My weekend: Birthday celebrations…ish

Firstly, I’m so sorry about the delay in posting this, my scheduling messed itself up (well it was probably a mix of my technological incompetence and a hectic weekend, but we’ll blame it on the internet…). So this is a little late – apologies! But I hope that you can enjoy it anyway…

This weekend was my brother’s birthday weekend. He has always said that it’s rubbish having a birthday in August, because all of his friends are away on holiday, and he’s usually just stuck with us lot singing a feeble (though often SATB) rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’ Well this year, we definitely proved that wrong, and had a few rants along the way!

The weekend really began in style, in good English fashion: with a train delay. But oh no! It’s National Rail, so one cannot simply delay the train, but it is necessary to cancel it as well, with no warning. Let me set the scene. We were going to the theatre on Saturday night, and so decided to get the 15:33 from our town into London, so that we would have a comfortable amount of time to a) take part in National Geocaching Weekend, b) go to Stanfords, the map shop in Covent Garden (my Dad’s paradise), and c) get to dinner before making our way to Piccadilly to the theatre. We were all excited, got our tickets and were waiting on the platform.

At 15:33, the departures board changed to 15:36, then 15:38, 15:40, 15:42 and so on, adding a 2 minute delay each time. I wish I could have taken a picture of people’s faces, crowded round the board, watching time slip away. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Sighs and groans. The typical, non verbal, but altogether obvious reaction of anyone who lives near London and is used to dealing with National Rail. We were waiting for the announcement that there were ‘leaves on the line,’ but no such announcement ever came. We got to 16:00. The next train was due at 16:03. Perhaps they were just going to cancel the 15:33 and we can get on the next train. But no, that would be impossible because it’s a one rail track, and the 16:03 will be stuck behind the 15:33, having already left from the other end.

We waited. Eventually it got to 16:08. We saw two headlights emerging from the tunnel. Yes we thought, finally the train’s coming. But how wrong we were. This was, indeed, the long awaited 15:33, but it decided to rattle through the station and leave the baffled, uninformed, angry and (in one case) very teary passengers stranded at the station, miming in distress at the driver as he failed to slow down. We were stuck, left, behind the yellow line. Throughout the 40 minute period when we had patiently waited for this train to arrive, there had been no station worker in the ticket office to explain what was going on, and there were no announcements as to why a train we had waited for had just whistled through, not stopping for its passengers. How could they do this? Indeed, proceeding to then look at the departures board, 2 minutes later they cancelled the so-called 15:33, and the 16:03 was marked as delayed.

We decided we couldn’t face it anymore. Luckily, as it was raining, we had decided to drive to the station from home, and so we hopped into the car and drove to the nearest station that ran on a parallel line. But we then had to buy a new parking ticket (£2) and new tickets which would entitle us to travel from the new station into London (£17). So that’s an extra £19 that we didn’t need to spend, an arrival into the wrong station in London 50 minutes later than we had intended, and a whole family grumpy and angry with the rail network. We made our table reservation (just), but we were unable to do all the other things that we had intended to do that afternoon. Needless to say, we were all a little downhearted.

If you are not living in England, I hope this shows you to take what our National Rail service tells you with a pinch of salt. It is a well known phenomenon amongst commuters that when they tell you that there are ‘leaves on the line’ they are just making up an excuse for being late, so that they do not have to report it to National Rail authorities as a late train for no reason. Rant over, sorry.

Back to the weekend celebrations. Going to the theatre cheered us all up a bit from the disastrous beginning to the evening, and we all had a good laugh at ‘The comedy on a bank robbery’ by the Mischief Theatre. It was something that my brother had distinctly asked to see as his present a while ago, and we were able to book tickets for his birthday weekend, so he was thrilled to get the chance to go. [I am intending to post a more in depth review soon, and link it here.] Thankfully, by the end of the performance, we had put our annoyances concerning the train network aside, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with each other, laughing. It was nice to get out together as a family, something we don’t often get the chance to do, especially when we are back at school.

However, it was then time to get back on the tube and train and head back home. Now this was my second time on public transport returning home on a Saturday night, and I was not surprised to see that the ‘lairy’ nightlife of Manchester was somewhat present (though admittedly in fewer numbers, with shorter heels, less orange skin, and fewer sparkling short dresses) in London too. The offenders this time were mostly men, drunk, with berets, and although not intending to cause anyone harm, were doing so by messing about on the tube escalators and swinging from the roof bars of the tube. This time, however, I resolutely stayed with my family, avoided any drunken approaches by senseless snoggers, and made sure to position myself near the door, away from the action.

Note to self: If you are drunk, do not mess about on escalators. You can push other people down, get trapped in between the stairs, and cause pile ups at the end of the escalator by lying down. Do not try to walk the wrong way on the escalator, or press the emergency stop button. It is very dangerous, not just for you but for others too.

