I stared blankly at the menu above the counter.
“Come on Drew, make your mind up” Em prodded
“Er yeah. A Bunter breakfast please”
“You'll get fat eating all that greasy stuff,” Ally chirped
“Leave him alone, you know he only eats that stuff when he's upset” Mad mentioned
“That's thirteen fifty” the girl serving us stated.
I handed over a twenty-pound note; the guys would square with me later.
“So how did it go last night?” Bern asked when we were settled in one of the back booths in the little café at the top end of Nottingham city centre.
“Not well” I admitted and then gave my friends an abridged version of last nights dinner just a few streets from where we were sat.
“Sorry Drew” Em told me
“Its not your fault”
“So where now?” Ally asked
“Waterstones” I suggested, “Dad's after some book about the Romans”
“Sounds like a good idea” Mad agreed, “we can go to that comic shop on the way”
“You and your Anime” Bernie grinned
“Well” Mad pouted
We finished our food and set off to spend some more dosh in the shops.
By the time we got back to the Victoria Bus Station I'd spent far too much money and we were all encumbered with numerous carrier bags. The city seemed a bit lacking in Christmas cheer and I was less than impressed with the decorations around the city centre.
In fact only the BMX bandits, skateboarders and miserable looking Goths bothered to use the main square, the shoppers were sticking to the more cheerful shops. I was on a tight schedule today; I've got to change for the cycling do as soon as I get in as we have to get to Rhodesia for seven thirty. Oh sorry you're not all local are you? Rhodesia is a little village just outside Worksop; the thing tonight is in the function room of The Canal pub.
“You are not going anywhere dressed like that!” Dad bellowed, “I thought you were getting some decent trousers the other week?”
Bum and double bum! I suppose jeans are a bit casual, Dad was in a suit and Jules was currently deciding which dress to wear.
“Sorry Dad, I sort of got sidetracked with stuff” I sniffed
“Come here son” I let him pull me into a hug, “sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you. Look, you make a cup of tea for everyone and I'll see what I can find eh?”
“Okay Dad” I agreed, thankful that he hadn't just pulled the plug on the evening. In truth I was quite looking forward to it, I haven't really seen anyone from the Wheelers for a while.
I soon had the tea mashing and I sat and waited for Dad. It wasn't long before he called me upstairs.
“Well it's not exactly Saville Row but it's better than jeans”
“Will they fit?”
“I think so, better than mine would and no one will be able to tell”
“I guess,” I allowed
“Okay then, shake a leg”
With that he left me to change. What he'd found was actually one of Mums trouser suits in a slightly shiny Airforce blue material. I vaguely recall seeing Mum wear it for school once or twice, it was actually quite a mannish cut and I wasn't about to wear a blouse and heels with it after all! I sighed and slipped my jeans down.
“Sharp!” Jules stated when I got downstairs five minutes later. At least had my own shirt and one of Dad's smarter ties on.
“The jackets a bit big but it'll do” Dad mentioned
“There's no pockets in the trousers” I moaned
“Oh give over Drew, you look cute”
Cute! My sister says I look cute! Sheesh! For her part she was looking pretty good too I suppose, seems like tonight wasn't gonna be a flesh flashing affair as she had on a smart but red skirt and top teamed with some lacy tights.
“Come on you two, time to go. We don't want to be late,” Dad instructed.
I felt a little bit over dressed but once we arrived at Rhodesia I was put at ease when I recognised some of the other riders done up in suits with their various partners done up to the nines. It seemed a bit odd and awkward seeing these people out of context, no skinsuits or bikes here tonight!
Dad got us some drinks and we joined the crowd in the function room. A few people came up to say hi and I started to relax a bit – no one had mentioned Mum's suit, which was a good thing! It was a sit down dinner and as the start time approached people started drifting to the tables to find their seats.
Jules found ours and it was a bit embarrassing as we were on the top table with John, his wife, the club Chairman and his wife and the guest of honour for the night's proceedings, Chris Boardman! I guess John had used his influence to get Chris to attend! What was worse was that he seemed to know all about my bike ‘career'. It was pretty cool though as he recounted some of his exploits between courses. The meal was pretty seasonal, Broccoli and Stilton soup, turkey for the main course with all the trimmings then either trifle or Christmas pud followed by coffee and mince pies. Quite a feast!
