Last year we had a Family Day Out that drove us to drink the old fashioned way, on a steam train. Clearly we didn't learn our lesson because this year we did the same trip all over again.
The tri-weekly trip of the Scarborough Spa Express through Wakefield has become one of The Boy's summer highlights. Each morning it steams along the track above our allotment as it makes it's way into the city and each evening, it steams out again on it's return journey. That The Man and The Boy are generally in the allotment is not entirely co-incidental because The Boy's passion for steam trains is only secondary to his father's. Not that we say that out loud. Or often.
But once a year, The Man and The Boy are absent from the allotment as the engine steams past because they, and we (me and The Tween. The TeenTwins yet again claiming previous appointments with a gripping schoolbook) are stood on the station waiting for it to arrive. This year some of us are not just stood, but jumping up and down in excitement. I'm not one of them, I still haven't recovered from last year. I'm twitching slightly.
The Man, with the wisdom of men, has decided to circumnavigate the trauma that led to a hangover after last year's trip by starting out this year's trip with one. It almost needs it's own seat, but we've already forked out £50 for the ones we have. There's a brief argument , one epic sulk and a definite flounce before the engine steams into York an hour and 25 minutes later but I've experienced worse on a 25 minute bus ride.
Alighting from the train into York Station, we find one of the Mother's From School and family are on the same train. She offers to take a picture of the four of us together, an event so rare on family days out (I usually wield the camera and rarely appear in any family photo) that I am almost tearful with gratitude.
We leave the station and find somewhere to eat. There is only the smallest soupcon of dancing on the seats and climbing the walls and still, it's only the children.So things are still going as well as can be expected, but now the divisions begin to tell.
In The Boy's mind the sole, the only and the express purpose of the trip is to visit the National Rail Museum and look at steam trains. Again. In The Man's mind the purpose of the trip IS essentially to go look at steam trains but he knows deep in his heart that spending six hours (until the return journey home) in the NRM isn't going to win him any Husband of the Year awards. The Tween just doesn't want to do what anybody else wants to do on principle and I just want to get through the day without requiring therapy. So we decide to go for a walk through the city.
A pleasant walk through the city while I nostalgically point out to The Man each and every pub I'd got drunk in as a student is only marred by The Tween announcing how BORED she is every time The Boy pauses for breath in his continual demands to go to the NRM, so once every 45 seconds. We walk the length of the city and by the time we reach the Minster, family relations have deteriorated to a point where The Boy and The Tween pronounce us boring and we declare them tiresome. There is some sitting and sulking and quite a lot of running up and asking; "Can we go yet?"
And so we went. We had to walk back across the city again obviously, but this time there were smiles, and humour, and bear hugging. Things were looking up.
And they continued to look up. York's National Railway Museum has been a fixture in both The Tween's and The Boy's life since they were old enough to say the word Train. They love it. The Man loves it. And because they love it, I love it too because you know, Mothers.
This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Mallard breaking the world speed record, the six surviving A4 engines in the world, including The Mallard, are on display at the NRM; two of them shipped over from Canada and America. When we visit there are four of them on display. We even queue (we never queue) to get onto the engine plate of one of them.
There, on the polished engine plate of the Dominion of Canada with a couple from Doncaster, a lone teenager and one of the NRM volunteers, we experience a moment of family unity. The NRM volunteer sadly experiences no such thing: The Boy keeps asking questions he can't answer. The Man questions his facts. I make him jump taking a photograph. He looks palpably relieved as we leave.
Time is ticking on now, the day has been long and we should start thinking about getting to the station but the dreaded Museum Gift Shop stands between us and the exit door. There is some stropping and stomping, quite a lot of going off in a sulk and a "How much?" (That was me. I mean £20 for a canvas tote bag? Really? *rolls eyes*).
The Tween wants to buy The Boy a wooden train. I say he has lots of wooden trains (47 at the last count). The Boy wants to give up ALL his trains for this one train. He wants THIS train, he doesn't know what train it is. But he wants it. The Tween says I'm boring, again.
We negotiate our way out of the museum, I promise The Boy I'll buy him everything. Another day. When I've won the lottery. He doesn't know what the lottery is but I can already see him making a mental note to drag it up in seven years time as a reason why his bedroom's a mess and he hasn't done his homework. *Sigh*
We make the train. The steam train is on time. It does what steam trains do but I'm all trained out and this year I've had the foresight to purchase some gin in a tin in advance. We sit, there's no arguments because nobody's talking to each other anymore, much. The frost thaws as we collectively speculate about how long it'll take for the guy sticking his head out of the window to have it smeared across the window when another train goes past. As it happens, he snatches his head back in. The Boy is disappointed. The Tween bored, again.
We get off the train. We meet another Mother From School and brood who have come to watch the engine steam in to the station. They have apparently spent the day at a bird sanctuary but she still looks like a sane person so I don't really believe her. I don't say anything.
We climb in a taxi, we make it stop at the shop. We buy wine.
Family Day Out Scorecard:
Sticking One's Lip's Out: Some.
Laughs: A few.
Steam Trains: Many.
*Books ticket for next year*
Disclaimer: Nobody asked me to do this, I just did because we did.