home poetry short fiction non-fiction experimental drama links contact




It’s the kind of thing you couldn’t make up––the kind that is so frustrating at the time, but rather comical in retrospect.


It’s Friday 5pm, and after half an hour of packing the bag, finding shoes, coats and making encouraging comments to my toddler, I’ve made it out of the door. With Simeon, eleven days old, in a sling on my front, rucksack of nappies, snacks and drinks on my back I lock the door, telling the energetic two year old to wait before opening the gate which separates her from the alley leading to the road.


Getting in the car with two children is a delicate manoeuvre that I haven't perfected yet––but having two hands free to stop toddler escapees seems to be key. The wild spring wind buffets my hair around my face as I get the toddler to climb into her car seat and I pull the sling up further to protect baby’s sleeping face from the cold.


‘Sit down, sit down please. Turn around, and sit down. Sit down!’ The fight usually lasts a few minutes, this time she sits. ‘We’re going to choir to see Daddy, and you can play with your friends!’ Enthusiasm and over excitement are key to convincing her to listen and obey––this time it seems to have worked and I relax slightly––we will make it to choir after all. I know all our friends are desperate to meet the latest baby, and I hadn't felt up to the trip the week before.


Straps are buckled over the ‘dah’ coat (starry coat) and Phoebe kicks her legs up and down in anticipation, hands gripping the sides of the car seat.


By the time I slide into the driver seat and move it forwards (my husband needs it as far back as it goes, me as far forwards) baby is crying. The process of strapping him in tight has woken him up. I start the engine and his crying ceases––I’m thankful for how content he generally is.


‘Let’s go!’ Radio 1 blasts on loud, I turn it down and reach for the handbrake. It feels tight––we live on a hill, naturally, since we live in Sheffield, and sometimes Josh pulls it on much harder than I could. I brace myself with two hands to pull it off, sliding the seat back a little to exert more force, making sure my foot has the brake pushed in. This has happened before, it will be fine. Crying begins again, I breathe in deeply, trying not to let it get to me. I push the button, and pull up, but it won't shift. I can hear Phoebe's feet kicking her seat still, Simeon is sounding desperate, and the sound starts to frustrate me, my latent tiredness making me unable to block it out and concentrate on the handbrake.


I keep pushing, and pulling at the handbrake, and my thumb starts to throb from the effort of pushing the button in, the noise in the car escalating. After several more attempts I decide that this time it’s not going to happen. I let go, wriggling my hand against the pain. One more time–– but no luck. I have tried so hard, got everything ready and done everything right, just to have the car thwart me. I vaguely think about people I could ask to come and release it for me, but realise my options are limited. I text my husband ‘come back, handbrake stuck’ in jerky predictive text, rushing to get it sent even though the extra seconds will make little difference to the situation.


‘We’re going to wait inside for Daddy,’ I explain, taking red faced Simeon into the sling where he instantly falls asleep. We will be late, and later to get the sleep I desperately crave, but I can cope. I open Phoebe’s door––


‘No, no, no, no, no,’ the soundtrack to the last few weeks comes on again. I unclip her car seat.


‘Come on, let’s wait inside for Daddy.’


‘No, no, no, no,’ she stops shaking her long strawberry blonde hair about her head and pulls it forwards, slamming it into the hard back of her car seat.


‘Fine.’ Tired and exasperated I don't fancy trying to convince her out of the car and back across the road, as I can see a meltdown is likely to ensue. A newborn and a kicking, screaming toddler is not a fun combination, so we wait in the car.


Instantly pacified, Phoebe sits happily and eats a packet of Mini Cheddars, which I thank myself for packing. I sit beside her with a sleeping baby on my lap, and we wait.


A small, monogrammed white car comes screeching up the otherwise quiet residential road, pulling into the space (across a driveway) in front of our car, and a delivery man gets out.


He knocks on the door of the house to the right of our car, and accepts cash in exchange for a carrier bag. Quickly he returns to his car which emits Bollywood music and sits for a few moments.


Should I ask him to take off my handbrake? A knight in a shining white car? That would involve putting Simeon back in his car seat and leaving them both unattended to go and ask him which doesn’t seem quite right. And then I would have to sit in the front and apply the footbrake to stop us rolling down the hill while a strange man sat in the passenger seat to take the handbrake off.


By the time I think about all this, he whizzes off again.


Phoebe sits happily munching her snack, her bottle of water propped next to her. A neighbour walks past with the dog, but doesn’t notice us. I’m a little relieved, it undoubtedly would seem strange to see a mother and two children sat in the back of the car for no apparent reason. I don’t really feel well enough acquainted with him to wave frantically for his attention, so another opportunity for rescue passes.


Mentally I calculate the time it should take Josh to get back up from the Arts Tower––if his meeting finishes at half past, he could be back in ten minutes. I wish I had brought my Kindle––my own entertainment is the only thing left out of the bag of tricks.


On the second to last Mini Cheddar, mid chew, Phoebe the nap skipper falls asleep. Her head drops forward, straight hair hiding her face. Now it has happened, I realise I could have seen this coming. Days when she doesn't nap require an early bedtime, and the tantrums were an easy clue. I know now that she will sleep until morning and all my efforts were in vain; now I have a new predicament: how to take two sleeping children into the house alone without waking one of them up. I am loathe to destroy this peace. That's it. We will try to get to choir next week. So we wait.

Zoe Powell  © 2014