IT seemed like a good idea at the time…

Feeling all festive and full of goodwill to all men, I decided to drive down to London in the run-up to Christmas to visit my dear old Uncle Donald and take my 88-year-old Mum with me.

The plan was to stay with him overnight, then pick up two of our children, who live in London these days, and drive them home for Christmas to save them the train fare.

To make the journey more enjoyable, I created a playlist of my Mum’s favourite songs, so she could have a singsong, and a trip down memory lane, as we travelled down the A1.

It was all going well as far as Grantham. The compilation, including Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Johnny Ray, Danny Kaye, Guy Mitchell and Engelbert Humerdinck was going down a storm. To add a bit of festive magic, I’d also added some Christmas classics – including Bing Crosby’s White Christmas – and she was singing along to her heart’s content.

The big mistake was to stop for a break at the service station and to accept my Mum’s offer to pay for the drinks.

I became aware of a commotion at the till, when she challenged the assistant after being charged £5.50 for two cups of tea in cardboard cups.

“I don’t believe it,” I heard her declare, in the style of Victor Meldrew. “£5.50 for two cups of tea? You should be ashamed of yourself.”

She proceeded to tell the teenage assistant that when she’d seen “English Breakfast Tea” on the price list for £2.75, she’d naturally assumed it would come with a fry-up.

“Don’t you even get any sausage and bacon with it?” she demanded to know.

The assistant shook his head, meekly, and did his best to explain that “English Breakfast” was a type of tea, while she continued to give him a piece of her mind.

“You’ll never guess what they charged me for two cups of tea?” she said when she brought them over to me.

“Was it £5.50?” I ventured.

“Yes, £5.50 – and you don’t get a sausage with it,” she replied. “No wonder they call themselves Costa.”

I’d remembered by now that complaining about the price of everything is a sure sign of getting old. My Dad once told me I must be off my head for spending £30 on a pair of shoes, and that I’d been robbed blind for spending a tenner on a haircut.

Well, it’s 100 miles between Grantham and London and I swear that my Mum carried on complaining about the great tea scandal for every single one of them. Suffice to say Nat, Frank, Bing and the others didn’t get a look in the rest of the journey. They were drowned out by a constant whining noise.

We were starving by the time we got to Uncle Donald’s, so I volunteered to pop down the fish shop. Have you seen the price of haddock and chips in London? I’m not one to go on about it but it’s an absolute scandal.

Oh my God, I don’t believe it – I think I’m turning into an old man!


NEWS reaches me of a three-year-old little boy from Durham, called Freddie, whose mum was desperately trying to encourage him to go for a wee.

“I think it’s time you went to the toilet,” she said, gently.

“But I don’t need a wee,” insisted Freddie.

Half an hour later, his mum tried again.

“Come on, Freddie, it’s a long time since you had a wee – let’s go and try,” she said.

Inside the toilet, with no sign of progress, she tried to help things along by making a “Psssssssssss” noise, but it was still no good.

“I don’t need one,” declared Freddie.

Another half an hour went by and, worried that he’d have a little accident, his mum put on a sterner voice.

“Now, look, Freddie, you really have to go to the toilet and try hard,” she said.

There was a big sigh, then Freddie replied: “Oh, alright, alright – but only as long as you don’t make that pissing noise!”