Alert but not alarmed
So a whole lot of these tales are from my now infamous trip round Ireland with my own dear darling dad. Poor dad. Hope my retelling them doesn't scar him. Maybe I should stop? I'll think about it - after this! mwahaha.
For other editions, go here.
So, if you've been reading some of the other tales you know that when I was 20 I went on a trip back to Ireland with Dad, who was born and bred there, to visit our family and do some trips around the place.
On the way to Belfast we had a few days in ye olde London town. We stayed in a reasonable hotel somewhere close to stuff. I actually was talking to dad about it the other day and said I thought the hotel was in King's Cross, but he disagreed with me. Whatever, I'm pretty sure it was near Kings Cross St Pancras Station. This detail is unimportant.
Anyway, we were sharing a room, and on arrival we checked in, exhausted and jet lagged. I'm pretty sure we dragged ourselves out for a curry in the early evening, and then returned to our tiny shared room to try and get some shut-eye before our planned adventures the next day.
|Dad does London..|
Dad finds plane travel unsettling, kind of like a race horse, so I have this vague memory of lying in bed squeezing my eyes shut as Dad strode around the room restlessly in his shortie pyjamas, until he did eventually lie down for a kip. Maybe Dad should travel with a Shetland pony, to calm him? Although I suppose he did have me there. I am a bit like a Shetland pony, I look quite cute until someone annoys me and then I bite them.
Right, so no sooner had Dad's head hit the pillow then we were suddenly jolted out of our jetlagged slumber by the high pitched wailing of a smoke alarm.
Dad sprang out of bed like a shot, exclaiming loudly and waving his arms.
"Oh God no..." I thought to myself. "We are going to have to be evacuated. In our pyjamas. In London. In the middle of winter. Typical. Bloody typical."
Dad lost no time in ordering me out of bed. The alarm persisted, and as I stumbled around the room looking for a jumper, he burst out into the hallway, gesticulating wildly at a staff member scurrying past with a trolley.
"Listen, you there, where do we go, what do we do? Is there a fire escape??" he shouted.
The staff member looked Dad's bare freckled legs up and down, threw his hands in the air in an exasperated fashion and continued down the hallway, faster than ever, muttering in disgust "I no speak Eeeengleeesh!".
There didn't seem to be any other staff around.
By then other guests had come out into the hallway, including a Japanese family with their frightened elderly grandfather.
"Fer fock's sake, does nobody speak English in this focking place!" Dad exclaimed in disgust, his usual inclusive tendencies out the window.
The Japanese family looked panicked, and the elderly grandfather was clutching weakly at his chest.
Dad took one look at the crowd and determinedly seized control of the situation by directing us all down the stairs. One by one we traipsed down the fire escape, Dad and the frail old man bringing up the rear, as the alarm wailed on.
We dutifully poured out onto the footpath and congregated outside the pane glass windows of the hotel's restaurant.
As we stood shivering in our pyjamas, Dad still sporting his shorts and bare legs, we gazed into the restaurant. It was full of hotel patrons enjoying their dinners, comfortable and warm. As we stared in at them, they gazed with bemusement back at us.
It seemed a little odd. I mean, why hadn't they been evacuated too?
Dad, starting to feel the cold on his naked legs, became more and more enraged.
"Fer focks sake! Who is in CHARGE here?!" he said, rubbing his hands together vigorously. Just at that moment, the unsuspecting manager of the hotel came out from the lobby to give the all clear. I could see Dad's eyes glinting. I knew what was coming. I slunk away, pretending I didn't know him. From a safe distance I watched as he vociferously asserted his consumer rights to the aforementioned gentleman*. I didn't catch all of it, what with pretending not to know him and all, but I'm pretty sure I heard "This old man was about to DIE OF A HEART ATTACK, my good man!" and "Where are your STAFF SIR?" and "Does nobody speak FOCKING ENGLISH in this place??".
Anyway, the manager was suitably chastened and apologized obsequiously to Dad. Eventually we all trudged our way back up to our rooms and attempted to get some sleep.
The next morning Dad was up bright and early, the tumult of the previous evening forgotten. As I peered blearily out from the covers, he said brightly, "I might just pop down to the lobby to book a table in the restaurant tomorrow for when we meet up with your cousins!".
I nodded and pulled the blanket over my head. He was gone for a while. When he returned, he looked pleased with himself.
"Guess what!" he exclaimed, "They tried to tell me the restaurant is closed on Sundays!"
I could see where this was going.
"But I didn't take that lying down! I asked for the manager and when he saw it was me he told them to OPEN THE RESTAURANT ESPECIALLY FOR US! Isn't that GREAT!"
I looked at him, horrified.
"URGHHH DAAAAD!" I said, "Urghh, they are probably going to, like, totally SPIT in all our FOOD! SO EMBARRASSING! URGHH! Can't we just go out somewhere else? I can't believe you did this."
And so on.
But no, he was determined.
"Don't be ridiculous!" he said. "They are HAPPY to do it!!"
Yeah right. Happy.
So the next day, my cousin and his children drove into London to meet their long lost Australian family. We ate lunch together in the hotel restaurant, that they had indeed opened just for us.
I could feel the eyes of the surly kitchen staff on us. Every minute felt like an hour. Dad remained cheerfully oblivious to the awkwardness of the situation and the possible crimes against hygiene that might be being committed on our meals, as he regaled my cousin with the story of the fire alarm.
"So they agreed to open it JUST FOR US!"
I scrooged further down in my chair and picked at my meal, desperate to escape, as the waitress whispered and pointed.
The rest of the trip went fairly uneventfully, until right at the end, when we arrived at Heathrow for our flight to Belfast.
Exhausted, we sat in silence, finding comfort in some Burger King takeaway, me angrily listening to Sinead O'Connor wailing on my walkman. I started to notice the crowds around us thinning but ignored it, munching like a masticating cow. Dad looked like was was dozing off.
Suddenly I looked up. Someone was standing in front of me, waving his hands and talking animatedly. I whipped my headphones out.
It was one of the airport cleaners.
"Excuse me plizz!" he shouted, "Excuse me but there is an ALARM, everbody is EVACUATING THE AIRPORT, you must hurry, plizz!"
I looked around and realised we were alone in the terminal.
"Oh SHIT!" I jumped up. "GOD DAD why didn't you hear it!? UGH! I mean couldn't you HEAR THERE WAS A FIRE ALARM! UGH! GOD DAD! It's probably TERRORISTS OH GOD! UGH WE ARE THE ONLY ONES LEFT IN HERE UGH!".
We were forced to abandon our Burger King and once again assemble outside in the cold, waiting for the all clear.
At least this time we were fully clothed.
*By which I mean, shouted at him for a while in a frenzy of sleep deprivation.