Blog 54 s..."To Infinity..."
This week the ‘Cutie-pie’ has to write about a journey for part of his English homework. It had to be something other than just getting on a train to Blackpool. It had to be interesting with details of the people, the transport, the type of journey, any problems incurred by the journey etc. etc.
Homework is essential, I know, I set enough in my career as a teacher…but what really bothers me is the type of homework and just how significant it really is. He was totally at a loss as to how to approach this homework. Anyway, we all sat down to our evening meal on Sunday night and the homework was the main topic of conversation…luckily I wasn’t having wine so my memory was almost clear when the banter began…
In the year I was to turn 40 I had an insurance policy maturing…it was nothing major and wouldn’t have made much difference to the mortgage. So, in the January of that year I decided I would treat us to a holiday of a lifetime and we sat down with travel brochures to plan something exciting. As I was only getting the money in the November I foolishly thought we had to wait until then to book something but a chance telephone call that night with my youngest brother opened up a whole new world…we could book, pay a deposit and then pay in full nearer the departure date. Yeah! That cleared, we talked about where we would like to go and the conversation led us to the decision that there really was only one place…Disney World Florida… for Christmas...sorted!
My younger brother took his own advice and decided to come with us…when we talked with two very close friends they decided to come also…and of course we couldn’t leave ‘Bridezilla’ behind even though she didn’t live full time with us at that point. So we booked the holiday and a full 10 months of planning began.
Our choice of holiday company meant that we had to fly from Gatwick …as we were travelling with Virgin it was ideal to book the train journey down via Virgin train and have our seats booked…then also the transfer from Euston to Gatwick…and due to the timing of flying we booked in at the Gatwick Airport hotel…great: we would arrive the night before the flight, stop over, have a swim in the hotel pool, enjoy an evening meal and literally walk through from the hotel to the airport following breakfast the next day; holiday of a lifetime here we come!
I was at the time still teaching and the holiday was during the Christmas period so there was no problem; I would finish as normal on the last school day of the term and the ‘Hubby’ would collect me and we would go straight to the train station to meet our friends and my brother…the return journey in the January was on the Sunday afternoon and the Monday was a teacher-trainer day but the Headmaster wavered it and said I could return on the Tuesday…but sadly exit the Headmaster half-way through the year, enter new Headmistress equipped with new dates for the school calendar. I had to inform her that I would not be available the first week of the school holidays for a newly planned extra training day as I would be in Florida…not a problem was the reply…phew…er no, ‘ no problem at all you will be able to join the family on the Tuesday’. WHAT?
In tears I fled home that night, how can I fly to America on my own? How could the ‘Hubby’ cope with children, cases, transfers? We went into the travel agents: worse news possible…there was no flight available that Tuesday in the December, I could be on standby and possibly get out by the Christmas Eve… 5 days AFTER everyone else had arrived but there was no guarantee; everything was booked; I could try getting to Newcastle to join a plane…or the Midlands but there was nothing from Gatwick or Manchester.
OMG. My dream holiday crashed before my eyes, this was all too much and I sat crying in front of the travel agent not knowing what we could do.
To cut a very long story short I appealed to the new Headmistress and eventually settled on an agreement that I would take a drop in pay for the day I was not available at the beginning of the Christmas holiday and the day at the beginning of the new school term. Back on track I set about organising clothes, cases, new lesson plans for the new school term, reports for the end of term, Christmas cards, presents for the grandparents who would not be seeing us over the Christmas period, clearing the fridge, cancelling papers and leaving spare house keys with neighbours…before we knew it we were ready and raring to go and see Mickey Mouse!!!
We all met up at the train station that Friday night tea-time; there had been some great organising due to the ‘Bridezilla’ needing picking up along with her passport containing a letter of permission to take her out of the country as her surname was different to ours; our friends needed to finish work and get to the station and then of course the younger brother who is always late but this time arrived on cue with the help of the older brother…
“My God, you look like Judy Garland,” was a comment from my dear friend’s husband when he saw my luggage; well I had gone overboard I must admit, with two large cases, two medium cases and a special hand luggage holdall…all in matching brown plaid not to mention the small rucksack with toys, sweets, change of clothes; travelling with a toddler is not easy!
We all stood on the platform like something out of a war time movie: an evacuation!
We were excited, I was nervous, the children were beside themselves with talk of Disney; Buzzlight-year in particular and the young ‘Bridezilla’ wanted to see Tigger.
We became cold, tired, hungry and confused; where was our train? Of course it was December, it was freezing and the trains were delayed…frozen points and all that malarkey…the station was full of people desperate to get home after work, full of students who had broken up for the Christmas break and in amongst them all we stood surrounded by a mountain of luggage. A train arrived but it wasn’t ours…we were advised to get it anyway as the next one to London would be seriously delayed and full…even though we had booked our seats. So we struggled, we grabbed what spaces we could and the others stood whilst I held a sleeping a toddler on one knee and my designer holdall on the other.
