Just after we were married, I was supposed to join Geoff on a trip to the States which included a naval exercise, but wives were allowed to go, so that was great. I said "supposed". The captain then decided that he was not having any wives along, thankyouverymuch, so I was stuck, because my mother-in-law was expecting Geoff's sister and family to arrive and there was no room at the inn. So I did what any self-respecting 21 year old newly married woman does. I called my mother 6000+ miles away and wailed. And she decided then and there that a trip to the UK for 3 weeks was in order. Brilliant.
Only, my uncle then decided that Granny would fancy a trip to the UK for three weeks too, and announced that he had booked her on the same flight. Right. A girly trip then. Granny travelled in a cream coat. And hat. neither of which she removed at any time on the 12 hour flight. Her bag never left her lap either, which meant that flapping down trays and trying to wield the knife and fork were all but impossible given the the bag was causing serious loss of breath and turning Granny blue. But Granny was used to First Class sea travel, not steerage on a huge Jumbo jet sitting beside People She Did Not Know.
My mother was ready for a padded cell by the time I met them at Heathrow.
So we packed Granny in the back seat of Geoff's bright red Ford Capri (Granny was used to the more stately Mercedes) and set off. I asked my mother to navigate and get me to London. Well, we managed that bit but discovered that the hotel did not have our room reservation. So back we piled into the bright red car and I suggested that we head for Cambridge. We had family up that way. And I asked my mother to direct me onto the North Circular - the inner ring road round London in the days before the M25. We got onto the North Circular, going in the WRONG direction, and I couldn't find a place to turn, because there were no right turns allowed, and so help me, within an hour, we were back at Heathrow.
This was not going exactly to plan.
So, I had another great idea. Let's go to Windsor!! Yes!! I saw a sign!! And we found it!! Success!! And I found a suitable hotel with rooms vacant as well, so that was all good. Relief. Mother could rest after a totally exhausting 24 hour ordeal travelling with Granny, and I could rest after driving round the country in circles. Granny was full of energy and ready to go. She was 85 at the time.
Bright and breezy the next morning, we decided to go to Windsor Castle. I had been as a child, but really wanted to see it as an adult, and Mum was happy too. So was Granny. I think. Anyway, off we went, paid the entrance fee and started walking through the royal rooms at the castle.
There was a guide/guard/assistant in every room, of course, and as we walked along the roped off path, we took our time looking, reading the guide book, etc. As one does. That would be me. And Mum. Granny??? Hmmm. Cream coat on, hat on, heels and bag over the arm, she motored through every room at 200 miles an hour not looking left or right. I had to go and grab her many times, bumping into people, "so so sorry - lost Granny, please excuse me..." and then, in a one way system, had to try to go backeards to find mother, who really wanted to take her time, not to mention that I actually wanted to view all too. In detail.
It was not easy.
One of those guides/guards/assistants, reached out and put his hand on Granny's arm, and she nearly shrivelled him to cinder on the spot with her glare, and he said "Why don't you slow down a little, my dear, and take your time - there is so much to see." (I was running for cover at this point.) Granny drew herself up to her full height and informed the man that "I HAVE VISITED THIS CASTLE MANY TIMES BEFORE AND HAVE SEEN EVERYTHING. I DO NOT CARE TO SLOW DOWN". Dear heaven. Mother was lurking in the background making surreptitious plans to ship Granny home asap - Heathrow was close by. And me - well, I gathered Granny up, apologising profusely to all and sundry and swept through the remaining rooms muttering evil, EVIL threats under my breath.
So we get to the head of this enormous STONE staircase, huge WIDE staircase which sweeps down to the ground level. And wait for Mum. Mum arrives, and we start down the stairs. The STONE stairs. And Granny...... well. Granny decided that she would save the Queen a little money because "All those lights must be VERY expensive" and yes, she did. She really did. She switched OFF the lights over the staircase, and plunged the whole thing with hundreds of people on it - most not holding on to railings because it was WIDE and STONE and ....... into total darkness.
I have to tell you that at that point, mother and I abandoned Granny,. We were down those stairs and across the courtyard and in the gift shop so fast, you have no idea. I would have denied all knowledge of Granny in a heartbeat. Never clapped eyes on her in my life before. It is truly fortunate that no-one took a header down those stairs and did serious damage to their body, believe me.
Oh, she managed those stairs in darkness just fine, and found us hiding in the shop. And we headed off tor tea and scones, because I was bordering on a nervous breakdown. This was Day One of the epic tour.
Granny was not awful, believe me. She was just used to having things her way, and was most definitely the matriarch in the family. We loved her, and we did actually have a great deal of fun in the next 3 weeks, but she could be very determined, not to mention the fact that if she didn't want to go somewhere, she flat out refused. So we used to drop her at BHS and head off by ourselves to explore. She was totally happy with bargains. Granny LOVED bargains.
There are plenty of stories I could tell you - maybe tomorrow.......