Ting, ting! Someone tapped a glass to get everyone's attention. The room slowly hushed.
“Well good evening everyone, ladies, Mr Chairman, honoured guests.” A guy I recognised as Geoff Nugent broke the silence. “Thank you all for coming to this, the seventy third Worksop Wheelers annual dinner and prize presentation. Before we get onto the prize giving, let me just welcome our guests. We have a contingent from Mansfield Road Club,” there was a good natured jeer, “a few friends from Retford and the winner of our Spring road race has come down from Bradford. Welcome to you all. And of course on our top table we have our guests of honour, a man who needs little introduction, Mr Chris Boardman.” He paused for a round of applause, “and with him a young person who is already a double national champion at the tender age of thirteen, our own Gaby Bond!”
I recognised that voice, what was Mad doing here? And why did Geoff call me Gaby? I was quite flushed. It didn't help when the club members ‘welcomed' the guests with a round of applause. Sheesh!
I won't bore you with the speeches, suffice to say that the chairman gave a reprise of the Wheelers year and CB gave a funny and interesting look at the world of top class cycling. (I was shocked to over hear later that Mum was their first choice of speaker but she had declined for ‘personal' reasons.) When Chris finished it was time for the ‘real' business of the evening to commence, the prize giving.
Talk about embarrassed, Chris insisted I help with the presentations and so I joined him on the low stage used for the prize giving. Cycling clubs are unusual in sporting organisations in that it's not like say a rugby club where you play rugby, or not. No in cycling clubs there are testers, roadies, tourists, cross men and so on, all in the same team. And like many well established clubs, the wheelers have accumulated a goodly pile of silverware and awards covering every aspect of the sport.
So we worked through assorted club time trialling competitions, road race champions and tourist challenges in various age and sex categories. It seemed like nearly everyone in the room had a pot of some sort, some more than one and even cross discipline. My cousin was called up for an award for best newcomer to her apparent surprise, as well as a standard award for her 27 minute ten. Like Chris, I stole a kiss from any female recipients including Mad! We concluded the trophy distribution at which point Geoff took the mike again.
“Before we finish with the prizes, we've been asked to make a couple more presentations for other organisations.” This seemed to garner the room's interest somewhat. “So here we go. This youngster has provided inspiration to us all this year and has accumulated quite a pile of silverware this year”
I wondered who he was talking about and scanned the room for likely candidates, there was Mad with her parents, but none of the other riders seemed likely.
“So without further ado I'll ask Chris to present them. If you can step up young Bond”
“Me?” I squeaked
“Don't be bashful.”
There was a round of cheering as Mr Boardman gently prodded me forward.
“So without more ado, for winning the Lincolnshire Juvenile Circuit League, the Steve Morris Cup.” Chris presented the pot to me before Geoff went on.
“The North Midlands under 16 champion” another pot! “And lastly the James Shield for outstanding North Midlands rider of the year!”
And I thought I was embarrassed before!
The pots given out, the tables were cleared and the disco started up.
“Why didn't you say you were coming? When did you join the wheelers?” I questioned Mad.
“Thought I'd surprise you”
“You did that,” I allowed as we sort of danced to a background of eighties pop.
“When did you get it?”
“I um borrowed it”
“Who from, not your Dad, it fits too well”
“Its Mums” I whispered
“Don't shout about it” I frantically hushed
Mad stood back to look at me.
“I can see now, it fits you pretty good”
“I s'pose, so when did you join this lot?”
“Back in the summer actually, John suggested I join so I could get this” she proudly waved her standard medallion at me.
“You never said”
“Well I got distracted what with Sab here and everything”
“I guess,” I allowed
“You didn't do so bad yourself, wunderkind”
“No wunderkind, your friend Kat told it me. Its like super boy or something”
“Oh. I thought you were swearing”
The rest of the evening was a round of dancing, recovering listening to CB and more dancing! For the first time in weeks I was feeling really enthused.
“Ah there you two are”
“Glad you're still here Madeline, what are you doing next Sunday?”
