What do you get when you cross a ‘how much? I’m not paying that!’ skinflint with an itchy-footed pensioner? My Mother on a budget holiday!
Nothing about such trips give her greater joy than getting a bargain; to which end she will literally spend days, tirelessly figuring out the cheapest possible way to get from A to Z – which invariably involves detours to G, K and T along the way. Her latest venture, a return trip to Cowplain to see her friend Carol, was no exception. She spent the obligatory computer-bound days haggling with all major transport providers and surfaced, victorious, with a round-trip costing a mere £109.08 – which included plane, bus and train travel. Her greatest triumph was a train ticket from Cowplain to London for £5.00; assailed by a vision of her atop a pile of coal in a freight-car, I suggested she check she was definitely booked on a passenger train. It turned out she was…a bargain indeed!
The Why of the Trip
Many of Ma’s sentences start with “My friend Carol……” – indeed, regardless of the topic of conversation, Ma is somehow able to link it to her friend Carol – most often in reference to red wine, jigsaws or women named Jan (Carol has three friends, all named Jan – they are referred to as Jan no.1, Jan no.2 and Jan no.3 – not the most sophisticated differential, but it does save confusion).
Ma and Carol met on a boat, travelling from New Zealand to England, some 40 years ago. They talk on the phone most days, visit each other regularly and go on trips together. Their last such trip was a Narrow Boat holiday; during which, despite them both packing enough clothes to stock a Hospice Shop, they decided to buy matching fleeces – thereby becoming the Bobbsey Twins. Concerned that people might have trouble telling them apart, they decided on the qualifiers, relative to their size, of Big Bobbsey and Little Bobbsey.
Now, Big Bobbsey and Little Bobbsey are prone to hilarious mishaps, and together have about as much common-sense as a small parrot; so it was somewhat surprising to discover that their mutual friends, Linda and King (whom they also met on the boat going from New Zealand to London some 40 years ago), asked the Bobbseys to do a spot of Pet-minding for them. The Bobbseys agreed, hence the trip to Cowplain.
Knowing what the Bobbseys are like together, and already amused by Big Bobbsey’s convoluted trip to get to Cowplain, I decided to employ her services as a Roving Reporter. She wasn’t too keen at first, but I assured her that all she had to do was take a few photos, then regale me with stories when she got back. After some convincing, she agreed.
The first part of the trip was a plane ride from the Isle of Man to Liverpool; after which she had to get from the airport to the bus station in the city centre. She had two hours to get there and, being el-cheap-o, decided she would get a local bus and then walk the rest of the way. I suggested she get a taxi, pointing out that 2 hours might be cutting it fine – as, with her sense of direction, it would more likely take 2 days. Thankfully, she saw the merits of my argument, caught a taxi and arrived in time for the next leg of the journey – a bus ride from Liverpool to London. She said she saw lots of wonderful sights on the way, and decided to share them with us:
Once in London she had a bus change and short wait, which turned into a long wait, which turned into an indefinite wait. It transpired that the National Express driver had better things to do than drive Big Bobbsey to Cowplain, and had failed to turn up to work; as such, the bus was cancelled. So there she was, all alone in a big city, wondering what to do; when, all of a sudden, two angels appeared – Cyril and Mavis – who were due to catch the same bus. Bob Bobbsey described her angels elderly; so, as she is heading that way herself, they must have been positively ancient.
Now, given that between the three of them – what with their pensioner discounts and all – their tickets probably cost less than wiper fluid needed for the journey, National Express decided it wasn’t cost effective to schedule another bus, bought them all train tickets and sent them on their way. They made their own way to the train station on foot; and Cyril, the consummate gentleman, offered to carry Big Bobbsey’s bag – Big Bobbsey, not wanting Mavis to think she was a young floosy out to steal her husband, declined the offer. Once at the station, the newly acquainted OAP’s parted company – but not before Big Bobsy, as Roving Reporter, thought a picture of Cyril and Mavis might be nice.
So where are Cyril and Mavis? Good question! One can only assume, by the time Big Bobbsey rummaged in her bag for the camera and fiddled with the buttons, Cyril and Mavis had caught their train, travelled home and were sitting down to a nice cup of tea.
Eventually, after a gruelling – but remarkably cheap – day, Big Bobbsey arrived at little Bobbsey’s. The following morning they rose early so they could drive to Linda and King’s to begin the pet-minding portion of the holiday. On the way they passed a herd of Wild Ponies – enthralled by the sight, Big Bobbsey took a photo for posterity.
On reaching their destination, the four friends had time for a quick catch up, and for Bobbseys to receive a pet-minding tutorial; after which, Linda and King set off on their weekend getaway.
The Bobbseys, left to their own devices, began pet-minding – losing one of the cats in the first 2hrs. It was eventually found shut in the garage; with neither Bobbsey wanting to take the blame, suspicion for the oversight fell on King. Thereafter, they performed regular head counts to make sure all pets – which included a dog and two cats – were present and correct.
To fulfil her duties as Roving Reporter, Big Bobbsey thought it fitting to take some photos of their surrounds, so one might get a feel of their pet-minding experience.
Both Big Bobbsey’s photos and the stories of their adventure had an uncanny absence of pets; rather, the highlights included:
A pub excursion…
…red wine and jigsaw sessions…
…and Big Bobbsey’s astonishment at Little Bobbsey’s – can you tell my husband works away at sea – night attire.
Naturally they had a wonderful time and, thankfully, all pets were sentient upon Linda and King’s return. The Bobbsey’s stayed a couple of nights with their dear friends, then returned to Cowplain and spent some time with Jan no.1. Two days later they said their good byes as Big Bobbsey caught her £5 train to Gatwick; where she flew home to the Isle of Man, arriving safe and sound.
As far as Ma’s inaugural assignment as Roving Reporter is concerned: I doubt Time Magazine will be headhunting her any time soon.