The Shard opened on the day of my Mum's birthday, and Dad had decided, too late, to try and get tickets. They were sold out, which was a massive relief as Mum would literally have hated that. She doesn't want to get out of bed, go into town, walk up a tall thing and look around, especially not for her birthday. That's my Dad's favourite thing to do. So I booked tickets. Bad luck Mum, not your birthday now.
I also booked tickets for my cousins - Dad's sister Claire and her family, who would be waiting at the top of The Shard when we got there. They live in Newcastle, so it was a pretty big deal for them to come down, and we knew Dad wouldn't be expecting it.
I always knew I was good at organising, but had no idea I would be so good at being a spy. I enjoyed the Bond style shenanigans, especially the texts exchanged on the morning, narrowly avoiding a last minute change of plan by Dad to get there early and walk around Borough Market, which would have run the risk of him seeing everyone. Claire proved a useful ally, telling me to: 'Calm yourself, Bond. Remember your training'. Claire herself also took to being a spy dude, banning all family Facebook and Twitter mentions of the journey to London, and even going so far as to duck down on the train when the overland went through the station which is 3 miles from my parents' house. Completely unnecessary, that last one, but a good effort nonetheless.
The Lamberts safely at the top of The Shard, I arrived at London Bridge for 1.30pm, as agreed, to meet my family. Then we had this fun little dialogue:
Me: Where's Jonathan?
Mum: Oh, he's buying tickets for the opera. I told him to meet us here at 2.30pm.
Me: Why would you tell him that when our entry time ENDS at 2.30pm, and we agreed to meet here for 1.30pm?
Mum: I don't know. It's not my fault.
Me: Well, i mean, that literally is entirely your fault.
Now, the old me would have just blown up immediately and snapped and ruined the day, but i'm trying to be better at this sort of thing, so I just rang my brother and told him to come over as soon as possible. Then we walked over to The Shard as Mum and I had a very calm and collected passive aggressive conversation about whose fault it was (hers) all the while trying not to create an atmosphere. Dad was behind taking some pictures.
|Let's not argue|
Arguments forgotten. We then tried to find someone who knew how to work a DSLR to take some pictures. ('It's just that button there. Don't worry, it's on auto. Just press the button. The one at the front. There. There, where my finger is. Just...just press it. Press it down, yes').
Some views ... Yeah they're alright, but back to us:
|My brother LOVES having his photo taken|
|My sister <3|
We walked around both levels, did some looking, and then went out for some food (I was starving - but when am I not?)
Here's an action shot of me being a brilliant tour guide - with an umbrella. I didn't have any facts, but I did know the way to the restaurant, having dropped the cake there the previous evening (that taxi ride was a bit like an episode of 'Miranda'). We walked down past London Bridge, through Potters Fields, and to Butler's Wharf.
I'd booked a table at Browns, Butlers Wharf which I thought looked fancy enough but not too fancy. We Storeys are not the type to pay £80 a head for a mouthful of soup and a gram of beef, as we found out about 8 years ago during a notorious, and still oft-talked about, incident at the Baltic Restaurant in Newcastle. So I rejected some fancy South Bank restaurants and plumped for Browns. I thought it would be nicer than the usual pizza/pasta but still not so fancy that they would frown on '50' confetti for the table, or us bringing our own cake, or just us, generally.
Dad's friend Simon Donald was unable to make it, due to a wedding, but had very kindly paid for a bottle of reet fancy champagne - no mere Cava for us today! Due to a slight mix up about the table (which we barely even noticed) the manager came over with ANOTHER IDENTICAL BOTTLE to make up for it. Get in. This was when things started getting fun.
|'To Harry Potter - the Boy Who Lived'|
The food was great. I had fish and chips cos i'm reet classy. Between 6 adults drinking we got through 2 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of white wine, and about 6 beers. By the time the cake arrived Dad was in much the same state as my tempura cod and chips - battered. I've never seen him so drunk.
|Cake from The Cake Store - it was amazing|
|Battered. Then he ordered another beer to go with the cake.|
|Feeds 35 normal people, apparently|
So then we made our way home, via Tower Bridge, which was going up to let a boat through (that wasn't a really annoying thing to have to wait for whilst holding a heavy box of cake, not at all), and past Tower Hill. Dad fell asleep on the station platform, on the tube, and then the overland train, and I have pictures of all of those moments only I'm not going to put them up because Mum's already going to be annoyed at me for mentioning we had an argument (even though I haven't mentioned the argument we had in the restaurant about the table).
Happy Birthday Dad. Love you loads xx