As it turned out, we didn't get out of the house until 1pm and there was quite a big queue for petrol, so we had a slow start. We began by going to Burford, as bopeepsheep wanted to go shopping there. We had a sandwich in Burford and at about 2.30 left to go up the A44 towards the M5 (with a minor detour owing to getting slightly lost somewhere round Evesham). By this time we were listening to the traffic updates on the radio describing the M6 in ever worse terms.
About two junctions before the M5 meets the M6 the traffic slowed to a standstill. I figured it was all the traffic waiting to get on to the M6 so we decided to take the next exit through Dudley towards Wolverhampton – but the queue turned out to be the traffic turning off to avoid the M6 (I suppose the M6 was even worse, though). We managed to get out of the traffic jam at the next roundabout and approached the centre of Wolverhampton at something after 5, at which point we phoned my parents to tell them we were going to be rather late. We thought it would be a couple of hours (or so) to get up to Bolton from Wolverhampton, but with the state of the M6 this was probably somewhat of an underestimate. (It turned out that as I had mentioned to them we were thinking of seeing the lights, they had planned to go with us and we were all going to have dinner out – so by being late we were delaying their dinner as well as ours.)
At about that time we got a text message from buzzy_bee who had just got back from her scan. As smallclanger had gone a fair while without food and a nappy we rang her (and the_muttster) and asked if we could do a quick pit-stop at their house. bopeepsheep told my parents that it would probably only add about 20 minutes to the journey.
So we changed the boy and gave him his tea, and buzzy_bee showed us the shiny new DVD of her scan. And at about 6.15 we said our goodbyes and left.
We took the A41 up to Whitchurch and then the A49 into the centre of Warrington, which took us two hours or so. We phoned my parents again to let them know how we were getting on, and then hopped on the motorway, which fortunately wasn't the M6 and it was fairly clear by that time of night. We arrived home shortly after 9pm – after about eight hours of travelling (albeit including a couple of stops)!
So we didn't go to Blackpool that night, and my Mum had cooked bolognese sauce ready for us by the time we arrived, so we didn't miss out on dinner after all.
On the Saturday we had a quick trip into town in the morning, and then in the afternoon went to youngbloke's party - where there were half a dozen other small children and a playpen and a small inflatable ballpool as well as the adults. And buzzy_bee and the_muttster came as well. smallclanger was the oldest child, by about two weeks, and the only one who could walk. For some reason he liked carrying around youngbloke's shirt and opening and closing the gate of his playpen.
The party was supposed to be 3–5pm, but we arrived 10 minutes early and didn't leave until well after&nsbp;7. From there we took the road to Burnley and joined the M65 towards Blackpool. Traffic was reasonable right up to the street leading to the North end of the illuminations, where we had to wait about half an hour to move 100 metres.
smallclanger didn't go to sleep immediately when we got in the car, but when we got to Blackpool he was asleep. As we joined the lights he woke up and shouted for a bit, then was quiet for about two minutes before going back to sleep. Progress through the lights was pretty slow, but the lad resolutely slept through the whole thing until just before the end, when he did five minutes of shouting and then going back to sleep. So he didn't enjoy his first experience of Blackpool Illuminations, although we thought they were quite pretty (and have lots of rather blurred pictures taken with the digital camera).
On the way out of Blackpool we didn't happen to spot from the main road any suitable eateries, but bopeepsheep was feeling hungry so when we got off the motorway again in Bolton we drove to the town centre and patronised the drive-in MacDonald's, which wouldn't have been my first choice in other circumstances, but never mind. We got home at about midnight.
We had a lazy morning on Sunday. In the early afternoon my brother and his wife dropped in for a stop on their journey between Scotland and Kent, and we had lunch together. They stopped for an hour or so, and then went on their way.
We didn't know what the traffic was going to be like (but we had had a text message from my brother to say that traffic was quite slow on the M6), so we stayed for tea and waited until well after 7pm before setting off. We got on to the M6 OK, but it did ground to a halt a few junctions south of Manchester. It didn't take too long to get going again – slowly at first, but gradually increasing to full speed over the next few junctions. We made it back to Oxford in about 3½ hours.