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Grim Day

I am home from a horrible day. I didn't bother with a coffee, went straight to the red.

This morning, full of joy and optimism, I went out on my bike. Ostensibly to ride to Hertford and back, tuck in to a full English halfway, and negate having to go to the gym. Cycling is far more pleasurable than doing gym anyhoo. So 25 miles round trip. But this time, over the hilly roads and not the flat towpath, saving about 4-5 miles ostensibly.

I set off in cycling sani pad, my heaviest trackie bottoms, t-shirt, micro fleece and Regatta fleece jacket over the top. Toasty. I don't wear a helmet as I overheat too much. I had checked on the map and it said turn left at Cock (hard to forget!) and then in to Park and then Beech. At which point I thought I would check the map again.

The hills were a struggle, there are no gears on my bike, and I am not really used to big hills. One hill I walked three quarters, the rest I just dug in and kept my fat arse on my £4.99 saddle. However, I became increasingly alarmed at the very strong winds, that either almost pulled the bike from my hands, or pushed me into the path of traffic coming up behind me. I'm not exactly light, so let's just say, in Winnie The Pooh stylee, it was a very blustery day.

I turned left into Park, but somehow missed Beech. Park is a long road, which actually comes back on itself. But half a mile or more closer to home. At this stage, I was sweating, but windblown. So decided to go another way. Which got me lost between Broxbourne and Nazeing. So I went home, 16km later and none the bloody wiser. I will make this attempt again as soon as I can.

My Mum is 80 next Sunday. In the past I have given her cashmere scarves, Tiffany bracelets, £75 bouquets and numerous expensive, but not really needed gifts. This year, I decided to be of service. She doesn't know this.

I decided to go to Nan and Grandad's grave in Manor Park Cemetery, clean it up and plant something new. She hasn't been able to do this herself for years. Now, to me, dead is dead, NFA required. But she is different, and these things mean something to her.

Cheshunt to Liverpool Street, fine. At Liverpool Street I find the Manor Park line is closed all day, and I am told by a helpful Information Kiosk person to go to Newbury Park on the Central Line, where I will find a bus replacement service. OK, not ideal, but anyway, I do that.

At Newbury Park I am informed that the bus replacement only runs from Stratford. I have less than an hour to go back to Stratford and catch a bus back out again. Google sez it ain't happenin'. So I cut my losses and decided to get a taxi.

The cashpoint is superglued up. I go along the black cab rank until I find one that takes credit cards. Lovely bloke, off we go.

Mega traffic, but £25 we get there. He pulls inside the grounds to take my card. After 10 minutes of faffing, we establish his card machine no workee. No problem I say, go back to the main road and we'll find the nearest cash machine, which we do, in an Esso garage a mile or so away. Back to the cemetery. He pulls in, I ask the gate man where to find the plot. He takes one look at my map and informs me I am at the wrong cemetery, I am at City of London, when I want to be at Manor Park. Cabbie sees this and tells me to hop back in, which I gratefully do. He's embarassed, I just want to get there. And we do get there!

So I have the plot reference number and memories of where it is. But the reference isn't on my printed map or the gate map, so I go to the Crem in the centre. The Crem is clearly cremating, but nobody home, so I walk a bit. Come across a chatting couple with a dog and ask for assistance. They don't know, but are keen to help me look. And row by row we comb, until eventually I shout out "found it!"

They come over, have a look and leave me to my tasks. In my backpack I have a bottle of spray bleach, a scourer, a clean cloth and a mini spade. In my bag I have two rose plants and 4 hyacinths.

First I weed and get rid of the dead leaves. Then I clean the memorial, which is a plastic planter so doesn't take long. Then I plant the roses and hyacinths. And take photos for Mum. All done.

Then I decide to do my personal silence at the war graves section. The East End lost a lot of men. And so I walk over to that section, which is actually marked on the map. En route I bump into the dog walkers again, and thank them profusely for their help. I walk around all of the war graves, but photograph just one, a boy who was killed, aged 18. What a waste. And think about the wives, mums and sweethearts who never saw their loved ones again. Not just there, everywhere.

Walk back to the station, no sign of the replacement bus service. First local bus driver has no idea, so back to the station again, which is open, but everything inside is closed, and not a soul there. Shout for help, none comes. Back on to the street, I ask a second bus driver, who also says no replacement service, but directs me 3 streets away, where I can catch a bus to Stratford. Which is what happened.

I have had a long, drawn out and disappointing day in many respects. But I have done half of what I set out to do. I have been bending somebody's ear, somewhat unfairly as it's bugger all to do with them. They said I had a kind heart. I don't think I'm seen as a person with a kind heart. I am usually seen as a hard arse who goes out to battle for people. So I'm going to tuck that compliment into the place where I keep all my secrets.


Call me Madam

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