Paradise Lost

 After a tough few months Mum and I decided to escape from the world, and so we booked a room in a Weymouth B&B for three nights.

This was the plan:

We would while away our time, spending a blissful hour or two lying languidly on sun-soaked sands, meander towards an icecream stall to purchase two 99 Flakes without so much as breaking a single bead of sweat, before strolling around the harbour with a sense of abandon which speaks only of having thrown your cares to the ocean, and seen them washed away along with a flip-flop and a crushed Buxton bottle.

This was the reality:

We got off on the wrong sandal-clad foot immediately. In the breakfast room, whilst I was serenely spreading my Longmans unsalted, I became aware of a very oppressive silence. The topic of the weather had been exhausted, revived, given CPR, and then finally laid to rest, leaving Mum and Colette from Northhampton next to us sitting in silence, nervously catching glances and smiling at each other. I met my mother’s gaze as I took a sip of orange juice, but must have unwittingly given a cue for a horrendous conversational blunder.

‘So what did you think of the referendum result?’ asked my mother, with instant audible regret. I nearly spat my orange juice in a beautiful arc right through the air.

‘I wasn’t surprised at all.’ came Colette’s reply, ‘I’m delighted. I always thought we should make our own rules, and not be told what to do by other people.’

Heads and faces flaming, Mum and I bit down on our jammy wholegrain, which had become as brittle as the atmosphere.

At the Sealife Centre, the day, and indeed my mother, went even more rapidly downhill as Mum tripped on a stone outside the crocodile enclosure and went for the biggest and most extended stumble I personally have ever witnessed. Bent at the waist, Mum hurtled head-first at fantastic speed towards the Humboldt penguins, her feet kicking out to the left and right like two frantic paddles. It was like Concord. I was forced to run after her as she zoomed away, save she should take out one of the many toddlers waddling along clutching plush octopi. As I cleared the bend I witnessed the final flurry of this spectacular display as Mum careered into the hedge lining the otter sanctuary and disappeared into it. I finally caught up with Mum, and delivered her from the leafy arms of the evergreen.

At the Sealife Tower, things didn’t get much better for us. Having shown our tickets we were promptly bustled into a dark room where a young graduate shouted “You’re surrounded by sharks!” which caused my bewildered mother significant alarm. In the midst of our confusion the grad took a photo of us and tried to fob us off with a fob with our photo on it.

As we entered the revolving pod, another young spud directed us to walk right around to the double doors at the other side. The pod was big enough to seat seventy but for some reason the one other family that was going in squished up right next to us, the mother pressing shoulders with Mum, with her toddler practically straddling the both of them. I motioned to Mum to follow me around which of course prompted a snooty cry of “Ooooooh, Grace, that lady didn’t want to sit next to you!” “No, I didn’t want to sit under you,” muttered Mum under her breath. Unfortunately, no matter how far away in the airborne doughnut we sat from Grace, Caitlyn, and the two yummy mummys, the noise levels did not diminish. One mother spent the whole three rotations ordering Grace to “sit next to Caitlyn” in exaggerated tones of scorn. By the third rotation, when amazing Grace still hadn’t dutifully parked her benappied butt on the plastic beam, I began to wonder whether Caitlyn was actually a human, or rather, some heinous hairy arachnid. On the other side of us we had a second family with a young boy, who, quite understandably, was distressed at being suspended 90′ above the ground in a revolving bagel. The father, keen to instil in his offspring the same wonderful and acute appreciation of the natural world, was loudly drawing his son’s attention to various bits of scenery. “Look Leo, can you see the Osmington white horse carved into the limestone hill circa 1808 which shows King George III riding away from his beloved Weymouth?” Sadly not. What we got was, “Look Leo!” followed by “Sea!”, “Cloud!” and “Bird!” These astounded ejaculations from the man to our left, combined with yummy mummy’s shrieking of “Juice Caitlyn! Do you want juice? [no reply] You do? What juice do you want? Do you want apple or blackcurrant or pineapple? Caitlyn?” on our right, as well as the overhead commentary telling us the “wonderful secrets of the Jurassic coast” made for a deafening cacophony of performance parenting that had Mum and I gripping the seats, clenching our teeth, and contemplating how far above the water we’d feasibly need to be before we could dive in without being killed.

Dinner at Ming Wah restaurant. Here I struggled to enjoy my chicken and cashew nut chow mein because the waiter kept coming over to our table, bending down, smiling at me and saying “Are you okay?”, then turning to my mother smiling and asking “Is she okay?” As far as I knew I wasn’t making suicidal gestures with my wantons but I had to go to the toilets just to check that ‘Death is bliss’ wasn’t smeared on my face in sweet and sour sauce.

Paying the bill, there he was again, appearing sporadically from under the bar like a whack-a-mole. He waved a fortune cookie at me and said “Do you want it do you want it?” I had to time my response for when he next surfaced. “Thank you,” I said, handing the cookie to my mum. Obviously, this was not the desired outcome, as he swiftly submerged himself again and appeared with a second cookie which he thrust into my hand. I laughed and thanked him again, with slightly more emphasis, but found that I couldn’t retract my arm because the waiter had held onto my hand.

The final instalment of this most emotionally taxing day involved two women, two icecreams, and a coastal breeze. Having ordered two small Mr Whippys, we were informed that there were no small cones left, and the girl promptly started filling two gargantuan waffle cones with whippy. I really cannot exaggerate how large these icecreams were. I felt like I was carrying the Olympic torch as I emerged onto the street.

But disaster struck. A sudden and inexplicably vigorous wind whipped up and whipped Mum’s whippy. She was coated from face to foot. I made it to the bench and begun the difficult task of consuming my creamy cornocupia. My best eating efforts were in vain however, as my cone split and ice-cream dripped onto my black jeans, forcing me to dab sheepishly at my crotch area with a desperately inadequate serviette.

As for souvenirs, we came home with two ‘lucky cats’ –  ‘luck lucky cat’ (yellow), and ‘happiness lucky cat’ (green), and this tells you all you need to know.









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