sheila resizeSheila has been quite sick again lately. So sick she may not see the end of our trip. For a while I thought she may have had a stroke. She was listing to the left quite badly and was really having trouble getting around corners. She has had the wobbles and is covered in grub and muck. She hasn’t been staying clean and just looks a mess.

But James and Emily adore Sheila. Almost every day they clamber over her, and sit and stand on her. Sometimes they dance on her. Eventually that sort of punishment had to take its toll.

This latest episode is her second illness. When her first breakdown happened it was very sudden. One minute we were strolling along the streets of Bayeux, then without warning her front foot collapsed under her and she slammed head first into the footpath. I was right behind her and there was nothing I could do. I tried to catch her and hold her up, but with James and Emily sitting on her she was just too heavy.

Regular readers of the blog may not realise that we have a fifth valued member of our family with us on this holiday. Sheila has been with us from the start and she’s carried us through thick and thin, but she is getting old and somewhat decrepit. Like many of us when we get old, things stop working properly and things break.

When her first break down occurred we carted her back to the car, shook our heads in dismay and thought that was the end. But with some encouragement and sympathetic words from Barbara and Allan at La Lande D’Airou, we realised that with the right treatment we just might get her get her back on her feet.

Allan became the lead advisor for Sheila’s recovery. He’s not a doctor, but an engineer, so his remedy was bound to be high tech. After studying her for a good while and considering her general health and condition, he decided that what she needed was to wear a brace. “That will get her going again” he told me.  His solution consisted of a heady cocktail of copper pipe, strong epoxy glue and lashings of fibreglass.

It worked spectacularly and within a couple of days Sheila was in rude good health and ready to take on the world again. Since her recovery she has traversed uneven footpaths of Rome, waltzed through the cobbled streets of Pompeii, conquered the narrow alleys of Carcassonne and overcame the crowds of Oxford Street and New York City.

Just when we thought we could relax, the inevitable happened. I don’t recall exactly where we were, but I remember the moment, horrible as it was. We were merrily wandering along a street somewhere when Sheila fell into a hole in the footpath. A paving stone was missing and Sheila, under my inadequate guidance had charged straight into it. The noise was sharp and clear above the traffic noises. “Crack!” was what we heard. Jo and I exchanged glances and both said simultaneously “that didn’t sound good!” We check her over but there wasn’t any clear injury and she was still able to move in a straight line.

In the following weeks Sheila didn’t complain about the obvious pain she must have been in, but the impact had weakened her significantly. I could tell something was wrong. I could tell something just wasn’t right. But it was more of a nagging suspicion than anything clearly obvious. She just wasn’t her old self anymore.

Sheila has been a constant source of inquiry as we’ve travelled. Many other parents have wondered where we found her, and have asked if they too can have a Sheila. She has been admired and ogled across Asia, the UK, Europe and America. When asked, we sadly have to tell them you can only get a  Sheila’s like ours in Australia. Even wearing her brace and bandages she has gathered many admiring glances. She has been our friend and our companion for this entire trip.

That’s why when she had her second break down the other day it hurt us so much. She is needed and wanted and life without her on this holiday just would not be the same.

When the latest episode occurred we were heading to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It was just after lunch and I’d notice she was once again always trying to turn a corner... this time she wanted to go off to the right. Just like the last time, when the break finally came it happened quickly and without warning. One moment she was feeling a bit tired and starting to list, the next she was face down in the gutter.

I shouldn’t tell you this, because it will make Jo sound like a heartless cow, but Jo said to me in frustration, and I quote “Can’t we just DUMP her somewhere?”. “Heartless cow!” I thought quietly to myself. I refused to abandon our sick companion in the street and insisted that if we could just get her back to the Motor-home, I could follow Alan’s medication ritual and get her back on her feet again.

It meant I spent the rest of the day nursing her around New Orleans. People stared open mouthed at the sight of her. This time, not only had her front foot collapsed, but after the accident I tore what remained of it off so it was easier to carry. The main thing is that I managed to get her home.

And that’s where we are now. Sheila is convalescing in the storage at the back of the motor-home with her first application of glue and copper pipe. Tomorrow when she is feeling a bit better and her bones are a bit stiffer I’ll coat her with some fibreglass and let that set for a couple of days. Then maybe I’ll be able to coax her out again and see if she is up to the rest of our journey.

Who would have ever thought I’d get so attached to a stroller!

Postscript: Sheila has survived surgery and has since happily transported the children down Las Vegas Drive