Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Keep the change

Yesterday I was at the airport to welcome my cousin (with her children) back to the land of her birth.

I don't know that you can actually catch jet lag, but thanks to an unscheduled late night helping out a friend, I went to bed when they had been in the air for an hour and a half and was arriving at Heathrow on the Number 140 by the time they landed.

There is a peculiar sort of welcome party laid on for those arriving in London this week:

Either you are shot by the 'Met' or smothered by the Olympic do-gooders in their gaudy shirts and new trainers. Tricky choice.

The man next door is one of the volunteers - he's been at it for almost two years now in various forms, and even his own wife has apologised to us for his preoccupation with all things Olympic!

Anyhow, hard on the heels of the Botswana Olympic team, my cousin and her son and daughter, and their luggage, came through the one-way doors and we headed back to the bus station.

My first cousins once removed have been to this country before but not for a little while. Mindful that Virgin Atlantic's catering might not have been up to much, I handed them a note, telling them it was worth more than they thought (the exchange rate being as it is!) and sent them off to Smiths to get themselves something to keep them going on their bus ride, which would have taken them not far from you.

They came back, suitably amazed at the availability of Cadburys chocolate and Coca-cola (although I am informed that it tastes different here!) and promptly handed me a generous fistful of change, having spent less than half what I'd given them. On the bus home this reminded me of a little story about Big Grandad, and his sister - my cousin's Mum, who sadly is no longer with us and had her own sad story of loss.

Big Grandad and my Aunty were the children of Great-Nana and Great-Grandad, who were Salvation Army officers. In those days, that vocation was a poverty-inducing one, and they were never very well off.

On a long train journey (before the days when officer families had cars), Big Grandad tells me that his parents told him to go with his sister and have something to eat in the dining car. Such was the expense of this (some things never change - railway catering prices being one!) that they couldn't afford to go with them.

Big Grandad and his sister went into the dining car and were offered all manner of food. Despite being particularly hungry, mindful of their parents' sacrifice, the two children politely declined everything that was brought out to them, to the bewilderment of the train crew. In the end, they had but a toasted teacake each (that was nearly a pun, wasn't it!), and that was that.

Returning to their parents, they were asked what they had had to eat, and as they gave their account, faces fell, as it turned out that dinner was a fixed price and they could have eaten as much as they wanted...

Now, I have to say this doesn't seem to run in the family. Despite having supposedly been fed at nursery, I used to take you in the restaurant on the 1200 Plymouth - Paddington and more than once you polished my meal off, causing me to have to order a second!

I'll be on the West of England main line again more than once in the near future, and heading your way. 

I know you will be moving away from the line when you leave the nursery, but keep waving to the trains, son. One day, I might be on it. And next time God's Wonderful Railway brings you to London, you can be sure of a warm welcome from all your family here.

Love from Daddy

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