One of Nina’s uni mates was back from New Zealand last weekend and a surprise party in London had been organised to celebrate a major milestone. Friends were coming from far and wide and it would have been a real shame for Nina to miss it. I was a bit gutted not to be going because they’re friends of mine too but there wasn’t a lot we could do with the kids and school and what not.
The kids and I had a fun weekend though. We didn’t do much in particular other than attending the big event of the weekend in Les Gets on Saturday evening. A school fundraising ‘spectacular’ in the local Salle de Columbière. A band had been booked to entertain the kids and there’d be games, food, drink, a movie room, cakes, the lot! Needless to say, I wasn’t super-excited about it, especially without Nina to rely on for communication and translation purposes.
The kids disappeared off in different directions with their friends, returning intermittently to empty my pockets of cash for cake, drinks, chips etc and I spent the evening chatting to other parents, eating, enjoying a beer and watching a bit of the entertainment.
Nina’s flight was due in at 7.30pm on Sunday and after a weekend apart we were all pretty excited to have her back.
I got the kids bathed, ready for bed and we set off in plenty of time to get to the airport. We stopped in Cluses for a cheeky McDonalds, then Iz was on DJ and toll booth duty for the rest of the journey to the airport. 40 minutes of One Direction, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande beckoned but I sucked it up and belted out a duet with her the whole way there and she LOVED it! T kept his head down in the back, freezing zombies on the iPad.
We crossed the border into Switzerland and drove through the long tunnel towards the airport to 1D’s ‘The Best Song Ever!’ It was about 10 minutes until Nina’s flight was due to land and as we emerged from the end of the tunnel we could see a plane crossing the sky in front of us. “That could be Mummy!” Iz yelled.
I may have mentioned once or twice that I find Geneva airport an absolute pig! The roads are confusing, the signage is pants, parking is tight. There’s a plush Swiss half and a grotty French half. If you rent a car from the French side, you have to go on a wild goose chase around Geneva to avoid Swiss motorways and a €50 charge for the Vignette. That’s not how much it costs, incidentally, but that’s what they charged me a couple of years ago after taking the wrong route on a holiday to Flaine. I sent a letter… They weren’t interested. (Chunner, chunner, chunner…)
It’s not just me either, it turns out. I was grumbling about it to a friend the other night who said that he had gone to pick up friends and had parked in the French side. He walked through some doors in the airport looking for his friends in the Swiss half only to be told he couldn’t go back the other way through the same doors to the French bit and his car. The official was adamant and he ended up having to get a taxi from the Swiss side back to his car which cost €30! Crackers!
Anyhoo… I was feeling pretty pleased with myself this time. Happy kids, good journey, full of shameful McDonalds. I knew where I was going, Nina was on her way back, we were bang on time. Brilliant!
We pulled off the motorway and still singing, looped round to the airport entrance. I headed for the short stay car park and before I knew it, in my 1D fuelled exuberance and just a few metres from glorious success, I’d taken the wrong slip road towards underground valet parking! And I was a second too late on the brakes to avoid the height restriction barrier…
I couldn’t tell whether it had touched the roof and I couldn’t see it swinging on it’s chains in the wing-mirrors, so I drove on round the corner to regroup and see if there was another way out… There wasn’t. I stopped and quickly decided the best thing to do would be to reverse back out ASAP!
I’d just lifted the clutch when a black Mercedes swept in behind me. Forward it was then. I put the van in first gear and drove on, down and round the next corner into a single-lane, concrete-walled entrance ramp to the garage below. As I rounded the corner, the garage entrance appeared, topped with a ‘2M HEIGHT RESTRICTION’ sign. The van is 2.05m! Aaah! I tried to squeeze over to the side of the road to let Mr Merc past but he was right up my backside and I had to stop before I took the roof off. I leaned out and waved him past…
Then the beeping and shouting started…
He wound his window down, and in a German accent started shouting:
“Move over you a**hole!..” BEEP BEEP! “Move over you complete a**hole!!”
Granted, I had been a monumental numpty for getting into this situation in the first place but I couldn’t move because I was wedged in by this total c**k-womble. He was being totally unreasonable and the kids were having to listen to the tirade!
He beeped and shouted some more and I’d had enough.
I jumped out of the van, walked towards him and bellowed at the top of my voice “IF YOU MOVE BACK, I CAN MOVE OVER!!”
The volume took me by surprise. The combination of an extended vocal warm-up, singing all the way to the airport, the pent up tension of two days in sole-charge of the kids, the anger I was now feeling towards this guy and the acoustics of the confined space had created the perfect conditions to amplify my voice to superhuman levels.
My voice reverberated around the space with such force that I almost expected to see sound ripples physically distorting the air before shattering a perfectly engineered German windscreen. It was quite magnificent, even if I do say so myself.
The guy stopped beeping, looked down and reversed.
“WOW Dad!” the kids said as I got back in. “That was loud!” I apologised to them but they laughed and said they’d been scared when the man was shouting at me.
I wiggled the van over as best I could and as he squeezed past, he turned away and avoided eye contact.
Time to get out of here. The only option was backwards. I started reversing back up around the corner and another car appeared in my mirrors. I pulled forward again and squidged over to wave them past. 5 more followed… Highly embarrassing…
On the next attempt we made it successfully back and up to above ground level. I was just approaching the second corner when another car appeared. No way I was going back down into the concrete pit so I bounced over some rubber bollard thingies to let it by and pulled up alongside a young couple attempting to suck each others faces off. The kids burst into a chorus of giggling and “Ewwww! that’s disgusting.” “Ssssh!”
The car passed us and I bounced the van backwards, back over the bollards and had another go at the corner. I was nearly all the way round when another car appeared. This was getting ridiculous!.. He’d have to go back too. As I approached the height barrier he beeped a warning at me. I gritted my teeth, winced to myself and carried on. We’d already been under it once so here goes nothing. DONK! Damn! I guess we did scrape it the first time. We were out though, thank goodness.
We got in the correct lane for the short stay, Izzy reached out and grabbed a ticket and as we cornered, Nina was stood there waiting for us. Rather than a loving reunion, she was met with a barrage of excited chatter from the kids about what had just happened. Interestingly, the highlight for them had been stopping next to the couple snogging which they were still finding hilarious! I said a quick “Hello”, gave her a hug and left the kids to it while I got out to check the roof. Just a couple of minor scrapes, nothing too bad. Phew!
“Lets get out of here! Back to Les Gets!”