This happened back when there was still our favourite soft play. It was a Thursday. Afterwards, we went to the library and had a happy two hours looking at books. Both babies chose some nice books (okay, the two-month-old didn’t really choose her own books but she smiled at a couple so I borrowed them for her).
I ambled back to the car park feeling like we’d had a cracking day out, and wondering if we should top it off with fish and chips. I didn’t think anything of the fact the car park was quite empty at this point. I put the babies in their car seats and loaded up the pushchair into the boot.
Started the car. Drove to the exit. Swore a lot.
The metal barrier was locked. That’s when I saw the sign that said “gate locked at 7pm”. I checked the time. It was 7:10. Damnit.
I swore some more. It was dark, it was sub-zero February, and it was not the sort of situation you can be easygoing in when you’ve got toddlers. I circled the car park for a bit, checked the other gate out.
That was also locked.
There was no way I could stay here. I wondered whether I could get a bus to take me part of the way home (30 miles away… Donegal really is the middle of nowhere).
Finally, I went to the far corner of the car park and spotted some massive muddy tyre tracks on the pavement.
I don’t like breaking rules if there’s a good chance I’ll be caught. Obviously whoever locked the car park knew my car was still here. But I could see a way out. Maybe.
I very carefully mounted the pavement. There was about thirty feet between me and the main road. Most of it was swampy, waterlogged grass.
I started driving and promptly got the car stuck in the mud. Wheelspin. Mud all over the car. Just bloody brilliant.
I swore some more. It was a swearing kind of situation.
Now, not only was I stuck, but when they came to reopen the car park they’d see that I’d mounted the pavement and got beached.
I couldn’t exactly ask my toddler to get out and push, and the two-month-old baby was right out.
A car drove past and peeped their horn. I wound my window down for help.
“You’re stuck!” they shouted as they sped off.
No fucking shit. Regular Hercule Poirot there, aren’t you? I didn’t even get the chance to swear at them because their car wasn’t stuck, and they’d already gone around the corner.
Then I remembered some advice someone had given me back in my first year of driving. Put the car in third in ice, to give it traction. Would it work in mud? I was willing to try.
I selected third gear and lifted my foot off the clutch. The car shuddered. It didn’t like being in such a high gear when it wasn’t going at the correct speed. It made a noise like a cup full of cutlery being shaken. Then it started to slide forward. Slowly, so slowly, we got moving. I was so surprised, I pushed the clutch down again and coasted. The steering was worse than a drunk sailor. We were sliding all over the place. Directions the wheels couldn’t even go. I have never struggled in snow the way I struggled in this bastarding mud.
Finally, I made it to the pavement on the other side of the swamp. I slowly eased onto the main road and drove off sheepishly.
A police car came up behind me and I did that thing I haven’t done since I learned to drive, which was to keep my eye on the speedo every two seconds and keep it at exactly the speed limit. Nothing to see here, officer. I wasn’t sure if it was illegal to break out of a car park but this guy probably had the IRA or a donut shop to go and deal with so he overtook me abruptly and disappeared. I felt like I’d done something illegal.
I breathed a sigh of relief and decided it was a good night to go and get some chips. And I learned a valuable lesson. Just because the library is open until 8pm on a Thursday, that doesn’t mean the car park is. And that’s why the library is empty after 7.