“Er, present wrapping?”
“How do you fancy riding the tandem with Drew?”
“Well his Mum entered them in the Christmas charity ride again, the sheet came this morning. But…well you know how things are Maddy.”
“You want me to ride instead of Aunt Jen?”
“Doesn't she have to actually enter Dad?” I pointed out
“Well you can nominate a reserve for tandem events, if you want to do it I'll ring the organiser in the morning”
“I need to check with Mum and Dad”
“They already said you can, we'll be staying at Drew's Gran's until Christmas Eve if that's okay with you.”
“Drew?” Mad queried
“First I heard,” I admitted
Mad thought for a moment.
“Okay I'm game”
Dad disappeared and Mad and I perched on the edge of the stage.
“How far is this race?”
“Miles? I'll never manage that!”
“Course you will, we'll have to try and get some practice though”
“Well how about tomorrow? You could come to the cross in Sheffield and we could ride back,” I suggested
“How far's that?”
“I dunno, maybe twenty miles? You up for it?”
“I guess” she looked and sounded a bit dubious
We left just after midnight, even Jules seemed to have had a good time, by the looks she was giving one of the younger wheelers I'm sure we wouldn't be hearing about that part of the night!
The Norton Wheelers Richmond cross was pretty much a romp around some school playing fields on the outskirts of Sheffield. Nothing too technical, a couple of short steep up and downs, some steps and a series of ‘bunny' boards. For an ‘experienced' crosser like me, nothing to worry about. I lined up alongside a good-sized field, I was surprised to realize that I recognised most of the riders from either Leeds, Derby or Clumber! I went into race mode and waited for the gun to sound.
We were off. I clipped into my ‘spuds' quickly and by the point that we funnelled onto the course I was in fourth place – well cool! On the practice laps I'd practiced my dismount for the steps but I was surprised when we arrived there and the lads in front just hammered straight off the top! It was only about six steps and I followed their example, hoiking the bike up as I took off. Wow! Well cool! Bike and rider easily cleared the steps and landed easily on the grass beyond. Did I really just do that?
With twenty laps to do I'd get plenty of flying practice and I settled down to stick with the guys in front. Overnight rain meant the course was a little ‘soft' in places but essentially all rideable. The pace was fast but not uncomfortable and I maintained a watching brief on the first three, gaining a spot when the lad in second unshipped his chain on the bunny planks on lap eleven, well I think it was eleven.
Mad and Dad cheered me each time I crossed them; they were walking the course in reverse. My flying skills improved every lap and I realised that I had a realistic chance of victory here today. I grinned to myself and planned my attack.
“Come on Drew!” Mad shouted
“Dig in son” Dad added as I climbed the second steep rise at the end of lap fifteen just five metres behind the leader.
Time to make my move. As my own flying prowess improved I noticed that the two in front were getting a bit ragged at the same point so I timed my attack with precision. I got up onto their wheel and as we approached the steps I made a big effort that saw me take off simultaneously with the other two. However I was travelling faster which meant that I actually landed over a metre further on than my competition who landed even worse than last time giving me nearly five metres advantage by the time they'd recovered. I dug in and I could feel my tyres digging for grip as I made an effort to open a gap. The previous leaders weren't giving in without a fight though and I could hear their breathing as I strained up towards the line with just four laps to go.
I won't bore you with the details but with two laps to go the elastic snapped and a quick glance behind mid lap revealed a good twenty-metre gap. Now all I needed to do was not muck up like I did at Derby! Well I guess the fates were with me as I cleared the planks, landed the flight and kept my cool all the way to the line. Yes! My first cross victory!
Luck had played its part but as Mum always says, ‘plan to win!' I was wearing a very cheesy grin throughout the prize presentation, and the generous forty pounds prize just made my grin wider. By the time I'd showered and found my way back to the camper Mad was chomping at the bit, albeit somewhat nervously!
“Come on Drew, lets get started huh?”
“Congratulations Drew, well done Drew, thanks Mad” I pouted
“Soz, I'm a bit nervous about this tandem thing”
After a somewhat cautious ride around the car park to the calls of ‘can you ride tandem!' we finally departed for home.
