Monday, 2 June 2008


Entertaining four children during any holiday is hard enough but when it is also drab and raining incessantly then the possibility of a tranquil few days are impossible. For some reason best known only to a higher order or more likely a couple of bottles of wine culminating in recklessness, decades seem to span my youngest and eldest children. So whilst the youngest are quite happy with a sheet over a couple of dining chairs to make an indoor tent, I still have two kids who humph around the house complaining how bored they are and how dull their lives are oh and how every other friend is on holiday somewhere exotic.
“You must have plenty of revision to do”, I suggest to my son. His reply is only to roll his eyes as though to say, “Change the record love”. If only he would apply himself to mathematical data with the same feverishness he does his bass guitar then perhaps next year he might do very well at his GCSE’s but then rock music or sex or perhaps a perilous combination of the two have been the undoing of many a young man and quite honestly I’d far prefer he be undone by his music than the dubious charms of a teenage girl.
“Well”, I continued, “Are you going to do any?”
“I’m on top of it ma. Just going to do a bit of jamming” and within minutes the house reverberates with the vibrations of very loud rock music.
His sister on the other hand is far more high maintenance, demanding to be entertained and taken out for the day because, “It’s not fair”. It is my turn to roll my eyes and sigh. Mercifully my in-laws step into the breach and offer their babysitting services that I may indeed take the eldest daughter on a little sojourn.
Bath seemed the perfect place; a little culture interspersed with some high class shopping. I attempted to book rail tickets on line and even though my IT skills extend to using the internet to shop and book tickets for various events, buying a rail ticket was a hornet’s nest. Eventually I gave up and resorted to the old fashioned telephone. Rather incongruously I got through to India, where a very polite lady informed me of train times and varying degrees of ticket prices. It must be very odd for her to discuss the nuances of Worle and Yatton but then nothing is straightforward any more. I finally gave up on this method too and visited Plymouth Railway station to speak to someone in person. Three minutes later the cheapest fare had been found, the seats reserved, the railcard handed over, payment made and tickets presented.
The following day, my in-laws in situ, my daughter, her friend and I got up at some god awful hour, and caught the train to Bath. Hubby’s parting words of “It’s very near the end of the month Alice, I doubt our bank account is healthy, spend accordingly”, did little to encourage me to spoil myself and so, apart from buy lunch and three tickets for the Fashion museum I was very restrained.
The girls however, their purses bulging with unspent pocket money had other ideas and whilst I would have liked them to take a peep at the more exclusive shops, they are ultimately, provincial Cornish girls who are more than happy with Top Shop and River Island. When you are young though and in possession of a killer figure, thirty five pounds goes an awfully long way and a fabulous dress was bought for the same price as a scarf in Jigsaw. So I left them ‘trying on’ with the same zeal as though a much loved hobby and meandered. I hadn’t gone far, when I had to jostle for position on a narrow pavement as an elderly gentlemen attempted to pass me. Neither of us did a good job of avoiding each other and our shoulders collided. I turned around to apologise only to have him shout “Look where you’re going”.
“Excuse me but you bumped into me”, I replied very politely, given the circumstances.
“Don’t give me any of your fucking mouth”, he roared. I was astounded. He had looked so pleasant, around 76years old, flat cap, shirt and tie, blazer, slacks and yet here he was, a grandfather figure, directing profane language at a woman.
“How dare you speak to me like that”, I replied hotly.
“Ah fuck off you fucking mother’s...” and then he used the 'c' wordI was stupefied. Standing alone on the pavement without a soul to defend me from this mad man I was genuinely frightened. Only he continued with his barrage of disgusting insults, finally walking away with “And you’re a fat fucking c**t as well”, hanging in the air. I’d like to say that my stoical reply was, “Oh really? Well I’ve lost 14lbs if you must now” but of course I didn’t. I just stood there trembling and biting my lip as tears fell down my face.
“Pull yourself together Alice”, I said to myself, “You can’t show the girls”. I couldn’t help showing the girls though, as they wondered why my eyes were red. It’s taking me a while to recover my joie de vivre and I’ve repeated the story so many times that my daughter is telling people, “She’s getting it out of her system, it’s her therapy. Out with anger, in with love”. Maybe she’s right but what with all the appalling stabbings of young men and violent and abusive behaviour becoming the norm, Britain at the moment seems a nasty and malevolent place. My only comfort has been that my children have shown me enormous kindness and my grandfather, the epitome of a gentleman renowned for his integrity and dignity, must be turning in this grave.


Hen said...

The only thing I can think is that he must a been a care in the community case, not taking his little pills- hence him appearing out of the pharmacy?

Or - had he just been trying to book a rail ticket online?

Either way - 'nasty' is right!

Mary Alice said...

That is absolutely appalling. It is generally worse when appalling behavior emanates from someone who doesn’t match our idea of the type who would act in such a way….conversely…. wonderfully kind behavior is surprising when you see some tattooed biker with a knife strapped to his side, stopping to assist a little old lady across the road. I guess, it only goes to prove the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It sounds as though Britain is having a bout with the mean-spirited-violent-nasty-flu. I hope the symptoms subside soon.

enidd said...

what an arse, alice. (not yours, for enidd can't see it on the interwebbings, but the old man.)

Eloise said...

I recently blogged about visiting Bath and was reliving that wonderful experience again with you when *BAM!* - that awful man intruded into your lovely outing. I am so sorry that his path crossed yours. What a jerk. It's sad that it will take so many nice encounters to make up for that one crummy one, but hopefully you have only pleasant ones in the foreseeable future and your faith in mankind, or at least in the well dressed men of England, will be restored in short order.

DL said...

Curiously, on the same day I read your post during a quiet few moments at work, I came home to hear that almost the same thing had happened to Sally that day. Different context - hers was walking the dog in our village.

Are you sure you and she are not really the same person?

Good post, as ever.