Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my mother. It went something like this:
Mum: I’ve just decided I want to see the poppies at the Tower of London. I’m driving up to London tonight, want to come with me?
Me: Yes, definitely!
Mum: Great, I’ll pick you up at three-thirty tomorrow morning then.
Mum: Well, if we go in the middle of the night there’ll be no traffic and no tourists. Also, your brother wants to come along and we don’t have time to do it during the day.
Me: …You’re driving over a hundred miles in the middle of the night, with a boy who has to be at school for 9am, to see the poppies?
Me: There’s no way I’m missing out on an impromptu middle-of-the-night road trip! I’ll see you at half three tomorrow morning!
The upshot is that I saw the poppies at the Tower. I also haven’t gone to bed yet at the time of writing this; I’m running solely on caffeine and willpower but the poppies were stunning and totally worth it. Not only was seeing it all in darkness very dramatic, it was also very peaceful and poignant. People had left names and dates of lost soldiers tied to the railings, and it was so touching to read them and see photos of the soldiers who gave their lives for their country.
Between the hours of 4 and 5am, London is asleep. There’s virtually no traffic or pedestrians, and all roadworks stop. It’s slightly surreal driving through Knightsbridge and along the river without having to negotiate hordes of people and cars but it makes for a much better experience. Deserted motorways are also a lot more fun to drive down!
I have to admit, I don’t know many other families who would happily spend their Sunday night/Monday morning driving halfway across the country to spend half an hour in the capital city. Then again, this is my family we’re talking about. They once sent me to school three hours after we got finished a twenty hour car journey from France. Then again, long journeys at strange hours have never been an issue for my parents: many years ago their jobs put my father in Germany and my mother in England. So, every Friday night after work, my mother would get into her Triumph Spitfire and drive to Germany. And every Sunday afternoon, she would drive from Germany back to the UK. I think this says a lot about my family’s attitude to distances. It is not a normal attitude.