A weekend with the girlfriend
For the first time in ages, real life seems to have gotten in the way this week, and that’s no bad thing.
There are days that I wake up and genuinely can’t remember what day it is. Having a tendency to wake in the middle of the night certainly doesn’t help, and when morning comes I find I’ve either spent hours trying and failing to sleep, or my nights have been so disturbed that I can barely open my eyes.
My girlfriend came down to visit on Friday though, which was a welcome boost. Again, the ups and downs of a long distance relationship are never so vivid as when we are together again, or apart again. We had a busy weekend planned though Friday night was spent watching tv, relaxing and doing the couple-type things that we miss out on being 200 miles apart. I’m also pleased to report that the vasectomy seems to have healed nicely and - through a series of rigorous tests over the three days - hasn’t adversely affected me.
MrsDannyUK suggested that my main bedroom would be better suited if the bed was moved and things were rearranged. Therefore, we spent a couple of hours moving that around. As a guy, it really makes no difference to me, but her arguments were as valid as they needed to be (“It’ll look better” and “I think you should - what do you think?”). As a result the bedroom seems to have more space and - more importantly - I have a happy girlfriend who will continue to claim that she was not bothered about the layout until the day she dies.
Saturday daytime and I picked up my four kids and headed to Frankie and Bennys to buy breakfast for everyone as a pre-birthday treat for my youngest daughter who turned 10 a couple of days later. She was over the moon at the thought of going there and handled the disappointment that it was closed for the morning quite well. Apparently there was staff training around a new menu that day. Instead, we headed next door to Chiquitos and ate there, where the staff were brilliant. The manager showed the kids the kitchen and what was happening there, and also supplied Mexican hats and stick-on moustaches for us all. My eldest then insisted that I take a photo for Silent Sunday, and as a nice dad, I did as she asked.
After we had eaten and generally spent some time together as a family, we popped into town where the soon-to-be-10-year-old chose a pair of shoes as her present. I then dropped three of the kids home and took my birthday girl out for lunch. She had been asking all week to go to Back Inn Time, a local restaurant which has served Chelmsford for almost thirty years. MrsDannyUK, my youngest daughter and I pulled up outside the restaurant, pulled on the entrance door and collectively sighed. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was shut. Apparently it didn’t open until the evening.
I apologised to my daughter who again took it in her stride. I gave her three choices. We could either forget about the meal completely (which I suggested probably wasn’t the best option), we could reschedule and I would take her there another time with just the two of us, but that would mean MrsDannyUK wouldn’t be there, or we could go somewhere else now. There was barely any thought as she opted to go somewhere else and asked if Frankie and Bennys would be open by now. It was, and although it was several hours after we had originally planned, we finally got to eat there.
After I had dropped her home, my girlfriend and I drove to London. We had a hotel booked for the night, and tickets to go on a tunnel walk that Transport For London had arranged for the next morning.
We ditched plans en route to the hotel to park the car in a side street outside of Docklands and get a tube to the hotel, instead deciding that the £21 overnight parking charge was as convenient as it was expensive. I squeezed the car into a parking space beneath the hotel, and as anyone who has ever parked in any kind of old building in London will testify, it’s a true test of nerve and character to manoeuvre a vehicle through narrow basements, past concrete pillars and into tiny spaces.
I think my girlfriend and I have an unwritten rule about this kind of thing, where I pretend (loudly) that although it’s a tight squeeze, it’s no real problem for me to park, and she duly makes cooing noises about how well I have done to get the car where it needed to be. Yes, that’s sad, but it’s good for my ego so I never mention it.
The hotel was situated in Docklands, and we were a stones throw from Canary Wharf. We decided to stroll through the imposing layout, marvelling at the massive buildings around us. Dinner in Cafe Rouge followed, and we nattered together for hours before heading back to the hotel.
The next day came and we were up at a decent time, throwing our stuff in the car and heading over to Rotherhithe ready for our trip through the tunnel. It’s an incredibly geeky thing to do, but the opportunity to travel through a tunnel built by Brunel was not one we wanted to miss. Seemingly we weren’t the only ones, as our guide said that several thousand tickets had been sold for the four-day exhibition.
Once that was completed we stepped back into the glorious sunshine and agreed that we should collect the car and then find some coffee. Despite being close to half a dozen coffee shops, I declared that we should go to Greenwich which was a fifteen-minute drive. My other half was not fooled for a second and asked if they had a Costa there. Of course, they did, and it was one that I had never been to before.
Greenwich in the Summer sunshine is a sight to behold. Although I grew up just a few miles from there, I rarely visited the town which sits on the Thames. We strolled through the market, sat in Costa for a while and visited the National Maritime Museum. Standing on the beautiful grass at the front of the museum, you can look North and see Canary Wharf and a beautiful London skyline. Turn 180 degrees and you can see Greenwich Park and the observatory. Stunning doesn’t begin to describe it.
Heading home, I took the road to Welling, where I had grown up, and showed my girlfriend the house I grew up in. She seemed interested, which was just as well as I was driving, and I had control of the central locking in the car, so she couldn’t escape anyway. We popped into Tesco to buy some dinner, and I inwardly marvelled that despite spending 21 years in this small town (and 15 years in Chelmsford), I rarely, if ever, see someone I know. Today was no different.
We got home an hour later, had dinner and then headed to Baroosh for drinks with friends. Baroosh do some amazing cocktails which taste alcohol-free, yet still make the room spin after a handful of them. We stumbled home a few hours later, leaving Chris and Nic to make their own way home, and letting Tasha go off into Chicago as pissed as a pudding, and resistant to any attempt to get her back home with us to keep her safe. A couple of hours later and the front door was buzzing as Tasha had somehow found her way to mine in a drunken haze. Despite almost falling asleep on the stairs, I managed to bundle her on to the sofa and crept back to bed.
Waking in the morning, I decided to give my girlfriend a “special cuddle” (parents will probably recognise that phrase!). We were deathly quiet, aware that my best friend was asleep in the next room. Once we finished and MrsDannyUK disappeared to get showered, my phone buzzed with a message from Tasha. “Sounds like you had a good morning!”. I was mortified that our attempts to be discrete had failed and resigned myself to the fact that it probably meant that we had been heard by several people several times in the past. Oh well. It’s what people in love do.
The weekend finished later that morning after we had popped over to wish my 10-year-old a happy birthday (not that I think she noticed, she was concentrating so much on her presents!). I then drove to the train station to drop my girlfriend off, annoyed and frustrated that a change of plans meant that I was no longer going back to Liverpool with her as we had originally intended. Saying goodbye is always hard, more so when it’s a month until we are due to see each other again though I was grateful for what had been a fantastic weekend together.