The Mothership was Cinderella and she was not ready for the ball. Rhiannon and I had arrived at her hotel last Sunday morning, all set to whisk her away for a day of fun and togetherness before she headed back to Australia. We were having a family photo session then afternoon tea at a posh hotel. But after three weeks on her European Contiki For The Middle Aged tour, her wardrobe was looking slightly rumpled.
So we swung into FairyGodDaughter mode, hurrying her down to Oxford Street in a double-deckered carriage. With efficiency that made Trinny and Susannah look amateur, Rhi secured a suitable outfit within five minutes of the shops opening. She sat Mum down right there in the change room and worked her magic with the make-up brushes. Meanwhile I went and paid for the garments, then sneaked them straight back in so she could get changed. It was all coming together beautifully.
But then we decided the bra wasn’t doing her any favours. We whisked her away to Marks and Spencer and had her fitted for new scaffolding. Hello boys! A swipe of red lipstick was the finishing touch.
This is the kind of thing you miss when you live on opposite sides of the world. Rhiannon and I ganging up on Mum and telling her what to do. The now-glam Mothership queued up to pay for an empty bra box. She looked mighty gleeful when the teenage lad behind the counter asked her where the bra was. “I’m wearing it RIGHT NOW!”.
And so the three of us trotted hurriedly through Mayfair to the scene of our photies. It had been ten years since we’d had family snaps. That was when we still lived on the farm and involved wholesome denim and cheesy poses on bales of hay. Urgh. Plus it was so rare for the three of us to be in the same country at the same time – we hadn’t been in the one spot since April 2004 – that we thought we should capture the moment. Who knows what gravity will to do us before we meet again.
The photo session was good fun. And mercifully brief too, because I couldn’t wait to get to the scones. Scones rule at the best of times, but scones served on fine china in a posh hotel would surely be even more delicious.
We were presented with a grand towering tray of dainty sandwiches, fussy French pastries and of course the scones. The Mothership began her travelogue as I lunged for the strawberry jam. Each story went like this: “Have you ever been to ——– ? Oh, you gotta go. You GOTTA GO. It’s amazing. And the history. THE HISTORY. I just love the history!”
Among the places we gotta go, we just gotta go, are the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Monaco, Pompeii and Eagle’s Nest, the Fuhrer’s mountain retreat.
And that’s another thing you miss when you live on opposite sides of the world. The Mothership’s loopy stories where she mispronounces all the place names, her teacher voice growing louder as she gets enthusiastic.
“Well here’s some history for you Ma,” said Rhi, “This here hotel was the favourite of The Queen Mother.”
“Oooh, I should write that down.”
“Aaaaand, Alexander Graham Bell made the very first telephone call here.”
I kept drifting in and out of the conversation, as I was transfixed by the clotted cream. I’d never eaten clotted cream before. It was so thick you could slap it onto bricks and build a house.
“Have you ever been to the Sistine Chapel? Oh you gotta go. You just GOTTA go.”
I wondered how much clotted cream you could pile on a scone before you wound up with clotted arteries. And there was just the one lonely scone left. Would I have to arm wrestle anyone for it? I knew I could win. I’d been working out.
“It’s amazing what he did, really.” I emerged from the Scone Trance to contribute. “Yes, truly amazing. He was Scottish, you know.”
“Alexander Graham Bell!”
“We’re talking about Michaelangelo now!”
“That’s who I meant,” I mumbled, snatching the last scone. “Michael McAngelo.”
Yet another thing missed when you live on opposite sides of the world. Sitting round a table laughing like idiots, spraying crumbs everywhere. Later I moved on to the most spectacular looking item, a triangular sponge cake filled with raspberry mousse. I cut it into three chunks and offered the plate to the Mothership, “Righto, have some of this.”
“Oh no! I’ve had enough sweets.”
And that was when the whole whole room somehow fell silent – the silver spoons ceased to clink on the china cups, the pianist stopped playing – just at the precise moment I bellowed, “Come ON! You’ll never get this fancy shit again!”
The final thing I miss when we live on opposite sides of the world. Acting like an oaf in public and making my family wish they could disown me. Now Mum’s back in Australia, Rhi’s down in London and I’m here in Scotland missing them both like mad.