“You okay back there?”
“So far” Mad gasped back
“Remember to just sit still”
In truth this was going better than I expected. I've ridden on the front of our tandem a couple of times but never with anyone on the back. When I actually relaxed a bit I found it surprisingly easy although the extra braking distance required was taking some getting used to! Dad was following along in the camper, which kept the traffic away a bit, at least for now. Mad was looking quite the cyclist this afternoon; the stuff Caro gave her had included some training bibs and a stylish ‘Ritchey' tracky top.
“Sorry” I allowed as the trusty old Dawes rattled through a series of potholes as we traversed Killamarsh.
The long climb up to the motorway kept both speed and conversation to a minimum, the computer showed just five mph at one point – just as well next weeks circuit is virtually flat! Once we got to the top though we picked up the pace and we were soon bombing along at over twenty-five. We pulled up outside the Peters place flush with our achievement and although tired Mad had a grin plastered on her face.
“That was so cool Drew”
“Yeah” I agreed
“So exhilarating, except the bumps”
“I tried to warn you”
“Missing them would've been better!”
Mrs P insisted that Dad and I stayed for tea, which turned out to be stew and dumplings. Real suet dumplings, hmmmm. We didn't stay long, Mad was almost catatonic after our ride back from Sheffield and an early night wouldn't do me any harm either!
Monday morning. The last Monday at school this side of Chrimbo.
“One here for you I think” Jules waved an envelope at me.
“What do you mean, you think?”
“Well it's addressed to ‘Miss G Bond'”
“What? Let me see?”
“Keep your hair on!”
I snatched the white envelope from her hand and yep, and yes, it was addressed to ‘Miss G Bond'. Who would write to Gaby? I rescued the paper knife and slit the envelope open. Inside was one of those jokey Christmas cards, Santa getting a parking ticket this time, I opened it up and read the message.
“So who's it from?” Jules enquired
“Erm, just this lad Mad and me know from the Anime Cons”
“So why's he address it to Gaby then?”
“I don't know” I blushed slightly at my lie.
“Yes you do Drew! He's never met Drew has he?”
Bum! I flushed a deeper pink.
“That's it isn't it?” Jules pounced on her deduction, “you've been dressed as a girl at those things haven't you?” she accused
“Well not strictly” I tried to bluff.
“You have! I bet if I ask Mad she'll have pictures”
“Okay, so maybe I was wearing a dress but the characters I was doing were men”
“It's a long story” I mentioned, “I'd best send him a card back, what with Mum and stuff I've not done mine yet”
“Sugar! Look at the time!”
I did and we were running late! I grabbed my bag and after locking the house we almost ran to where Mad was waiting phone in hand.
“I was just gonna ring to see where you were”
“Well we're here now,” I pointed out falling in beside her.
“You get a card from”
“James” I interrupted
“I take it that's a yes then”
“Well Gaby got one” Jules stated from behind us.
“He's got a thing for Gaby” Mad stated
“Has not!” I replied heatedly
“Hmmph” Mad replied
I decided to try to change the subject.
“So how are your legs?”
There was a definite air of expectancy in school this morning. Mr Wood's spies had been out again so that my cross win didn't go unremarked much to my embarrassment. Lessons up to Wednesday will be ‘normal' then on Thursday it's the school Christmas concert. Friday we have form parties and if things go to form, we get out early! It was only when Mr Wood mentioned a special meeting for the exchange students that it hit home, after Friday we wouldn't be back for two months! Whooee!
At Mad's that night the whole focus was on America. The girls were busy discussing what they would take clothes wise which Rhod joined in with although he would actually be going in boy mode like me. I suppose I'd better bring you up to speed while the girls are jabbering away. Our accommodation in Virginia will be less straight forward than in the summer, Jules and me will be staying with the Walters, Ally and Bern likewise will be staying with Amy and Darla but then it gets more complicated.
Mad will actually be staying with that teacher, you remember, Jessica Bell as Sabrina doesn't have spare accommodation at the trailer park. Then there's Rhod. You remember the trouble with Dan in the summer? Well Dan got himself suspended and kicked off the exchange programme, which left Rhod sans exchange partner. So Rhod has landed up billeted with a ‘senior' whatever that is, called Sandy Jones, that's all we know about him so far.
