OH TO BE IN ENGLAND!
It was the perfect time for my elderly Aunt Leah to visit England, as my partner Rob and I were based in London It was Leah’s first trip, and we were happy to take her on a tour of the country.
Heading south, we spent our first night in the seaside town of Lyme Regis, home of Leah’s Larcombe ancestors. I had booked us into a B&B that I knew she would enjoy. Leah loves dogs, and the proprietors owned a dear old Spaniel called Samuel Johnson. The dog wasn’t around when we arrived, but he appeared next morning in the breakfast room. As Aunty Leah swapped pet care advice with our hostess, poor Samuel suffered a massive fit and died before our eyes between the main course and the toast. Not a wonderful start, but we pulled ourselves together and continued westward.
Near Truro in Cornwall we were due to stay overnight in an up-market, 17th century farmhouse. I should have realized the ‘for sale’ sign on the garden wall spelled trouble. Sure enough, my knock on the door was met by a distressed young man who blurted; ‘Oh no! I hoped you wouldn’t come. Would you call yourselves flexible people? ‘ Dear God, I thought, he’s put us in the hay loft. I started to explain about Aunty Leah’s hip replacement but he interrupted; ‘My wife’s left me so I’ve booked you into a place up the road. Is that OK?’ Well, what could we say?
There was a neglected air about our alternative quarters and even Aunty paled at the sight of a large Alsatian stretched out on her bed. When Rob commented on the absence of loo paper our hostess smiled brightly and said; ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pop out and buy some. Er…..could you pay me now?’ Oh my hat!
We wandered on to Daphne du Maurier country, driving across Bodmin Moor in torrential rain. Fortunately Leah was reading my copy of Jamaica Inn at the time, so she thought the weather was appropriately atmospheric… even when we skidded off the road.
It had cleared up by the time we reached the next stop on her ‘bucket list; harbourside Clovelly, in North Devon. Sadly, there were no donkeys to carry us up the hill (as I had promised), but she loved it nevertheless.
TRAVELLING FURTHER NORTH
I had decided to take pot luck with accommodation for the rest of the trip, and one night in Lancashire we left our search too late. We ended up in a tiny terrace house with grubby curtains and suspect sheets. Aunty Leah’s bed was wedged into a cupboard behind the wall mirror in our room.
After the dying dog and the deserting wife we were beginning to feel like harbingers of doom and were not at all surprised when the local cotton mill burned down overnight.
Mind you, ten fire engines had failed to rouse us. Rob and I slept like the dead, exhausted with worry over Aunty Leah. Poor Leah was sleepless due to the worry of going to the loo via our room, but deaf to everything behind her mirror.
Our final week was spent back in London, where we caught the train to the city each day. One evening we were returning home when half a dozen young Irishmen piled into our carriage. They were very good humoured, although every second word began with F. I was mortified on Aunty’s behalf. However, as she said when we got off; ” You know Paulie, that word doesn’t sound nearly as bad with an an Irish accent does it?’ And I had to agree…. it fooking well doesn’t!
Victoria Station always reminds me of the Oscar Wilde character whose parents left him at the cloakroom in a handbag. Aunty Leah left a handbag at Victoria too, though not intentionally. And while there may not have been a baby in her bag it contained almost everything she owned – including her passport and her plane ticket home. Arranging replacements took so long that we had to skip the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey but she said not to worry, she had seen them on TV.
When we kissed her goodbye at Heathrow she assured us she’d had a wonderful time, but I’d noticed a strange look in her eyes as she laboured over her travel diary each evening.
NOTE – This article was originally published in The Australian newspaper. My dear Aunty Leah has since died. My sister Robbie found the travel diary among her possessions and posted it to me. I certainly squirmed a bit when I read it, although none of the trouble was my fault!
All the incidents in this article are true, except the final one…Leah actually lost her documents before she left Australia. I ‘borrowed’ this anecdote from my sister, who sorted the situation out in the nick of time . Robbie then took time off work to escort our nervous Aunt from Tasmania to the airport in Melbourne. No giggling at my outlandish specs in the photo below please.
If you have experienced similar travel ‘difficulties’, please share them below …It might make me feel a bit better! Don’t forget to complete the anti-spam sum though!
OH YES, HERE IS ANOTHER STORY ABOUT GUESTS COMING TO STAY WITH US IN ENGLAND.