As I’m packing to leave I can’t help but wonder if its all worth it. A weekend away with my friends, only two big sleeps, but I feel like I’m setting out for Everest. The list of things I have to do before I go rolls behind my eyelids like film credits.
Pinkie grows a centimetre in front of my eyes as the grown-up-ness of my request pleases her.
“I shall draw up some menus so Daddy and Blue can tick what they want for breakfast each day,” she says as she makes off for her felt tips and a piece of paper.
I’ve made dinner, Blue’s favourite, Spag Bol which is in the fridge. For years I told him that Nana (Mr’s mum), cooks the spag bol and sends it to us in a refrigerated van. She’s a great cook and if we ever used one of the sacred rations from the freezer (insert wink here) both Pinkie and Blue cleared their plates.
Last summer on holiday we were doing a quiz when a food question popped up. Mr answered it correctly in a flash much to my surprise;
“What do you expect Mum?” said Blue, “he is a descendant of The Great Nana.”
I’m meant to be leaving at lunch time but instead I am ironing shirts, I know that both children only need one, however since I’ve started I might as well finish the pile (there is logic there somewhere). I know on Sunday afternoon I’m not going to want to walk in the door and start on the uniform, best done before departure. The list of meds is typed up even though Pinkie pretty much knows the drill, I’m still not 100% that she’s of an age (the grand old age of eight) when its fair to pass the medical responsibility over, even briefly. The love notes are hidden under each pillow, including Mr’s. I have warned Puppy-Face that there’s a good chance Mr won’t grill him a rasher of bacon for his Saturday breakfast and that he’s not to mope about it, I’ll do it on Monday. I look at my bag and with a deep breath stop stalling and leave the house. Once I’m on the motorway I’ll probably start to look forward to it.
I’m the first to arrive and have to go to the shop on the corner to get the keys. The road has cars parked all the way along on both sides which leaves a gap in the middle slightly wider than a standard car. Number 17 is a small terraced house in a long dead end road of terraces, giving the feel that I had walked into one of those perspective drawings we were made to do in art at school.
Once inside the house it becomes apparent that it’s had a Grand Design’s style extension and been skilfully decorated by someone with a keen eye for retro furniture. I dump my bags and put the kettle on, then think better of it and pour myself a glass of wine. On about my third sip my phone goes and it’s my friend Polly, who’s car is slightly wider than a standard car;
“Please tell me I’m not going to have to reverse,” she says.
I look out the window and unbelievably there’s a big old space outside our door;
“Keep coming down,” I say.
“If I get there and this is your idea of funny I will quite likely murder you.”
But I wasn’t joking and am kind of upset that I hadn’t thought of it, I must be coming down with something!
By teatime we are all present and correct, seven pals together for the weekend. The connection between us is Australia, we were all there, some of us together and some of us brief over laps. We’ve been having our annual jolly for years and have travelled all over England (and Edinburgh) in our quest for merriment.
One year we went to Hadrian’s Wall to take part in a sponsored Cystic Fibrosis walk. We arrived in all our new kit including shiny new walking boots much to the horror of the other walkers;
“Don’t worry about us, we can dance in stilettos,” declared Polly as another jumped over a muddy puddle shouting, “I don’t want to get my new boots dirty.”
The walk was great fun and the weather was kind to us. When we stopped for lunch on the top of a hill over looking mile after mile of green meadows, Polly produced a lightweight picnic rug and some M&S mini bottles of wine that we sipped while all around slurped on Lucozade and Kendal mint cake or the like. We finished the walk in the front pack and had a very splendid day out, even with the new boots that didn’t “cut our feet to ribbons” as we had been warned they absolutely definitely would.
The Edinburgh year was Molly’s hen doo. We stayed in a flat in the central area and were greeted by bridesmaid Dolly, who had arrived earlier in the day to set up for Molly’s arrival and had clearly been crying.
“What’s the matter?” we asked as soon as we saw our poor tear stained pal.
“The place I booked was terrible, someone was injecting drugs in the hallway, we just couldn’t stay there and …”
“It’s ok, we’re here now and this place looks great.”
“Yes, its fine but I’ve had such a bad day and only got they keys half an hour ago that I haven’t decorated or anything (insert a sob here)”.
“Someone take Molly to the pub”.
“OK, consider it my pleasure,” I said with Polly in chorus.
By the time we got back the place looked amazing, the dinner venue was confirmed as was our late evening cocktail making lesson and me, Molly and Polly were already full of wine, silver linings indeed.
The following morning it was announced that we had to be at a particular hotel for our next experience. As we arrived in a mirrored studio and were handed long red gloves and skinny tees to wear I knew this wasn’t going to be an experience I wanted to take part in, but you have to don’t you? Once we were briefed by our dance, yes that’s dance, teacher that she was going to be teaching us to move like Beyonce in Single Ladies, I thought I was as close to the going-home-edge as it was possible to be, that was until she introduced the camera man. Yes, an actual person who would film this entire sorry episode and give us all a DVD before he uploaded it to YouTube.
“Hold it there Tiger,” I shouted out, “there is no way on this earth that you are going to film my humiliation and put it on tinternet.”
I dance about as well as Mark Fowler ice skates (see Dancing on Ice with Todd Carter, but only if you’ve had a wee first). After it was agreed that I would have editors rights before anything was published online the music started. Now, you think I’m going to say that I rose to the occasion aren’t you? Well, guess again. I had consolation that another friend, lets call her Holly, was also not gifted or enjoying it.
“For my wedding present would you two please dance on your own,” begged Molly, “and let him film it, but only for my eyes. Pleeeease.”
Holly and I looked at each other and figured the trauma of the morning would erase the whole event from our memories and agreed. So to the predominant sounds of laugher, clapping, whooping and encouraging cheers we danced while the camera rolled. I thought I’d be pleased to save the money on the wedding gift but it turned out that I would rather have paid for a ceramic casserole dish as the sound of Beyonce still brings me out in hives, which can be very embarrassing.
Back to this year and Whitstable. We awoke on Saturday to gales, we could hear the wind whistling through the older part of the house and as it wasn’t our bill cranked the heating up to compensate. After breakfast we sat around the big kitchen table as Dolly’s iPhone has said the weather would get better at midday. At 11.35 Polly went into the back yard to have a cigarette, we watched through the bi-fold doors as her hair whipped around trying to lasso her eyeballs out and her clothes looked like she was skydiving. We were nattering when Polly hammered on the glass;
“It’s really windy still,” she mouthed.
Thank God we brought Poirot with us.
At 12.05 we ventured out. The iPhone hadn’t been exactly accurate as we human kited down towards the sea in search of Whitstable’s famous oysters, which naturally had to be washed down with a glass or two, or so of vino, and only Dolly actually eating any oysters.
Later in the afternoon as we cozied around an open fire in a big old pub we planned our next excursion, and after much debate and democracy it was decided that we’re off to Harrogate.
When I arrived home on Sunday afternoon Pinkie, Blue, Mr and Puppy-Face were thrilled to see me and questioned me like a parent does after a school trip: What did you eat? Lots. How comfy was your bed? Very. Who did you share with? Polly. Are you glad you’re home? Absolutely most definitely. Did you miss us? So much I got a tummy ache.
And as we sat on Sunday afternoon waiting for the roast to cook, I was glad that I didn’t have to do any ironing. Instead I could listen to Pinkie’s poem and read Blue’s essay, safe in the knowledge that their uniforms were as ready for Monday morning as Puppy-Face was for his bacon.