So there you are, you know as much as I do now.
We still had cheer practice on Tuesday; the girls not going to the US were going to be doing the stuff regularly at the basketball games in the New Year, with Mrs Johnston delegated to the coaching post. I'd nearly blanked the cheering thing in America from my thoughts until then. How are we going to get away with Rhod and me being in the ‘squad' over there? Maybe I can still get out of it?
Mr Wood's meeting for exchangees took most of Wednesday morning. We got lectured on our expected behaviour, dress code and so on, did some more form filling and finally we were each issued with a sweatshirt emblazoned with ‘Warsop College' much like you see in those American films.
“Okay then people,” Mr Wood started to wind things up, “have a good Christmas and I'll see you all here on the third of January.”
With that we were dismissed giving us a ten minute advantage in the queue for today's Christmas lunch in the canteen. Usually half the school either go home for lunch or bring sandwiches but today most of the school had pre booked the turkey dinner. Our primary position in the queue was a bit of a coup especially when the dinner ladies opened up at five to twelve as well.
I know it's not exactly hip to eat school dinners these days but I generally do, at least until Easter. One thing Mum and Dad are agreed on is the need for Jules and me to be responsible with our money. To that end we get fifteen pounds a week lunch money, it's up to us how we spend it but if we want sandwiches we have to buy the makings and make them. I worked out long ago that eating school dinners was actually good value and it saves ten minutes making sandwiches! Plus the food was actually quite good and healthy, usually with a stodgy option if you fancied it, I'm a sucker for puddings and all my favourites turned up on the menu quite regularly.
The Christmas lunch didn't disappoint – vegetable soup then the traditional turkey with all the trimmings and finally Christmas pud with brandy sauce or as I call it white custard! There was even coffee if you wanted it, I prefer tea but I made an exception today. The afternoon lessons were effectively the last of 2002 and the teachers seemed content to let us get on with it, there were bottles of wine on the teachers lunch tables, say no more!
Of course today's, that's Thursdays Christmas concert wasn't until after lunch but the morning was taken in preparations. I forgot to tell you that the Foresters would be performing today so after lunch Drew and Rhod disappeared and our alter ego's Mfanwy and Gaby arrived. Not what I wanted to do today! To make matters worse the girls, and by default, me, had decided to trim our outfits with tinsel and I'd had to put into the pot to buy us all some ‘festive' hosiery.
It didn't help that due to the demand for changing rooms we were stuck in costume all afternoon, talk about feeling exposed. So of course we got hassled by any boys we came across and the girls weren't much better – I think they've all been watching too many American teen films! So okay the tights were a bit juvenile, red with white Santa's and reindeer printed all over them and what with the pony tails and tinsel! Some of the comments our fellow students were making would make a docker blush!
The concert was actually quite good, besides our display, which went down pretty good, the choir did a seasonal medley, the drama department did an interpretation of the Christmas story, there were various skits and we were exposed to a sort of battle of the bands between the ‘Black Sox', ‘Chop Stixx' and ‘The Liquorice Toffees'. They were all actually quite good but the biggest surprise, at least for me, was that ‘The Liquorice Toffees' included not only Anna and Charlie but my sis as well! It was Ally who recognised them under the lace, fishnet and heavy makeup. So that's what they got up to, practising to be the next Goth Rock sensations!
The girls lost out to ‘Chop Stixx' but without any sibling bias, the 'Toffees' were better. I think the ‘Foresters' went down okay; it was difficult to tell amidst the leering and jeering. It's strange really, I never really noticed before today how all the kids in school were in some sort of vaguely defined peer group. I suppose you don't notice it so much with everyone usually in school uniform but today people have been showing their true colours so to speak.
If anything, I always considered myself a bit of a geek, that might be Drew but Gaby – she's one of the ‘it' girls! Jules meanwhile has defined herself as a Goth, I suppose I might have guessed after the summer and her new piercing but I never made the connection before. I'm sure you all spotted this yonks ago but I'm too close to the action!
