It's me, Lisa and Amelie in Sheffield!
I can't believe I forgot to take my camera. Let's face it, I take the thing with me when I go to Asda, so how I managed to leave it behind on a trip halfway up the country, I have no idea. I packed the batteries for my camera, and the charger for my batteries, but the camera itself spent a relaxing weekend on a shelf in Brighton. We might be living in a world of CCTV surveillance, but I don't have a single picture of me steeling myself in Sheffield.
But despite that, we had a nice weekend. Our journey up to Chesterfield took almost five hours, which included the hour Amelie spent toddling around Toddington services on the M1. I'm proud to say that her walking skills are now so advanced that she prompted not one, but two announcements over the public address system to remind us that children are not allowed into the gambling arcade. Baby reins are all very well, but by the time I could drag her away, she'd had three of her five-a-day on those fruit machines.
Having jaywalked across the car park and discovered the high Costa coffee, we soon hit the road again, and eventually arrived at the Premier Inn in Chesterfield shortly before dusk. Admittedly the closest I normally get to five star is looking at my old 7" of System Addict, but I actually thought the place was very nice. On the downside, they forgot to put a cot in our room, and we had to wait for them to bring one up, but on the plus side, there was no sign of Lenny Henry.
Our room was spacious, with a spare bed for Amelie to bounce on, and a long corridor outside for her to run down. It was during her first escape attempt, as she disappeared into the distance towards room 28, that I realised I didn't have my camera. As a result, I have no footage of her trying to set off the fire extinguishers and head out through the emergency exit. That's the emergency exit with the loud alarm. You'll have to use your imagination.
Anyhoo, having toyed with the idea of buying a cheap camera from the neighbouring Tescos, we eventually went to bed, got a good night's sleep, and woke up to... six inches of snow, and no way of leaving. I'd show you a photo, but the weather was so bad, I couldn't make it the two hundred yards to Tesco to buy a camera. So here's an artist's impression...
Thank god I don't have a sunroof.
We'd arranged to visit Lisa's father in Sheffield at 2pm yesterday, so I'd been planning to spend the morning exploring Chesterfield. And I did. Sat in the hotel bar with my arm down the back of a sofa. Fortunately the staff were happy for Amelie for toddle around the restaurant for most of the morning while they apologised that the cleaners couldn't get in due to the snow, and attempted to work out how to use the vacuum cleaner.
By mid-afternoon the snow had cleared enough for us to get out of the car park, so a little later than planned, we gingerly made our way north to the outskirts of Sheffield, and the home of Lisa's father. It was quite a momentous occasion. As Lisa herself said, "it's the first time I've been to Sheffield sober". Which is a sobering thought in itself.
In the end we spent three hours with Lisa's father and his wife, and it was all very pleasant. Amelie spent most of the time playing with their cat, Buttons, before giving some thought to what a cat of that name would eat, and trying to feed her chocolate. Lisa spent most of the time talking. And I spent most of the time trying to wipe Amelie's hands before she ruined another piece of furniture. We eventually left shortly after she'd pulled a bulb out of a plant pot and spilt her drink on the carpet.
I was proud of Lisa. In the nine or ten times she's met her father since the age of four, it was the first time she's done so without a drink or a box of tissues. Although we needed a few for Amelie. So to celebrate, I treated my two girls to a family meal back at the hotel restaurant. Frankly I've never seen anyone eat so many chips. And Lisa had quite a few too.
After a relaxing evening (mainly because we shut Amelie's cot in the bathroom), we arose early this morning, and I finally got to see Chesterfield. I wheeled Amelie into town in the buggy while Lisa attempted to make our room look less like the Premier Inn in Haiti. Chesterfield turned out to be very nice. They've got a shopping area similar to Brighton's Lanes, but they call it 'The Shambles', which is one of the most honest descriptions I've ever read.
So we spent an interesting hour roaming around the marketplace, looking in shops, and enjoying the fact that everyone in that part of the world calls you 'darling' and 'sweetheart'. I was convinced the woman in Subway was in love with me until the next bloke came in and got exactly the same treatment. The woman in Greggs was no different. And as for the girl in KFC, frankly not even Lisa's that friendly to me. Oh, and if you're wondering, no, I haven't been sticking to my diet this weekend.
Having finally persuaded Amelie to put back the Gideon's Bible, we drove home this afternoon through another snow storm while she ran through her repertoire of animal noises in the back of the car. Her woof is coming along nicely, but the miaow starts to wear a little thin when you've heard it every three seconds for more than a hundred miles. Fortunately we arrived home at 4pm to a bit of peace and tranquility. Whereupon Amelie tagged her partner-in-crime. And let me tell you, having been left on her own for two days with nothing but a bowl of cat biscuits, Chloe had something to say.