So, awaking at 7:15 on Sunday morning after returning at midnight, and used to 12 hour summer sleeps, I was just a little groggy. But there was no time to spare, I had to shower, get dressed, make myself look a little less zombie like, and eat some breakfast before driving to Church. I managed 3 of those things, the one missing being breakfast… I’m hearing all the voices in your heads now – ‘Oh but you really shouldn’t do that, breakfast is the most important meal of the day etc. etc.’ Believe you me, the grumblings of my stomach when I wake up are enough to persuade me to eat. I grabbed a piece of bread, dolloped a bit of butter on it, picked up the flask of tea my Dad had made for me half an hour earlier, and made it into the car only 5 minutes later than I should have been, and proceeded to eat my makeshift breakfast on the 20 minute speeding-to-catch-up-time-because-I-was-faffing-and-slowing-down-for-speed-cameras journey on the A3.

And it was a good job that I did manage to get something to eat, as the morning was jammed full with this, that and the other, both at Church and at home as we prepared for the arrival of everybody and his wife for a BBQ in the afternoon. There was cake to make, jelly to set, windows to clean, carpets to hoover, tables to lay, buns to halve, a quick cycle to the co-op to buy some more ketchup, salads to wash, dry and arrange, several loads of washing up and laundry, watermelon to cut, pillows to plump (and more)… I felt like my hands were going to drop off, and my brain was about to whizz out of my head. I sometimes feel like I needed to have been born as an octopus! And then the doorbell rang (except it didn’t because our doorbell is so old – 12 years, nothing lasts longer than that these days – that is to say it does not ‘ring’ anymore, it just makes a barely audible squeak). So the doorbell squeaked, and the party began.

Well there were an eclectic mix of people. My Granny’s cousin, Joan (90ish, who I spent most of the evening speaking to about Shakespeare, and theatre, and arguing with over women priests…I say no more except that I was not in a good mood, and rather shocked for the remainder of the evening), her son, Peter, his wife and their 2 girls. There was my Mum’s godson, his 3 siblings and their parents. There was my Mum’s godson’s other Godmother, and her 2 children, and her divorced husband and his new partner. And all of us. 20 altogether, so not quite the whole world, but considering that 50% were between the ages of 9 and 17, we probably ate about as much food.

The rain managed to hold off for the most part of the evening, and only descended at the last minute, when the boys (all boy scouts) decided to make s’mores (if you don’t know, I think I talked about them here). By this time the bucket BBQ which was being used for this purpose was wet, and all the kindling that I had so carefully collected from the woods a few days ago was wet too. I was only alerted to this fact when I heard shouts of ‘throw me down another toilet roll’ from the neighbouring room. We persuaded the boys to take the BBQ into the porch, away from the rain, add some dry string and kitchen roll and the hot coals from the big BBQ. While all the adults (and those pretending to be adults) conversed politely in the kitchen, the younger teenagers and children would spontaneously appear at the window, smiles wide, and eyes shining with sugar rushes, brandishing a flaming stick of marshmallows, black on the outside, but deliciously gooey on the inside. I must admit, I gave in at the end and indulged myself a little..! The party was a huge success, and everyone enjoyed themselves, even me a little, despite being the ‘odd one out’ (not in the Scouts like everyone else) and enduring a lecture on how women priests are sin… I have to say that if anyone wants to challenge me on women in the Church again, I’m more than happy to oblige, and now have all my arguments practiced.

DISCLAIMER: *There was an adult present at all times, trained in first aid, during the cooking of s’mores. Do not try this at home without adult supervision. Keep away from flammable objects at all times*

When I awoke this morning, the smell of sausages, burgers, strawberries, chocolate cake, Pimms, salmon, sweetcorn and burnt s’mores still lingered in the air, a mélange of sweet, savoury, and charcoal. However, whilst I could quite happily have stayed in my nice warm cosy bed, and savoured the scent before getting up leisurely and beginning the day, my brother decided that since it was his actual birthday today, he wanted to wake up ridiculously early (I mean ridiculously early for a teenager, so 7:00…!) and open all his cards, and he wanted me to make waffles. He is still a child at heart, and you all know that you can’t get angry with the ‘Birthday Boy.’ So I made waffles and watched him open all his cards.

We have enjoyed a lovely day together as my Mum was working from home. My brother and I walked up to town, and bought some new clarinet and piano duet music to perform in beginning of term concerts, and went for a coffee. My Granny and step-Grandfather (if that’s even a thing) came over for tea, and we had yet more cake… So, rather full in stomach, and very sleepy, but with a full heart, tonight I say ‘over and out’!

I hope you all had a good weekend, hectic, relaxing or otherwise!



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