After the fun and excitement of Thursday's concert, Friday was a bit of an anti climax. We had lessons until lunch – well we went to class, in history we watched a Black Adder vid and in Maths we played hangman! After lunch it was time for the form parties – some snacks, pop and Jessie Stevens CD player. Paul, Clive and me spent the greater part of the afternoon with the other lads on someone's PS2 playing GTA. We finally were sent on our way about three thirty – just as well really, I need to get sorted for tonight!
“You gonna be okay Drew?” Dad asked as we waited for the train in Nottingham two hours later.
“Yeah, I suppose”
“You don't have to go”
“I want to, I might never get the chance again”
“Your Mother will meet you at St Pancras”
“Sorry Drew, I must sound like a right worry”
“It's alright, you've only told me six times since tea.”
To bring you up to speed, Mum rang Wednesday night to confirm the arrangements for tonight, the BBC Sports Personality Awards. It made more sense for me to go by train to meet her in London than for her to drive up pick me up and drive back down. So I get to stay in London overnight at the licence payers expense before catching a train back north in the morning.
Surprisingly the Midland Mainline sprinter was on time and I found a seat for the one and a half hour ride. At St Pancras I was a bit bewildered as I joined the throng heading for the exit – I was looking for Mum but not surprisingly, the crowds prevented me seeing very much.
“Drew!” I heard her before I saw her
Then I spotted her, waving at me. Despite everything that's happened the last few weeks, I still felt joy at seeing her; after all she's still my Mum.
“Hiya kiddo” she gave me a hug, “I hadn't noticed how much you've grown”
“An inch since Easter” I admitted, “Mad's taller than me though”
Mum was steering me down stairways and tunnels towards the taxi rank as we talked and I soon found myself in a Black Cab heading to the hotel, time to change before heading to TV Centre. Mum and I were sharing so after I had a quick shower she commandeered the bathroom while I got myself changed. As no one noticed I was wearing Mums suit last weekend, it was getting another airing this week. Dad got me a new shirt and a snazzy tie, by the time Mum appeared I was thinking I was looking pretty dapper!
“Wow Mum, you look brill!” I enthused when she emerged
“You don't look too shabby yourself”, she looked me up and down, “is that my trouser suit?”
“Er yeah, I never got round to going shopping, it's a new shirt and tie though”
“Well I'm sure no one will notice, it fits you well”
“Bit loose up top”
“Well you don't have quite the body for it eh?”
“Erm, no” I admitted, blushing deeply when I realised to what she was referring.
“Well come on, we have to be there for eight thirty”
Of course reality is always apt to change your perception of places. I've seen TV Centre on the telly loads of times but it seemed so different actually being there! They had photographers, TV cameras, even a red carpet which I proudly escorted Mum along. Way cool! I recognised quite a few faces, Gary Lineker, Sally Gunnell, Steve Redgrave, well after all anyone who was anyone in British sport was there.
Mum was apparently at least recognised by more than a few ‘celebrities‘ and I got to meet Daley Thompson and Jensen Button. Remember what I said about cool? Well double that! Mum was ushered to a seat amongst her sporting peers, as a guest I joined the studio audience behind the cameras. I found myself seated between a couple of ‘footballers wives', all labels and Essex!
I won't bore you with all the details – I'm sure most of you will see it when it goes out on Sunday. It was boring at times, loads of football but it was interesting to actually try to identify the various sports people. Some like daft hair Beckham were easy but swimmers were more difficult – after all they don't usually have much on when you see them on the telly!
Mum had already said that she wasn't expecting to win anything; just getting an invite was kudos enough – whatever that means? She did get featured in one of the video clips of this years UK World Champions and got a mention from Sue Barker as well. So I was as gob smacked as anyone when the nominees for the main award were announced. Mum was in there next to some Rugby player, Wayne Rooney, a wheelchair ‘runner' called Tani or something and a jockey who'd ridden 100 winners. The winner is decided by public vote and the studio hushed as Gary Lineker announced third place.
The rugby player, something Wilkinson was third, the girl in the wheelchair took second then the build up to this years winner. It wouldn't be Mum, I was betting on the jockey myself.
