So the second day of our holiday dawned bright and early. My mother wanted to get up at five, but I held out for six, on the grounds that breakfast wasn’t till eight anyway and there was no possible way we could fill the three hours before we filled our boots. At about half past five she got bored and started making enough noise that I had to get up, however.
So I went for a shower, noting idly that the door did not appear to sport a lock, but ho hum, I had told her I was going for a shower and asked if she needed the loo or anything. And so I was massaging shampoo into my hair and enjoying the fifteen minutes of solitude which were probably all I was going to get each day, when I opened my eyes and discovered my mother standing in front of me, filling the kettle in the sink.
Now at this point, the uninitiated might be tempted to say something like, ‘Goddammit mother, could you not even have knocked, I am in the sodding shower, here,’ – but this would be a mistake, unless one actually wanted to finish one’s shower with a close relative, who was not naked, and therefore in a position of unfair advantage, haranguing one while refusing to turn their back. And I had the conditioner still to do and everything. Besides, my mother was already in something of a furious mood, because when we had shut the curtains the night before, it turned out one of them had a curtain hook missing.
Turns out the shower curtain doesn’t really reach to the far end of the bath, also.
Now being human, I have many faults, and my mother, being human, is likewise; and they are also not the same faults, so we probably notice them more about each other. (Although it is rather novel that she actually talks more than I do – and claims she can never get a word in edgeways with her boyfriend? I cannot believe it.) And some of these faults are more in the way of foibles. For instance, my mother has the same sense of personal space as a veteran Tokyo commuter; while I have the sense of personal space of a Victorian gamekeeper – the sort who communicate most happily across miles of lonely glen, via bagpipes. And while I can sit in companionable silence for up to, ooh, twenty minutes at a time; my mother gets starved of attention after around three seconds. So I was not one bit impressed when she decided to walk over and smack me on the arse while I was getting dressed, because while I was unfolding my jeans, those three seconds were up.
However, I reminded myself that punching a pensioner is against the law, and we both made it to breakfast alive.
In fact, we both made it down to the ferry alive, and onto the ferry, and all the way across the lake to the next ferry stop, and onto the bus after the second ferry, and up the hill to Beatrix Potter’s house, where we were forced to mooch around in the gardens for fifteen minutes because the place is so popular they have timed tickets. I will say this for my mother; she can and does talk to absolutely everyone. Everyone in neighbouring postcodes even, for she may be a pensioner, but she still has the lung capacity of a drill instructor. (Yes, it was a cheap shot. My bad. She really was a drill instructor, though, I am most proud of her. Really.)
I was not particularly aware of the life and times of Beatrix Potter, so I was impressed to find that the Lake District has partly remained so empty because she was immensely rich and bought up almost all the land to keep it all Countryside. (The other part was apparently Wordsworth exhorting the train company to make sure the line stopped at Windermere, so commoners like us couldn’t come and clutter it all up for sensitive types like himself). I was also impressed by her competence at managing farms. I nearly bit through a filling when I saw how talented her whole family were at art, however. And not even a cry of, ‘Well, at that point in history, all rich people had to do was hang around drawing things’ to cheer myself up; not after all the farm-management revelations.
After that, we went to a very twee little village to see an exhibition of the originals of Peter Rabbit, where my usual habit of taking several hundred twee photos that I will totally draw from later, honest, had lost much of its appeal.
However, it was not raining, and we made it back to the ferry intact. Mostly because by this time, I had adjusted to my mother’s habit of glomping right onto me like a particularly lonesome cravat, and then swinging her elbows around wildly. So I kept my camera in a protective embrace at all times, much like a pregnant woman shielding her bump in a boisterous crowd. Since I usually pay negligently little attention to my surroundings, the strain of being constantly on guard was starting to show and I had a monster headache by the time we got back to the hotel. My mother was not impressed when I said I felt ill and needed a lie-down, possibly because she had nobody to talk to for an hour, but I managed to blame the, erm, ‘turbulent’ waters of the lake and she was at least mollified by dinner time.
And we still haven’t had an argument. Go me!