Friday, 14 November 2014

The streets of London - Part 1

I have recently become 40. Notice the casual ease with which I tell you this.  I'm 40, it's no big deal, at no point recently have i found myself hyperventilating while exploring my face in a magnifying mirror underneath an industrial strength fluorescent tube, or dyed my hair the same colour Claudia Schiffer uses.  (Claudia Schiffer ALLEGEDLY uses, I can't imagine the Swedish one raking through the two for a tenner dyes in Asda in Oslo, while her basket practically bulges with reduced roll mop herring, lingonberry jam and meatballs).  I was a bit panicky (full blown meltdown) but thankfully Phil convinced me 40 wasn’t a big deal (threatened to leave me/have me sectioned).


What I should mention is that we got married on my 30th birthday, so my 40th also marked our 10th wedding anniversary.  I had been planning to up the ante on my usual anniversary present (Pair of humorous pants ‘Caution heavy load’) and buy something more impressive that said both I love you and thank you for the good times (Pair of humorous pants ‘warning choking hazard’ and some white chocolate nipples) however something happened to me that was quite out of the ordinary for someone who is known for their bad luck.

 I entered a completion AND WON!  The only thing I’ve ever won in my life was third prize in a colouring completion, I won a £5 voucher for Rumbelows.  This was 1982 and the cheapest thing in Rumbelows was a £8.99 toaster.  My mother still brings that toaster up to this day:

  • Its hardly a victory when it costs you money Julie
  • We didn’t need a toaster, we had a perfectly good eye level grill
  • If you’d stayed in the lines a bit more you could have won the ten pound voucher and got a nice clock radio
  • That toaster turned your dads head, he wouldn’t settle until he got a Breville sandwich toaster and wall mounted tin opener.
Thankfully this time my win was more impressive.  I won £350 worth of red letter day vouchers.  If you don’t already know red letter days are experiences that you can treat yourself to.  

SOME OF THE THINGS I CAN SPEND MY VOUCHERS ON
  • A hot air balloon ride with champagne, hysterical crying and possible urinary incontinence.
  • A helicopter flight incorporating a 25 minute panic attack on the floor of the helicopter
  • A lap in a Lamborghini at Brands Hatch with fainting fit, free trip to hospital and complimentary neck brace

So you see my point, all of the action/daredevil/being up high options are out of the question due to my 213 phobias so that basically leaves: 
-Gourmet dining experiences (have mental image of Phil poking suspiciously at pan fried pheasant with salsa Verdi and a fennel foam  and asking for chicken popcorn and beans and a beaker of dandelion and burdock)

-Wine tasting (can’t run the risk of them making me spit the wine out)

- A short break for two


So the short break is definitely the only option. I’m deciding where when something else amazing happens.  I WIN ANOTHER COMPETITION.  This time its tickets to see Dallas Cowboys play Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley.  I’m not a fan of American football (I’ve got more chance of understanding a conversation with Joe when he's been out 'we mushn't shpeak, s'too quiet, shall we swhisper') but Phil is a fan so I decide that we will go to London for the night to see the football and stay in a nice hotel.

First of all consideration needs to be given to the children, as in what to do with them.  Joe is easy, he’s 18 and as long as I leave him food in the fridge. (and instructions how to get to the fridge) he'll be fine.  Syd however is not as easy.  

The law states that Joe,  at 18 is an adult and is technically allowed to look after a ten year old.  However the last time I left them alone together (45 minutes to morrisons) I came back to find Syd in his bedroom with the dog eating squirty cream out of the can and feeding the dog haribo's and Joe locked in the utility room (he'll deny it but I'm sure he'd been eating dog biscuits and drinking fabric softener, he had a wet nose and meadow fresh breath for a week afterwards)

How a 4ft, 10 year old managed to overpower a 6ft 3 18year old I don’t want to know, what I do know if that antics like that make it  impossible for me to even contemplating leaving Joe with Syd. So I arrange for Syd and the dog to go to my parents (think the dog is a 
necessary precaution, can’t be entirely sure that Joe will remember to feed/water/let her out/not kill her etc)

So its arranged we’re off to London to a posh hotel and an American football match.  I imagine a fabulous combination of glamour and fun. I think my  imagination needs to get a grip.
The train isn’t too bad at all.  There’s a slight commotion when the conducter walks past and gets his ticket machine clicked onto my cardigan and drags it a couple of feet before he is catapulted back onto my knee but it’s generally uneventful and when it passes 12 noon we even decide to have a little drink to celebrate the fact that we’re away from home without the children. So when the woman comes along, heralding her arrival by breaking my elbow with her massive trolley we order a couple of beers (I was trying to sound all cool and American then, we really got a can of lager each) There was nearly trouble when she charged us 8.50 for the two cans, I could see Phil toying with giving them back so I opened mine quickly and took a swig so he couldn’t.

Arriving at Kings Cross was easy and so was getting to St Pancras (pancreas?), well they were in the same building so it hardly makes us London underground experts yet does it.  We managed to get our Oyster cards topped up and headed for the platform, this is where 
we encountered a bit of a problem.


MY CRIPPLING FEAR OF ESCALATORS REARED ITS UGLY HEAD

What followed can only be described as pure pantomime.

  • 2 mins of me crouching in a corner crying and telling Phil to ' go on without me ' (heroic Scott of the Antarctic moment ruined by Phil calling me a dickhead and telling me to get up) 
  •  3 minutes of me shuffling back and forth against a wall trying to see how steep the escalators are, while simultaneously taking my scarf on and off because I can't decide whether I can risk wearing it in case it gets trapped in the mechanism of the escalator and decapitates me. 
  • 5 minutes of me walking up to the escalator, getting right up to the edge and then hastily turning round and pushing my way back through the approaching crowd while muttering and sweating, this effect was amplified by Phil following me shouting motivational slogans on the approach (You can do it! Face your fear! Go for it!) and swearing on my retreat.


Phil finally hit upon a genius plan,  I was to pick some people who I thought looked confident and trustworthy and follow them onto the escalator. In hindsight I'm surprised we didn't create a massive security alert as we skulked near the escalators with me heavy breathing and Phil shouting  'Have you seen anyone you want to follow yet?

Anyway to cut a long story short, I managed the escalator by following two old ladies with bulky cases onto it.  (The fact I fell over the smaller of the pensioners at the bottom of the escalator because I still had my eyes shut is neither here nor there,  she was back on her feet in minutes and people were kind enough to step over her)


So a short tube ride later, and we arrived at London Bridge tube, practically in the shadow of the Shard
Me: Isn't it breathtaking,  it's so sleek and beautiful *looks at Phil for his opinion*
Phil: It's very.... pointy.....and tall?

After what should have been a ten minute walk (50 minutes,  I'd switched on car instead of foot on my maps so we were involved in a very complicated one way system for much longer than necessary) we arrived at our hotel and discovered that it had been worth the train, escalator and bus lane fiasco

Because we're very sophisticated and no stranger to boutique hotels we reacted to our room in a very cool manner. So once we'd stolen all the teabags,  coffees, sugars, toiletries,  shower caps, turned on and off all the switches, looked in every drawer and cupboard and bounced on the bed we headed back out to Wembley, NFL and too many Americans....... 

To be continued