My final preparations before heading out for a day in Wimbledon: pack a bag with everything needed for the journey. Book to read, bottle of water, purse, Railcard, dinosaur....
You heard right - the most important item I needed to remember was the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex who has been gracing my windowsill with his presence for more than a month. I have grown strangely accustomed to Saurus, posing there in prehistoric stance,
next to the photo of Mr B and me on our Ruby Wedding (we haven't yet got round to printing out a Golden Wedding photo), our three scented candles (J & B they spell out) and the two birds, a present from the Youngest of the Darling Daughters. I had to leave
it there in full view so that I wouldn't forget to take it with me the next time I met up with its owner, The Rascal, known to you all as Young Faris.
Today I met up with my old school-friend, Pat, her daughter
Pip, who is also my god-daughter, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, The Rascal and The Twinkles. The lovely staff at Bill's restaurant in Wimbledon possibly recognised us from our many previous visits because they were quick to shepherd us to a long table
in a secluded corner where we would be less likely to disturb other clients. You know it makes sense.
The Rascal was clutching a magazine which came with a colourful plastic spider on the front which could
be made to jump by squeezing a red bulb attached to a yellow plastic pipe attached to said spider. Expectations ran high and sadly were not completely realised. Despite much squeezing the spider didn't so much as jump as make a rather feeble sideways hop.
Fortunately The Rascal was less disappointed than I was as his attention was fully taken up with the stickers which were secreted inside the magazine.
I wonder who invented stickers? Whoever he or she was
deserves a medal in my opinion. The wait from the time we ordered our brunch to its arrival on our table was fully occupied with applying the stickers to the relevant pages, drawing eyes on a number of sea creatures - from an octopus and a whale to a seahorse
and a starfish - and counting greedy caterpillars. "Good sticking!" I kept saying, followed by "Good drawing!", finished off with "Good counting!" The Rascal positively basked in my approval.
did what they do best - they twinkled. We carefully placed the Small Fry between us so that there was always an adult either side of them, ready to move milk jugs out of their way, encourage them in the eating of their chips and dissuade them from attacking
the glass chandeliers which hung above our table.
The Lost Dinosaur had emerged from my bag and been reunited with its owner and introduced to a truly fierce-looking specimen whose eyes flashed when its head
was pressed, at the same time emitting a loud roar of Dinosaur Dimensions. Dinosaur battles ensued across the table. It was All Good Fun.
The Middle of the Darling Daughters knows when it's time to go, before
the Twinkles get too tired, so after a delicious brunch she departs. Pat, Pip and I, guiltily aware of discarded chips and raisins littering the floor under our table, move to a smaller one so that the staff can clear up behind us. Which they do with smiles
and good grace, bless them.
Half way through our puddings, Pip received a text message from my daughter. Faris appeared to have left the dinosaur with the flashing eyes behind. Could we try to find it? Pat
was pretty sure she remembered where The Rascal had deposited him, in an umbrella stand near where we had been sitting. Off she went on a Dinosaur Rescue Mission, returning in triumph clutching the Roaring One in her hand...
Which is how I came to return home with another, different dinosaur in my bag. Except that, while Saurus had at least had the decency to keep mum during our outward journey, his replacement just wouldn't stay silent when we were homeward bound. Every
time I moved my bag - to make room for a fellow passenger, perhaps, or to find my ticket for the guard to check - it let out a mighty roar. Many were the strange looks cast in my direction until I felt I had to put the record straight.
"I have a dinosaur in my bag," I explained.
Sometimes, you know, it's better not to say anything...