Last week, life’s journey took me to the Chelsea Flower Show with the Husband, courtesy of two tickets given to him by Jim in the pub.
It’s the second time we’ve been the recipient of such generosity and when my husband first flashed the tickets at me last year, I was completely taken aback. “Was he going to take his wife then?” I asked, thinking of Jim’s recent widowing and trying to marry up his belligerent, tipple-loving wife with a secret passion for garden design. “Was he heck!” my old fella snorted. “He puts up the bloody tents! The company get complimentary tickets!”
I hadn’t been able to use my ticket last year – I work on Thursday mornings – so the Husband took our teenage daughter and I had to make do with ferrying them to and from the train station and ogling the photographs when they got home. And there were plenty to look through – snaps of every flower, shrub, blade of grass and sculpture, pictures of the daughter lounging on garden furniture in the sun or illegally drinking Pimm’s in the shade of a huge parasol, and of her pretty face beside hundreds of blooms in a multitude of colours. “Someone thought she was a model!” the husband beamed, proudly, and I smiled too, because if you ignore the devastation that is her bedroom, she’s a lovely little thing and we’re very lucky to have her as our daughter. Even so I decided I’d ask for time off work, this year, so I could go instead.
Which is just what I did. “Would it be okay to swap my morning off next week so I can go to Chelsea?” I asked the head teacher, choosing my moment carefully. “Sure,” she beamed. “You might see my son there, he’s a camera man.” “Is he really?” I asked. “How lovely!” “Yes, it’s a great job, he loves it. He often films Chelsea. Quite a few of the other games, too. I expect he’ll be really busy at the Olympics next year!” It took a minute to sink in what she was on about. I ask you, do I look like a woman who’s interested in sport?
The following lunchtime I nipped to the train station to get the tickets to London. You can buy them on the day of travel, I know, but it adds an extra layer of panic, worrying that I’ll miss the train because of the queue. So instead, I go down a day or two beforehand and pass on the panic to the people queuing behind me, impatiently looking at their watches and eyeing up the departures board above our heads.
The ticket seller behind the safety glass had a disconcerting habit of laughing at everything I said in a ‘can you believe she said that?’ kind of way. “What time’re you going?” he asked. “I don’t know, whatever’s best.” A shake of the head and a wry smile. “What about coming back?” “I’m not sure, it doesn’t matter, really, whatever’s cheapest.” Silent snickering and an almost imperceptible movement of the head. “The thing is it’s not going to be cheap, now,” his Dalek voice squawked through the intercom, “all the deals are gone by this point in time.” Tapping the keyboard futilely he added that “most people book months ahead for Chelsea, you know,” his tone implying “lightweight!”
I muttered about not knowing for definite till yesterday and we finally agreed on an intermediate figure of half a lifetime’s wages and the handing over of my firstborn child, as long as I promised not to board the train home between the hours of 4.35 and 7.00 pm. “No chance of that!” I said to myself, thinking of the many delights of Chelsea and how few hours we’d have to sample them all. I took the tickets he slid through the opening. “Thanks for your help,” I grovelled, backing away from the window. “You’re welcome,” he beamed. “Next!”