It started off okay. The weather wasn't great but that was nothing new in rainy old England. We hoped the grey clouds would disappear later, as they sometimes did. We decided to park at our local railway station and catch the train up after the morning rush hour. Taking British Rail is not a delightful experience at the best of times, with the grimy seats, oily headrests, scratched windows and smelly compartments, but add to that the crush of hot, sweaty human bodies and it is just about unbearable. We managed to find a relatively clean seat and settled ourselves for the 45 min journey to Wimbledon Station, where we were hoping to ride a shuttle to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club. The best laid plans and all that.
|Photographer: Ian Britton FreeFoto.com|
When Venus Williams had gone off three times with rain breaks, we decided to give up and go and get a large drink. Pimms was the order of the day. That would cheer us up. A pitcher later and we were definitely feeling a bit happier. It was still pissing down, so we settled ourselves into the tea tent and guzzled stale scones, with jam and clotted cream. Now we just felt a bit queasy. We kept hoping for the weather to clear up but eventually gave up around 7pm after only seeing about an hour or so's tennis. Enough not to get a refund on my tickets, but not enough to make the trip worthwhile.
Hoping to end the day on a bit of a high, I suggested we have dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in Wimbledon village. Mum was looking tired, wet and hungry. I tried to hail a cab. Well, that was like trying to find a polar bear in a snowstorm. The queues were horrendous. Not going to happen. We took off walking, thinking it couldn't be too far. It was. About a couple of miles. Mum, bless her, was doing her best not to complain but her shoes were hurting and by the time we got to the restaurant she was hobbling.
After waiting in line for a table, we finally sat down, exhausted, and looking forward to a delicious plate of steaming pasta. For some unknown reason, Mum decided to order the special on the advice of the overbearing waiter. I think she was just too tired to argue. When it arrived it looked horrible and I could tell she didn't enjoy it. She left most of it, saying she wasn't hungry, but I knew it must have been bad as we hadn't eaten all day except for the horrible strawberries and stales scones.
I paid the exorbitant bill and we dragged ourselves to the station. No point even thinking of getting a taxi with the rain still coming down and people pouring out of Wimbledon. We had to change trains a couple of times on the way home and at Guildford there was about a 30 minute wait. Both of us were bursting for a wee. We couldn't wait. We rushed for the ladies toilet only to find they were all locked. Locked? What the hell? The freezing platforms were deserted. Where were all the staff? We found them playing cards cosily in the staff room. By this time, Mum was red in the face and looking like she was about to have an accident. I burst in and demanded to know why the loos were all locked. They were all men and they all looked up, as one, to stare at me in horror, as if I was some mad woman talking in tongues. Well, I was mad.
"Why are the toilets all locked?" I shouted again.
Suddenly, I noticed a door at the end of the room with a picture of a man on it.
"Is that a toilet?" I demanded, pointing at the door.
One of them nodded.
"Right, well, hope you don't mind if we use it then," I said and, without waiting for an answer, I dragged Mum behind me as I clambered over their legs, leaving them looking shocked and horrified in our wake. I pushed open the door and locked it quickly behind the two of us before anyone could stop us. Thankfully, there was a stall as well as a urinal. It was, however, utterly disgusting. Filthy dirty, no loo paper and a seat you wouldn't sit on for all the money in China. But beggars can't be choosers and it was definitely better than nothing. It was slightly more embarrassing on the way out without the desperation of an overflowing bladder, so we thanked them profusely and made a hasty exit.
Finally arriving at Haslemere, we slumped in my car with a huge sigh of relief. Nearly home. Just a quick 5 minute drive and then we could collapse into a nice warm bed. Hmmm, it would probably have been wise of me to have taken note of the petrol (gas) tank's bright red light shining at me when I had driven home from work the night before. It had been raining and I was sure there would be enough petrol in the tank for the short drive to the station. Wrong. Not half a mile after leaving the station, my car started coughing, then kangerooing and then finally it shuddered to a halt. Mum looked at me in horror.
"What's wrong with your car?" she exclaimed.
I cringed. How could I tell her I had run out of petrol? How crap was that. It was still raining, it was windy, it was dark, it was late, we were exhausted and we still had about a mile to get to my house. I gave her an embarrassed smile. I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"Oh no! You haven't run out of fuel, have you?" she exploded. "How utterly, utterly stupid of you. How could you? Why would you let your tank get so low? I can't believe it. How are we going to get home now?"
"Um, I'm really sorry, but I think we're going to have to walk," I stuttered in a tiny voice, hardly wanting to suggest the unimaginable.
"Walk?" she shouted. "Walk? Oh for goodness sake, Claire, it's pouring with rain, I'm tired and my feet hurt. And what about my hair? It will get ruined! Arrrghhhh!"
With that, she flung open the car door and stomped off down the street, struggling to open her umbrella as she went. I don't think I have ever seen my Mum quite so mad. She was always so good as containing her feelings and making the best of everything. I was horrified. What a thoroughly crap day this had turned out to be.
I ran after her apologizing over and over again and, just as I caught up with her, a particularly strong gust of wind caught her umbrella and turned it inside out and broke it. I looked in horror. The rain and the wind attacked Mum's hair as she swore at me for the first time ever.
We finally staggered home around midnight, completely knackered, but arm in arm, giggling like demented drowned rats. It has gone down as the worst "treat" I have ever given my Mum and I don't think she will ever agree to come on another day out without checking my fuel gauge first. But in my mind, it shows what an amazing person my Mum is and how lucky I am to have her in my life.