Ma has always said she only wants to live till she’s 70. Her reasons? Getting old is crap, and the old must make way for the young (I agree that getting old looks to be on the crappy side of the human experience but I doubt the young have their sights set on living with Dad and doing jigsaws if only Ma would get out of the way). Well, Ma turned 70 in October, and guess what? She’s still here! As the big day approached, Ma gave no sign of shuffling off, so my sister Angela and I thought we’d take her on holiday, to get her bonus years off to a good start.
Of all Ma’s 3 children, Angela is the most successful (by successful I mean rich). Mathew could’ve been successful, but he had children and insisted on feeding them. As for me, I’m as close to successful as a wooden bead is to the Hope diamond (still, I get to sit around painting all day, so it could be I’m the most clever). Lucky for us, Angela’s success is our success, so when she announced she and her husband Neil had bought a holiday home near the Norfolk coast, we were all thrilled to bits and looked forward to receiving our respective invitations.
As the months wore on, our invitations failed to arrive. Angela made vague references to how lovely it was and how much we’d like it; but as for a nailed-down “you can come on these dates” …nada! So, with Ma’s sep-birthday looming, what better time to invite ourselves. Worried inviting the whole family might be pushing it, I suggested a girl’s weekend for Ma, Angela and me. Angela thought it was a fabulous idea, as did our brother Mathew, who did a great job hiding his disappointment that he wouldn’t be coming with us. Of course, we had to break the news to Dad that he would be left at home for whole weekend without his beloved. He took the news well, as this photo of him at the moment of Ma’s departure can attest.
Ma didn’t seem too enthused when I told her Angela and I would be taking her on holiday. Her chief concerns were that we’d all end up fighting and I’d make her run through the airport. We didn’t run through the airport as it happens, instead, we sat around eating the chocolate Ma had intended to give to Angela. Naturally, we felt guilty for eating it, but it neither stopped us, nor ruined the taste, in fact, if anything, it made it taste better.
Angela’s holiday home is situated in Kelling Heath – a camping and caravan park for posh folk. While some would call it a static caravan, we call it The Chateau. The Chateau is nestled in the woods and comes complete with mod-cons, lush furnishings and Wi-Fi, as well as an impressive supply of toilet paper, brought in especially for yours truly. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of toilet paper, and while The Chateau supply was up to scratch in terms of volume, I’m sad to say, it lacked in terms of quality, as it wasn’t 3ply quilted.
Kelling Heath itself is breath-taking, and even though it was miserable and raining while we were there, it was hard not be astonished by its beauty. Towering trees huddle together, creating a sense of otherworldliness, not alike the magical woods of European fairy-tales. It was love at first sight for me, as it was for Angela and her husband when they first visited 20 years ago, and why they have returned every year since, and why they decided to buy a holiday home there.
As with all septuagenarian birthday holidays, the evenings were action packed.
Ma likes a good jigsaw. To be honest, I do too. In fact, you could say we are a jigsawing family. Which is probably a good thing, because you tend to find, when it comes to families (esp. boozy ones like ours), the more jigsawing, the less bludgeoning. Being the matriarch, Ma can be dictatorial when there’s a jigsaw on the go. Preferring to put in all the pieces herself, we, her subjects, are usually relegated to such tasks as finding the end-pieces and re-filling her wine glass.
Along with our jolly jigsawing evenings, we visited nearby towns during the day, one of which we went to by train, an experience which plunged one back into post-war Britain when everything was bunting and crustless sandwiches.
We also visited a stately home. To be more accurate, we visited a stately home’s gardens. They were beautiful, especially all the hens that were roaming about. We were meant to go into the house too, but it was expensive, plus, earlier in the year, I had a nosy around Buckingham Palace (which, if you ask me, looked a bit tatty), so I was thinking anything else would be a step down, plus, Ma had somewhere she wanted to be.
Ma’s of that age where she eats lunch at 11am, her evening meal at 4pm, shouts at the telly, and goes to church on Sunday, church being a local pub where Ma is none too stingy with the wine. Her fellow congregants are Da and their good friends Daphne and Ian. The four of them put the world to rights and afterwards go to a carvery (aka a self-serve Sunday roast) at another pub down the road. Ma loves a good roast, especially the tatties, gravy and a big fat Yorkshire pud. Ma’s also of that age where she likes to do the same things on a given day. As such, a Sunday is not a Sunday unless it involves wine and a roast (actually, the other days of the week involve wine too, but you didn’t hear that from me).
