Too many years ago, I was in a chatroom with a woman who shared my interest in the world of adoption and children with disabilities. We had our copies of the latest adoption magazines open on our laps as we chatted online. And I pointed out a child who fit this family's "We'd only consider adopting again if" criteria.
That child did not end up joining their family. Instead the most beautiful precious little girl became their youngest daughter, and they very graciously asked me to be her Godmother. We didn't live so very far apart at the time; it was a relatively simple train and ferry trip to meet up, and we managed the occasional lunch together over the years, as well as far too many hours spent chatting online.
And then the family moved, and two hours became four, and meeting up was limited to Baptisms and Dedications and special Birthdays. And my Godmotherly duties have of necessity been pretty much limited to whatever I can do from a distance.
I have been spoilt, living here. The vast majority of the girls' medical needs are met through just two hospitals, and both of those hospitals are less than ten miles from my door (and only a mile apart). The girls' schools are both less than a mile from my door. And so I very rarely need to travel. We travel as a family, or the girls go to school and I either stay home or potter about fairly locally.
Last month I had to break out of my comfort zone to visit a friend who was stuck in a London hospital for a few weeks. And I drove my van to the long stay carpark, and I caught a train, and I debated a tube but opted for a taxi, and I gained a fresh sense of awe for anyone who manages to commute on a regular basis. And we had a good visit, and I did the journey in reverse, and got home sweaty and smelly and exhausted and determined never to do that again.
But - I got home, and the girls had survived my absence, and the world didn't fall apart because I was more than thirty minutes away. So, when my friend told me she was coming into London for a hospital appointment, how could I miss the opportunity to meet up?
The trains were running very late. Which actually worked in my favour; instead of the train I'd planned to catch (which was cancelled) I caught a train three minutes earlier which was running ninety minutes late (confused yet? So were many of the passengers. Those who weren't irate). And so instead of meeting my friends at the hospital, we met an hour earlier at the train station.
And I got to babysit whilst the rest of them had their appointment. And I think Evie enjoyed it too!
And then of course I had to do the journey in reverse, and of course the appointments were running a little late meaning I had to abandon my Goddaughter with her mother who was in the middle of an appointment which involved, amongst other things, sitting in a pitch black room for half an hour. But I only got mildly lost in Islington, and only did one loop the loop in the tube station, and once again managed to walk into the station and onto a train, getting back a few minutes before my own sitter ran out.
And I'm stuck again with wondering how on Earth people manage this commute every day? I'm sure there are some jobs which can only be done in London, and I'm pretty sure if I had to do one of those jobs I probably wouldn't want to be living there at the same time. But then again so many of my friends do - how? And why? Thankful once again for my two girls and the ability to stay home with them. In a home which is currently constantly scented with apples and cinnamon, as I attempt to puree my own bodyweight in the apples from our little tree in the garden. And which will smell so much sweeter when I finally empty the last huge box and get rid of the last overly rotten ones. And sweeter yet once I scrub London off my skin and out of my clothes. Something I shall do just as soon as I've had one last look at that beautiful smile; a small girl determined not to share her doll with anyone.