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June 18, 2008 > Across the Pond: A perfect birthday

Across the Pond: A perfect birthday

"Have you a Saturday free in the near future?" asked daughter-in-law Amanda, "I want to take you out for your birthday. It's a surprise destination." Intrigued, I suggested a day for the mystery trip, the only clue to our destination being that neither son Tom nor granddaughter Georgia were interested in joining us. Not a theme park or anywhere associated with cars or gadgets then.

How to dress? Would we be paddling on a beach, climbing a mountain or going somewhere smart? Amanda assured me it was neither of the former.

On the day, with absolutely no navigational help from me, as I didn't know where we were going, we sped through the beautiful scenery of adjoining Lincolnshire and Leicestershire until we reached a little time warp village in Cambridgeshire; a quaint and pretty place that only lacked Agatha Christie's Miss Marple cycling along the long wide central road. We strolled along to the equally time warp public house as we had time for refreshment before our "appointment." A clue, for which I was none the wiser as to my birthday treat.

Following cups of tea among the hostelry "regulars" who included a couple of elderly ladies in the corner, one of whom had brought her own cushion, we set off along the main road with its busy, bustling street market, to our destination.

It was an antique shop. Still baffled, we were shown into a back room which housed the best collection of my beloved Mabel Lucie Attwell's work in England. To really appreciate the excitement of this, you have to be me. It was like an Aladdin's Cave of her cute chubby children and fairyland illustrations and artefacts. I had tried unsuccessfully to track down examples of her work from my childhood when her delightful drawings permeated so many areas of life from handkerchiefs to adverts, postcards to annuals, and dolls to teapots; my much more resourceful daughter-in-law had discovered the mini museum/shop and arranged a visit. What a perfect gift.

Apparently there had been the classic 'backstage' panic when at the last moment the owners were called away on the arranged day and would therefore be unable to open. However, understanding the necessity of it being that particular day, they arranged for their son to travel from the adjacent county to open up and greet us. How considerate was that? He and his wife were so welcoming and helpful, even expressing concern for my shoes when I inadvertently stepped in the dog's water bowl (don't ask!).

As I "oohed" and "aahed" my way through the collection, another customer appeared, equally entranced. The trip was an anniversary present from her husband, who wisely took himself off to the local hostelry as she too inspected every little artefact exhibited, painstakingly, several times. "Good thing Tom didn't come," I remarked to Amanda who, like me, was thoroughly enjoying the dolls, figurines and illustrations of girls with giant hair bows, boys with giant eyes and pixies and fairies galore, "By now he would have passed out with boredom." I added.

I left with treasured gifts and the knowledge that I had been enrolled as a member of the Mabel Lucie Attwell Club, and would be receiving my badge shortly. Talk about keeping the inner child alive. I was in Heaven!

On the way home we stopped for lunch at a riverside restaurant where we were able to enjoy the sunshine as boats sailed past our table. What a perfect day. What a wonderful present........and what a lovely daughter-in-law!

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