So it was, when Ma arrived at Kelling Heath and saw a sign for a Sunday carvery, she set her heart on attending; and although Angela told her (on several occasions) that the Kelling Heath carvery was not very good, Ma would not be dissuaded. By the time Sunday rolled around, Ma, using her impressive powers of passive-insistence (what nice people do when they want their own way, while pretending it’s neither here nor there if they get it), made it abundantly clear that she was going to attend the Kelling Heath carvery (crappy though Angela assured her it was) whether we liked it or not.
Actually, she almost didn’t get her own way, because when she asked Angela and I if we wanted to go to the carvery, we both said no (Angela on account of she knew it was crappy, and me because I too knew it was crappy, because Angela told me so). So, it was decided that we would go to the pub instead (which happened to be next door to the carvery). I’m not as in-chargey as Angela, so when Angela popped to the loo on the way to the pub, Ma took the opportunity to boss me about, so that when Angela re-joined us, we were not in the pub but in the carvery room. Of course, Ma made it seem we were in there by accident, but I think you’ll agree, the photo below shows Ma knew exactly what she was doing!
Needless to say, the carvery was crappy…not that Ma would admit it!
Ma and I are a lot alike, something Ma finds very annoying. It’s no picnic for me either, but I’d rather be like Ma than, say, Hitler. Our main similarities are we’re both fussy eaters, we both hate rubber bands (they are disgusting and made by the devil), and we both blow our noses…a lot! I’m not sure where the nose blowing thing comes from. According to google it can be anything from a spinal fluid leak to pregnancy, or even a foreign object. I did once stick a small pink sweet up my nose to see what happens when you stick a sweet up your nose (it turns out a trip to the doctor and a pair of pillars), but I was 4 years old and the sweet is long gone. Personally, my money is on a mild allergy of some sort, probably to housework or, in Ma’s case, idiots. Whatever it is, we’ve both got it. What does our nose blowing have to do with a trip to Norfolk? Nothing, except that I caught a cold on my way there (probably from the EasyJet air-conditioning), so my nose blowing reached fever-pitch.
Despite being a fellow blower, Ma didn’t have much sympathy for me, rather she kept telling me off for blowing mine so hard, warning me I’d blow my brains out and end up a dullard like my brother (ok, I made up the bit about my brother) if I didn’t stop. Well, I didn’t stop blowing it, hard as it happens, and, despite ma’s warning, my brains seem to have stayed put.
Another thing Ma and I have in common is a lousy sense of direction. When I say lousy, I mean non-existent. I’m not kidding, the pair of us couldn’t find our way out of a circular room with a flashing sign over the door saying EXIT. Where Ma’s non-existent sense of direction comes from, I have no idea (mine, of course, comes from her); no one else in the family has such an affliction, and therefore lack both understanding and sympathy as to what it is like to be so afflicted. As such, it is always a relief when Ma and I get lost and it is only us in the car, so there’s no one to tut and sigh at our silliness. However, just like Ma had no sympathy for my nose blowing in Norfolk (on account of its brain-dislodging intensity), I found myself unsympathetic when, on our way back from the carvery, Ma got lost. You see, we stopped at the Kelling Heath general store, to get ice cream and nose-blowing supplies, during the buying of which Ma got impatient and wandered outside and into the pitch-black woods.
Naturally, Ma headed off in the opposite direction of The Chateau, leaving Angela and I to wander about in the dark, shouting “Ma!!!” like two lost orphans. Normally we would’ve called her mobile, but prior to the trip Ma had swapped her iPhone for a Dorro – an old folks’ phone that she didn’t (and still doesn’t) know how to answer. Just as we were starting to get genuinely worried that we’d have to call out a search party and be on the telly looking all mournful that we’d lost our Mother, Ma appeared, not the least bit sorry she’d wandered off, rather, assuring us she knew where she was going all along.
I’m pleased to say we all survived Ma’s wild weekend, with our sanity mostly intact. It was great to spend time together, and, despite Ma’s reservations, no fights broke out. Unfortunately for Angela, she caught my cold and spent the next few days in bed. I felt crusty as well, but Ma arrived home fit as a fiddle, so much so, I doubt she’ll be shuffling off anytime soon, though, if she does, at least we’ll have this selfie she took to remind us of our wonderful wild weekend together.