the appalling customer service he’d received at the greasy hands of our local garage.
And so my position as Uber Wife was restored, and The Big Surprise concluded without a hitch. As for the garage, I just need to do a small repair job on their reputation…