Tuesday, 11 December 2007


Being heavily involved in my youngest children’s school fundraising activities has been a dubious honour this week. Very early on Saturday, I left Hubby with a house to clean and four children to entertain whilst I meanwhile, was to be found in a lay-by clutching a clip-board, waiting in the freezing pitch black with 52 other ladies for a coach to take us to Bath on a PTA shopping trip. It had seemed such a good idea a couple of months ago. Now with rain threatening to soak us and several elderly ladies looking as though they were about to surrender to hypothermia, I was very uneasy. One after the other they asked, “When will the coach be here Alice?” Omnipotent, moi? I’m only the vice-chair, not the chair, whom is often mistaken for God.
“I’m sure he’ll be here soon”, I answered animatedly, whilst secretly worried sick that perhaps he wouldn’t turn up at all and I’d be left with 52 women baying for my blood. Finally, in the dark of the early hours his headlights were seen approaching and if I thought for one minute that a cheery, jolly driver would bound down the steps and welcome us aboard then I was much mistaken. I climbed up to meet him and was met with an exhausted looking man rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“Ugh, morning”, he yawned, “I’ve been up since four and I’m really tired”. Oh deep joy.
I ushered my ladies on board and the driver asked where we were going. This was getting worse.
“Bath?”, I replied tentatively.
“Which way do I go?” Did I just hear him properly?
“Well, you have to turn around?”, I started before he groaned,
“You mean I can’t carry on in this direction?
“No, sorry the ferry won’t take a huge coach”. Muttering under his breath, he swung his coach around and we went the Saltash Tunnel way.
By Taunton Dean he was desperate to stop for a coffee because, “I’m nearly falling asleep here”. Considering that a few years ago, on a similar outing, our driver had actually fallen asleep at the wheel and I’d had to keep him going with stimulating conversation all the way to our destination, my nerves were shattered but thankfully, after the largest latte he seemed a little more perky. That is, until we got to the outskirts of Bath.
We and 399 other coaches full of excited shoppers were all attempting to enter one road that takes you into the city centre. It was an impenetrable snarl up which took an hour to negotiate by which time many of my ladies were huffing and puffing with frustration.
“Well, this is just bloody marvellous”, said one, “All that money I paid for a ticket only to have a couple of hours shopping. It’s a disgrace”. I put an asterisk next to her name on my clip board and vowed to blacklist her from further excursions.
Our entry into the coach park was met with further obstacles as the coach company had failed to obtain a parking permit and so the driver had no option other than to abandon us with the parting advice of, “I won’ t be here at 4.45, just look for the coach on the road somewhere near”. I grabbed the microphone to let my ladies know, but most were anxious to get off and go and thus never heard the announcement.
To say that Bath was busy would be of such an understatement that it’s barely worth describing suffice to say that around the Christmas market I actually sat on an old ladies lap in a wheelchair having been pushed there by an enthusiastic shopper and now was hemmed in as we were gridlocked. No-one was moving and there were bodies literally pinning one to the spot. It was most disagreeable.
Fortuitously, I met a couple of friends from the recent ‘burlesque’ party for lunch. They had booked a table at a lovely restaurant and plied me with Prosecco for much of the afternoon. Things took a turn for the worse however, when, perhaps buoyed by Dutch courage, the two skinny girls insisted on a little Trinny and Susannah tough love and, in the middle of the restaurant hoisted my breasts up declaring all I needed, “Was a bloody good bra”. If that be the truth: if all my physical, emotional, familial and fiscal issues could be sorted by the purchase of a good bra, then what a world it would be. Instead I felt cross and finally left them in an expensive dress shop arguing over whether or not it would be permissible to buy a dress in last season’s print.
At 4.45 I walked to a patch of pavement near to where the driver had dropped us off. Forty beleaguered women had thankfully mustered and the coach arrived and I safely deposited them on it. Eleven were still AWOL and into the dark I dived, clutching my ubiquitous clipboard again in the faint hope that it would sustain me as I trawled the coach station. Half an hour later and my shepherding skills paid off and all were safely rounded up and on the bus. Many had booked dinner in restaurants at home and all were disappointed when the driver announced that he would be stopping at Exeter services for 45 minutes, because, extraordinarily, he hadn’t eaten all day. God only knows why he hadn’t packed himself a lunch but it meant that we didn’t get home until 9.30. I was not flavour of the month.
Later in the week I went to the theatre with my youngest and her preschool to see a play for 2-6 year olds. It sounded Christmassy and jolly - in fact it was about bereavement and loss. A real hoot, especially when in front of an audience of toddlers the main protagonist declared, “Someday I wake up with nothing to look forward to”. Someone pass me a rotten tomato..


Mary Alice said...

Oh Alice Band -

I literally could not breathe and tears were streaming down my face, I laughed so hard at "hoisted my breasts up" Oh dear God that was the best laugh in months. Truly wouldn't it be marvelous to have the whole world set right with the proper high and proud arrangement of our girls? We must go bra shopping together...I have been told nearly the
ame thing. blahaahaaha

thefoodsnob said...

OMG! It sounds absolutely horrible, poor you.
At least you got a good post about it (and a nice lunch.)
I loved the 'Dutch courage' and the 'lifting of the girls,' thanks!


Trinny and Susannah said...

Dear Alice

Watch out for low flying tomatoes when you're next in town.

enidd said...

alice, what a hoot. enidd wishes you an alcohol-aided merry christmas - she suspects we'll both need it.

Alice Band said...

mary alice - I hate shopping at the best of times. Being coerced into buying a new dress with skinny friends is my idea of absolute hell!

thefoodsnob - How is your Christmas baking coming along?!

trinny and susannah - thanks for calling buy. See the trouble you've caused.

enidd - how are you old stick?

Mary Alice said...

Lucky for you I detest shopping too. I have to drink afterwards. Also I have an emerging spare tire and breasts that have decided it might be warmer down south. We would make the perfect shopping partners...little shopping, many g&ts and great understanding about comfortable bras.

Sally Lomax said...

I SO wish that I had have been available to join you there. I would have love to have seen the bra thing in action. Those "girls" might have been offered a few words of advice from me. Like "Who do you think YOU are?" Great post Alice!

Alice Band said...

Sally - How lovely to hear from you. I wish you had been there too. The 'girls' weren't trying to be unkind - but when you are a heffer of a gal, surrounded by two beautiful, slim women giving sartorial advice - well, you can imagine....