Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Some Things Awfully Nice

It’s been a long week and once again I’m sorry for the lack of recent posts. On Saturday we had a 40th birthday picnic in the local park for a friend of Polly. And then on Sunday we had another party, this time for Aunt Megan who was 70 this week.


Megan’s party took place at my brother’s house in Southfields, south London, one of those terraced houses that cost £800 originally but now sells for £450,000 give or take a Victorian fireplace surround or two. The house has a split-level ground floor with a lovely kitchen/diner down a flight of steps. Being a loving brother with two wheelchair bound siblings he has spent a small fortune designing and having made a portable ramp that can cope with the dogleg on the way down.


The party was a great event and friends and family turned out to celebrate. Polly had made a birthday cake made out of 70 chocolate and lemon cup cakes, beautifully presented on a three-tier cake stand decorated with flowers. There was an extensive buffet and plenty of wine and champagne. I enjoyed myself immensely and the boys were thrilled to be loaned digital cameras and asked to be official photographers.

The Cake (photo by 4 yr old S)

Every now and again something unusually nice and surprising happens. On Monday we took the boys to Legoland, Winsor. (No that’s not the nice and surprising thing – we usually go at least once during the summer.) The boys love Legoland and I prefer it to most of the other theme parks in the southeast because the rides appeal particularly to the under 12s. It is however very busy and expensive during peak times such as school holidays and Scrooge like as I am, I begrudge paying the exorbitant entry fees and then spending most of the day queuing 45 minutes at a time for a chance to watch Polly and the boys whiz around a track on a plastic brick-built dragon for 90 seconds. But still, it was the last week of their holiday and they had been good all summer and… well and, sometimes you get pleasure from seeing your children’s excitement and delight at a surprise treat.


We arrived to find cars queuing the entire length of the access road and realised that the park would be extremely busy today. We were aiming to meet up with a friend and her children at midday which seemed an increasingly unlikely happening. Fortunately Legoland has a substantial disabled car parking area. Unfortunately the substantial disabled car parking area was full. We circled the car park several times while I glared at people who seemed to leap from their cars and do handstands and cartwheels before remembering to limp slightly towards the park entrance. (Okay, perhaps I'm being uncharitable but could all those people really be disabled?) Eventually we pulled up behind a car from which a wheelchair was being unloaded. We weren't in a designated parking bay but since at least 50 other cars weren't either we decided to risk it. I took the boys to stand in the entry queue while Polly started chatting to the people unloading their wheelchair, making sure our van wasn't blocking them in any way.


The boys and I joined one of the seven or so lengthy queues to get into the park. It was already 12 o'clock and I was about to reach for my phone to call Anna and say we would be late meeting up with her when I looked up to see her standing one place ahead of us in the same queue. Once we'd had the “What are the odds on that happening” conversation she explained that they were parked in an over-overflow car park so distant she felt it was probably in another county. At that moment Polly arrived grinning like a Cheshire cat and clutching something in her hand.


At full price it costs a fortune to get in to Legoland. A family of 4, 2 children and 2 adults would set you back £122 ($240). Fortunately you can usually pick up a voucher from a magazine or supermarket product that will enable one child to go free. Also, with a proven disabled type person a registered carer can go for free. This brings the price down for our family to a little more reasonable £61 ($120).

Polly gleefully held up 4 shiny yellow tickets. “Look what I've got! Those people in the car in front of us when we parked gave them to me.” “Why?” I asked not unreasonably and with my innate suspicion of 'free' gifts. It turned out that Polly, who can make life long friends with people whilst waiting to cross the road, had been chatting to these nice people about wheelchairs and parking and what have you. In the course of the conversation she offered them a discount voucher she had spare, but the family declined explaining that they were staying at a hotel on an all inclusive deal where as part of the package they'd been given an extra days set of tickets that they couldn't use because they had to travel home tomorrow. Then in a spirit of 'wheelchair users united' they gave Polly the spare tickets. “Here”, they said, “have an ice cream on us.”

We had a lovely time, with the children going on rides, building things and watching shows. The weather was lovely and even the queuing didn't stress me out because we weren't wasting our hard earned pennies on having paid to be there. Result.

So, if you are one of the very nice family who gave us your extra tickets in the overcrowded disabled car park at Legoland on Monday then thank you very much. I hope your random act of kindness is returned to you 10 fold.