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A jubilant holiday... mostly
You might imagine that a couple of weeks away on holiday would have left me in a relaxed and mellow mood, and, for the most part, you’d be right.
While Her Majesty suffered hours of soggy indignity on the poopdeck of the Spirit of the Thames, squinting through the driving rain as a second Armada battled down river (stoic Prince Philip at her side clearly desperate for a royal wee), I was congratulating myself that the weather in the far western tip of her jubilating realm was a great deal nicer than it was in London.
While bunting throughout the land didn’t so much flutter as sag in sodden salute, I actually managed to get a sunburnt nose during an eight-mile coastal walk.
Obviously I feel very sorry for all those intrepid people in boats on the Thames whose Jubilee weekend turned into a scene reminiscent of The Perfect Storm. And I feel equally gutted for all those public-spirited souls who arranged street parties only to see their cupcakes and cucumber sandwiches turn into a water-logged uneaten mess.
But actually, when we turned on the telly in our holiday cottage and watched the news in fascinated horror as a veritable Noah’s Fludde coincided with the Jubilee, a small, smug voice deep inside kept saying, “Thank goodness it isn’t like that here.”
I’m not proud to admit that, but after our last holiday I felt we deserved a break on the weather front.
Regular readers will recall that last September we ventured north to the Highlands at the same time as Hurricane Katia. After seven days of rain that didn’t resemble the proverbial stair-rods so much as cabers thundering down on the thatched roof of our traditional crofter’s cottage, not a single article of clothing we’d brought with us (apart from our underpants) was dry.
Hilariously we’d been worried about being attacked by midges, which are, allegedly, quite active in September. ‘Luckily’ we didn’t see a single midge for the duration of our visit, presumably because the little blighters had been battered to death by raindrops the size of gobstoppers.
Did I mention the hurricane?
At first we bore the rain with fortitude, (a bit like Prince Philip) comforting ourselves with the fact that although we couldn’t open the ‘wee croft’s’ door without receiving the equivalent of a bucket of water chucked into our faces, at least we had an excellent flatscreen TV.
We did until Tuesday, that is, when Hurricane Katia blew the transmitter mast off a nearby Cairngorm leaving us with a DVD selection that consisted of Braveheart and The Best of Billy Connolly.
All in all, I have to say we were both scarred by that ‘holiday‘. We returned damp, whey-faced, grumpy and traumatised.
That’s why we were so selfishly relieved a couple of weeks ago to see that the weather in Penwith was significantly better than it was back home. There was a even a moment towards the end of the River Pageant that made us both howl with laughter.
It was when the utterly saturated choir pluckily and patriotically continued to sing Rule Britannia from the top of a boat shrouded in an impenetrable bank of rain. The vessel was passing the glum-faced Queen at the time, although I’m not sure she could see it.
“So this is what you get for Sixty Glorious Years,” I imagine she was thinking as the invisible choir launched into the encore and Prince Philip crossed his legs and made a tetchy comment about needing the throne room.
(I’m still not entirely sure that PP’s jaunty naval jigging about to the hornpipe was an expression of terpsichorean joy.) I should point out that what made the scene on TV so funny was the following comment on Twitter which I relayed to my husband: “It’s like that bit in Carry On Up the Khyber when they all have dinner under heavy bombardment.”
The Queen doesn’t have a lot of luck when it comes to weather and big events. As I recall, the Silver Jubilee in 1977 was a cold and drizzily affair and by all accounts the actual coronation took place on a grey and bitterly cold day.
A wise person might have taken this into account when booking their holiday, but Cornwall was heaving with visitors earlier this month. I’ve never seen ‘our’ patch of the Duchy so crowded.
At the beginning of this week’s column you might have noticed a slight cavil in my claim to have returned refreshed and revived. This is mainly because I experienced anger of gall-bladder exploding proportions on at least three occasions during the first week of our holiday.
Unusually, these attacks took place at National Trust properties and generally they occurred at around 4pm.
It’s usually the older members of society who complain about poor manners and lack of consideration, isn’t it? Well, I’m here to tell you that if a cup of tea and a slice of cake are involved it’s every man/woman for himself/herself.
Time and time again we queued patiently for our scones, clotted cream and dollop of jam only to find that not a single table or chair was available to enable us to enjoy our artery-busting treat.
This was because people behind us in the queue (always able-bodied, older people) had deployed the gimlet stare of a hunting Peregrine falcon on entering the restaurant, staking a claim to a coveted free table before ordering anything.
Once they’d taken off their pack-a-macs and spread their possessions liberally over the chair backs in the manner of a gorilla marking its territory, one of the phalange - generally a female - was dispatched to the back of the queue from where she proceeded to shout back to the rest of the troupe.
“They’ve got scones, Duncan. Do you want fruit, cheese or plain?”
“The soup’s broccoli and stilton, Pat.”
“Today’s special is apricot crumble. Looks a bit burnt.”
On one occasion my husband had to grip my arm to stop me shouting back at them. “If you hadn’t been so keen to get the only available table, maybe you could all have queued like the rest of us and made you own selection.”
I will remember 2012 as the year I first experienced tea shop rage.
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