Phew! We were on our way…
Thing is though this train stopped at Watford Gap where we had to change trains…no no no!! I had organised the train journey so that there was no changing of trains and faffing about with children and luggage…off we were put and struggled across the platform to the awaiting train which was also full to busting…I know now why it’s called Watford Gap one look down at the gap between the train and the platform was enough to make me freeze…my God I could drop my toddler trying to stretch across that gap with luggage: hysteria began to show on my face and everyone grabbed extra bags and the ‘Hubby’ took the sleeping toddler and they all jumped on to the train…leaving me dithering on the edge…my friend’s husband has never travelled with me before and he was beginning to think he’d never travel with me again…outstretched hand and I was on the train…just as well as it began to take off!
Calm, we were able to eventually sit together and watch the luggage…I felt excited…we were on our way…yippee! What did I hear from the conductor? What did I hear the ‘Hubby’ agreeing to? Oh, there was no way that we were getting off at Victoria, using the underground, getting another tube to the airport connection…absolutely NOT. I had planned it all to the finest point which did not include anymore trains, underground or otherwise…there was no way we had to make our way across London at this time of the night…I wanted to speak to someone in authority…the conductor left pretty sharpish with the comment; “Do you think Richard Branson would put up with this? No I should think not…” ringing in his ears.
Everyone stared, tears rolling down my face assured them they were right…this travel plan was too much for me…I could no longer cope…I would never be able to get across London and on an underground tube with my beautiful luggage in tow and a sleeping toddler and a grumpy teenager…what was the plan now? Before they came up with a solution we were given wonderful news; the Virgin trains would pay for us to be collected at the gates and driven across London in taxis to the hotel at Gatwick…ah! Honour restored; Mr. Branston, as he was then, would not be getting a letter from me…smooth journey to the hotel…safe and in one piece. Thank you Sir!
Arriving at the hotel everyone was exhausted but amused to see all the Christmas party revellers…no time for a meal or a swim…just sleep to dream of a wonderful holiday…actually not much sleep for our friends as they had invited the younger brother to join them in their room on the couch…biggest mistake they ever made…we could hear his snoring from across the hallway!!!
Well, the ‘Cutie-pie’ refused offers of help with this journey’s story…so I began recounting the return trip whereby the ‘Intelligent-one’ had his brand new, never before seen in England, walking, talking Buzzlight-year in his rucksack; as we got to the top of the steps into the plane someone nudged the backpack and a voice called…”To Infinity…and Beyond..” to the amusement of most of the staff and passengers…no the ‘Cutie-pie’ didn’t want this tale either.
Me: “But why not? We can help you get it all down on paper…”
‘Cutie-pie’: “It’s no good…
‘Hubby’; “Why not son?”
‘Cutie-pie’: “…because I’m not in those stories…it’s got to be a journey I made…”
Dear Lord how is it we can get confused so early in to our middle age years…of course the toddler was the ‘Intelligent-one’ as the ‘Cutie-pie’ only came along later that year!
So we tried to tempt him to write about journeys to Skegness, [all of us plus fishing gear in the Kia] Teddington- Lock [yes I did go on the underground in the rush hour, complete with buggy and hat box] Morpeth [with granddad and nana, suits, hat boxes, lego, wedding presents…thankfully in a hired Picasso!] No, he didn’t want these stories either nor did he want the tale of the return journey from Disney when he was an 18 month old and we flew from Florida to Chicago on route to England…someone had told the ‘Hubby’ it was cheaper that way…and the ‘Cutie-pie’ had a stomach bug which meant all contents of his bowels were leaking in all directions and due to the 5 hour delay at Chicago I had run out of pull ups and there were none in the departure lounge shop so I had to buy swimming pants for toddlers [actually very good…] but was down to the last pair as we were boarding and on the signal for belts to be fastened and the Captain’s greeting I smelled something familiar and realised that the ‘Cutie-pie’ was leaking profusely. I rose quickly from my seat.
“Excuse me ma’m, you need to return to your seat…”
“But I just need the bathroom… [picked that saying up on holiday…much more polite…]
“I’m sorry ma’m but we are about to take off…the Captain…”
“I need to get this little one to the bathroom…as you can see he is shit up to the nines… “ [not quite as polite…] but effective; she recoiled at the sight of the poo running down his legs and my shirt and the smell…no further discussion and she offered wet ones and napkins which I used to help clean him up with…not quite like the napkins here at home!
As you can guess the ‘Cutie-pie’ was not going to use that journey story.
We have a million tales…well you do don’t you; trains are always delayed, flights are re-routed, weather affects us if it’s too cold or too hot…but he really wasn’t for writing about any of these until the ‘Intelligent-one’ said:
“What about the smoothie-maker?”
Now there lies a tale…
Blog 54 t…coming soon…next Wednesday…
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