Our three elder children treated themselves to a mini break recently, taking advantage of the education hiatus that half-term offers.
They planned the trip carefully some weeks in advance, discussing destination, duration and dining in fine detail. Each had their own penchant for a place to visit or an indulgence to experience, and it seemed at first that there would not be sufficient hours during the trip to accommodate all their desires.
Our son sat down with all the information he could glean from his sisters, and painstakingly manufactured an itinerary for the three of them, itemising time spent together and time apart, so that each would know where they should be and where the other two would be at any given moment - although timings would, naturally, be subject to slight variation due to public transport considerations.
Poring over the plan as it neared completion, I was impressed by one or two of the inclusions therein - namely a visit to the illustrious National Gallery, and an elaborate cream tea at The Ivy in Kensington, to satiate their zest for grandeur and sophistication.
These lofty pastimes were tempered by more mundane pursuits, such as mooching around Camden Market and eating burgers at popular fast-food outlet the Shake Shack, lest you think their cultural radars were in overdrive.
All in all, the list was chock-full of interesting, entertaining and illuminating events to stimulate each of their senses. As you may expect, Theatreland figured robustly on the agenda, appearing on more than one occasion: they would take in a West End show as a threesome, and my son had booked a single ticket for an additional show he had viewed in the summer and nursed a burning desire to see again (he has no qualms about flying solo, a sanguinity I applaud).
They arranged rendezvouses with family and friends in the local vicinity, identified venues of choice for each of the meals they would eat, and organised transport plans. Itinerary finally fine-tuned, each participant avidly began counting down the days (although they were typically procrastinatory when it came to packing, leaving everything to the last minute).
Their suitcases were full of meticulously compiled outfits, determined as they were to hold their heads high amongst our capital's elite; I admired their attention to detail - no stone, it seemed, had been left unturned.
The elder sibling, chauffeur for the trip, had solicited the valeting services of a friend, who was due to tend to her car the day before they left (and, given the state of her vehicle, I was more than a little glad).
Unfortunately, our daughter awoke that morning to a text explaining that he would be unable to assist due to illness. It was a disappointing turn of events, but, keen that they should travel in style and comfort, my husband and I elected to tackle the task ourselves, as a surprise: he worked on the outside, and I the inside.
I had never previously had cause to engage in a thorough vehicular interior cleanse, preferring to leave such preoccupations to my husband, and found the task arduous but surprisingly satisfying, although I should admit I was somewhat overzealous with the upholstery shampoo, rendering the seats rather damp for the remainder of the day and necessitating the insertion of a plastic bag as waterproof buffer twixt seat and occupant.
I generated quite a glow as I haphazardly ran the vacuum over the upholstery and wiped down the facia with more gusto than skill. Outside, my husband applied himself rigorously to the exterior, bringing a lustrous shine to the alloys and taking a savage delight in firing the hose at our neighbour, who pulled up as we were nearing the finish line and cheekily enquired whether he could give her vehicle a wash, too.
Our daughter was suitably gratified by our efforts and, as we bid the intrepid trio a fond farewell the following morning, we were filled with the warm glow afforded by altruism, able to say we had helped them on their way - or at least made their journey more pleasant.
We elicited assurances of confirmation of their safe arrival and clamoured for them to send photos at regular intervals, which request they graciously obliged (after a little nudging).
They returned after four days exhilarated, exhausted, and with pockets as light as their hearts, to a rapturous welcome from Miss Pup. Ah, to be young and in London! I'm just glad they managed to find their way home again.
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