The Historic Palaces Family Membership that I took out with such pride last Spring has been seriously under-used!!! Only one visit to each Palace; repeat visits declined! We should be intimately acquainted with every nook and cranny, every arbour, every stairwell of these national treasures by now!
Our trip to The Tower of London was a flop admittedly. I took Alfie and his friend Tommy (more fun with a friend!) but Alfie came over all poorly when we got there, collapsing on the stone slabs every three seconds. Tommy politely did the treasure trail provided alone, while I growled in Alfie’s ear ‘Come on, stand up, Tommy doesn’t want to talk to me all day!’ Very awkward; we couldn’t get home fast enough.
But Hampton Court went pretty well, what with ‘Henry VIII’ (‘is he the real one?!’) wandering around, and the Maze to look forward to at the end! It was a shame about the torrential rain, forcing us to do the Maze at a sprint, but we strung out the sandwiches in the car with a few word games that got everyone laughing, slightly, and everyone seemed fine about missing the Orangery and going home earlier than planned…
Kensington Palace was great – because of the fabulous designers’ exhibition livening up the rooms - so yesterday, I decided on a return visit, no excuses accepted.
Well first Maddy texts me from her bed ‘Just realised I have three home-works to do today! Really sorry –can’t come!’ I smiled – that girl always puts her work first! - then stomped up to her room: ‘Get up, then!’ Next Josie decides she can no way keep to her GCSE revision timetable, go to Kensington Palace and squeeze in nail varnish shopping. And then Alan pushes Alfie forward: ‘I will come,’ he says, ‘but Daddy and I have to be back for Spurs v Man U by one o’clock.’ ‘OK,’ I said, with gritted teeth, ‘we can just pop in to Kensington Palace for half an hour – that’s the beauty of Family Membership!’
By the time we’d spent three hours getting ready to ‘pop in’ to Central London, the timescale was looking a bit tight. ‘You always drive really really fast, Daddy!’ shouted Alfie as we raced along. ‘I don’t go that fast, son!’ said The Man, chuckle chuckle (‘it’s the testosterone’). ‘You do!’ said Bonnie, ‘and Mummy goes really slowly but she still bashes the car all the time! Hey look!’ she pointed. It was my sister and family, a good twenty-five minutes into their Sunday Walk. ‘See – they go for walks!’ I sniped.
The car spoke: ‘You are now entering the Congestion Zone!’ ‘Oh no!’ said Alfie, ‘How much is the Consheston Zone??’ (he’s a big saver). ‘It’s the ‘Con – gesssss - tion Zone’ Alfie, I corrected: ‘say it after me: Con - gesssss-‘ ‘HOW MUCH IS THE CONGESSSSSSTION ZZZZZZONE???’ he shouted. ‘There’s no charge on Sunday,’ said Bonnie, clever-clogs. ‘Actually my nose is congested,’ she went on ‘and I will uncongest it into my hand.’
All good things come to an end. We parked, and after we’d killed ourselves laughing at the children pretending to be fast asleep inside the car while we froze outside, Alfie got out, did a time-check ‘TWELVE O’CLOCK!’ and put us on our marks: ‘GET READY, GET SET, GO!!’ We ran the mile across the park and were in the Palace by ‘FIVE PAST TWELVE!’, bit puffed. Alfie’s hand was on my back, pushing. ‘Look at that beautiful dress, Alfie – Bruce Oldfield!’ I said, luching forwards. ‘QUARTER PAST!’ he shrieked, ‘Come on!’ Bonnie knew a better way around the Palace than the one in the leaflet, which meant doubling back when we got lost. ‘TWENTY-FIVE PAST!!!!’ Alfie bawled in a frenzy, yanking me by the sleeve from one room to another. ‘Do we have to tear around like lunatics to get back for your cursed football?’ I grumbled. ‘TIME’S UP! WE’RE GOING HOME!’ he replied. ‘RUN!!! OR WE’LL MISS KICK-OFF!!’
We were back home so fast I surprised Maddy with her hands in the kitchen cupboard – not eating the drinking chocolate, but scanning it with her I Touch. ‘Look, Mummy, my I Touch can tell you what this is, and where you can buy it – isn’t that cool?!’ ‘Have you done the homework that prevented you from coming to Kensington Palace?’ I said, deadpan. ‘Because otherwise, you will be scanning drinking chocolate in a supermarket for the rest of your life!’ She looked quite keen on the idea, but got out her books.