Dispatches From Hell

The Ugliest Bathroom In History

And so we have just pulled up outside the ugliest pub in Bowness when Mark declares that we will indeed be staying there and yes indeed there is a nightclub in the basement but not to worry because we will be staying on the third floor, then promptly chucks our suitcases at us and does a runner back to where public houses do not post a long list of barred individuals on the front door and pseudo-divorced individuals do not have to survive a week with the lesser spotted ex-Mother-In-Law, who from here on now will be called Peggy.

Shudder inwardly and proceed to Room 25, the rather grandly titled “Ambleside Suite”. Install Peggy in prison cell single room and greet maid still making beds at three o’clock in the afternoon in ours. Try not to be violently ill when Finley reports that the bathroom tiles are “stuck on with blood” nor have a hissy fit of the most ugly kind, when kind maid advises me to open the windows on pain of death or else the room will fill with pigeons. Thank her for large pile of individually wrapped custard creams for Finley and promptly hide them in suitcase in case he is suddenly struck by the true horror of hotel and embarks on a gluten riddled biscuit binge.

Red Felt Shoes

Step out in rain wet enough to dampen the spirits of even the most ardent of Japanese tourists and consider buying over-sized translucent mac and looking as utterly ludicrous as everybody else. Decide, even in the face of adversity to maintain dignity. Drink the first of many cups of tea with Peggy and try not to bash her when she announces that Mark’s new girlfriend is a nice girl with a lovely slender figure. Feel like a bitchy heffalump as you retaliate with the news that the oh so slender teenager also has a hole in her tongue. Watch her lips purse and feel guilty for at least three seconds. Watch her posing with vicious swans on the lakeside and remember how much you love her. Decide not to be offended by her mildly thoughtless tongue. Eat in a restaurant straight out of 1970 and refuse the offer of “fruit juice” for starters. See red felt shoes I would sell my son’s grandmother for, in window of pretty shop. Resist! Get in bed at seven thirty in the evening and wonder if purgatory is also equipped with the smallest kettle in the world.

Peggy and Finn

Wake up with mysteriously puffy eyes and launch myself into a sunny day on the lake. Feel optimistic, rested and full of hotel bacon. Queue up for boat and text Richard “Good morning Richard”. Congratulate myself on brevity as texts are an open invitation to waffle and harass. Resist and find myself sitting on boat next to old lady with Amy Winehouse “do”. Catch Peggy’s eye and see her snort with withheld giggle. Both laugh silently till tears roll down Peggy’s face. Assure Finn Captain of ship is on board and yes we are near both rubber rings and life-jackets. Receive text from bonkers boyfriend announcing that “Good Morning Richard” is akin to worst kind of insult and lacks both intimacy and warmth. Snort again and feel eyes of serious sea-goers upon me. Admire gorgeous rainy views with required degree of wonder. Arrive in Ambleside. Get very very very very wet. Cannot stress enough how wet. Get back on boat and find water has crawled up pants all the way to ample thighs while damp top and outraged breasts could win first prize in wet T-Shirt competition. Take son back to hotel and defrost him. Hide more biscuits. Eat gluten free tapas (WOW!) in restaurant that feels familiar and realise I am sitting in the very same chair in which Mark proposed to me two years before Finley was born. Feel momentarily peculiar then eat lamb koftas so good they make me want to swing my pants. Get in bed at eight o’clock and watch Finn fall asleep to the boom of early doors at the nightclub. Ring Mum and giggle. Ring Richard and discuss intrinsic lack of intimacy and warmth. Agree to attend counselling. Agree to take sarcasm pill. Agree he is marvellous. Text “Goodnight Richard” following phone call and drift off to sleep counting stroppy swans.

Wake up to a chorus of pigeons pecking at the window. Don wellies and wade through puddles to Beatrix Potter museum. Love it. Debate what the sentence would be should I be found in possession of Mrs Tiggywinkles vintage linens. Decide stealing off a hedgehog goes against my morals. Watch Peggy talking to waxwork model of Miss Potter. Suppress hysteria when she tells me woman has lovely skin. Get on open topped bus to Windermere and drown. Arrive looking MAD. Eat gluten free cheese toasties (WOW 2!) in gorgeous little cafe. Try not to punch ex Mother In Law when she tells me she has warned her boys (Mark and fellow errant husband, brother Simon) not to take up with women with children because they are “more trouble than they are worth”. Ask her if she wants to phone Richard and tell him. Ask her if she wants to ring Mark and give him bashing for forcing me into the ranks of potential trouble and long term spinsterhood. Drink coffee and remind myself that she once accused me of stealing a collection of aluminium teaspoons. Find solace in teeny old bookshop. Buy first edition Amelia Jane and feel better. Take child to posh restaurant. Order flame grilled chicken for him and receive biggest paddy ever seen as reward. Chase him down hill shouting. Glare at appalled tourists in matching anoraks. Reach end of tether. Agree that yes child too may have reached the end of very wet tether and smile winningly when he tells complete stranger he hates me so much he is taking me to the police station and reporting me for being a rubbish Mummy. Feel grateful when Peggy takes charge of child. Ring Mum and describe fabulous day. Sleep. Boil half to death in hot room. Strip sleeping child down and blow cool air on his skin and wish someone would come and do same for me. Begin to feel rather fond of ugly room now brain has gone into suspended animation.

Wake up and find Mark on doorstep. Offer him mountains of individually wrapped custard creams as reward for timely arrival. Tell him his Mother is a Darling regardless of all that should never be said. Tell him hotel is so lovely the maid gave up a great job as Manager of a Mercedes Dealership in Newcastle to come and change the beds here because she loved it sooooo much. Wonder out loud what is wrong with the people of Newcastle. Agree to go on one more day trip to Grasmere “en estranged famille”. Get wet. Eat famous Grasmere gingerbread. Get wetter. Find absolutely gorgeous little house shop and refuse to listen to ex Mother In Law and Father of Child tutting at prices of beautiful objects. Buy lots of beautiful objects. Tote expensive beautiful objects shamelessly. Defend purchase of beautiful objects then remember it isn’t necessary and go and spend silly money on more. Feel better. Get in car and tease Father of Child with reckless spending mercilessly all the way home. Get delivered to Mums and skip into sanity. Feel giddy. Feel like I’ve been to hell and back in wellies and rather liked it. Wonder if all holidays are the same? Run home to de-stink house and resolve never to go to on holiday again. Put tired little boy to bed and open door to Richard. Feed him something terrible and endure impertinent insults to cooking and random hair growing willy-nilly out of nose. Feel at home again. Rather miss hotel trouser press. Rather miss Peggy.

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