‘And this years winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is……Jenny Bond!'
Talk about surprised! I started leaping about and cheering much to the amusement of my seating companions as the whole studio erupted into applause and an obviously shell shocked Mum was led down to the stage area. The next few minutes really were a blur, a short video of Mum in action, the Tour and that damned podium appearance, some action shots, the dramatic Worlds time trial finish and finally the one that really counted, the Worlds road race and the rainbow jersey.
I can remember thinking that she looked really sexy in the dress she was wearing and for a few minutes at least our current family troubles faded into the background. I was proud of my Mum! I vaguely remember her mentioning us all in her thank you spiel but then it was all over. There was a party afterwards and Mum was the centre of a lot of attention from both media and sporting icons alike. I was totally blown away when Victoria Beckham came to say hi, that's pretty much all she said but I think my goldfish impersonation might have put her off!
We eventually arrived back at the hotel well after one; we had a chauffeured car this time instead of a cab and we both compared notes on the evening, who we'd seen, who we sat next to. It was a perfect end to what had turned into a great night. I was knackered though so after donning my PJ's I was quickly in bed and out for the count.
Reality landed with a bump on Saturday morning. After breakfast Mum took me up to St Pancras to catch the train home.
“Your Dad said you're all off to your Gran's this afternoon”
“Yeah, Mad's coming too”
“I'm riding the charity 25 with her tomorrow”
“Oh”, Mum looked away, obviously embarrassed, “you two riding the tandem then?”
“Well trying to, we had a go last Sunday”
“How'd you get on?”
“Well I think the prize list is safe” I tried to joke but it came out flat.
She pulled me into a hug and started sobbing.
“If I could … [sniffle] change things I would. You [sniff] know that don't you Drew?”
“Come home then” I urged
“I, I can't Drew”
“Why not?” I sobbed
“It's complicated and now's not [sob] the time”
We hugged for a while longer in awkward silence, each lost to our own thoughts. The 9:47 was called and with a last awkward hug and kiss I left Mum on the platform of St Pancras station, both of us shedding tears.
“Wish I'd been there” Mad mentioned
“Well you can see it tomorrow, I'm sure Gran'll put it on, eh Dad?”
“Sure she will” Dad mentioned from up front as we skirted Uttoxeter on our way over to Gran's near Nantwich.
Dad, complete with Jules, Mad, tandem and camper had met me off the train and we'd got well past Derby before I finished telling them about last night. Well not finished exactly but describing the highlights!
Jules was listening to her Walkman and occasionally bursting into song, joining the chorus of songs no one else could hear as more than loud hissing. Dad was being pretty quiet himself, Mad seemed to be making up for everyone else though, keeping up an almost single sided conversation as we traversed Staffordshire and then Cheshire.
“Hi kids, Dave”
“Come on in, I've got the kettle on.”
Gran's place was doing Christmas – big style! Fake snow on the windows, a big holly wreath on the front door and enough decorations inside to make Santa nauseous! To be truthful our place was looking a bit mean this year, a few cards and a few bits of tinsel. No tree, no fairy lights – well we weren't gonna be there much were we? And it was usually something we did with Mum.
“So kids, are you wearing fancy dress in the morning?” Gran asked as Mad and I helped with the washing up.
“Never thought,” I allowed
“It's a fancy dress event?” Mad asked
“Didn't this lummox tell you?” Gran went on.
“No he didn't” Mad huffed
“Drew and his Mum won the fancy dress last year”
“You never said” Mad looked accusingly at me
“I forgot okay”
Mad was now in sulk mode.
“I've still got last years costumes upstairs, you could wear them?” Gran suggested
“Graaan” I groaned
“Could we?” Mad perked up immediately, “Drew, please?”
“Go on Drew, you did win last year” Gran cajoled
Under such an assault I stood no chance especially after a passing Dad endorsed the idea. So of course the rest of Saturday evening was devoted to an impromptu fitting session, as Mad isn't quite the same size as Mum and I've grown a bit too. I have to say, with the wig and stuff Mad looked pretty fine! One good thing though, I'm not wearing a wig this time, my own hair is more than long enough now – note to me, I must get it cut before we go to the States!
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