Our waiter, asked to take a photograph of us all, seated around the restaurant table, moves back and stretches right over the couple sitting at the next table in order to ensure that every one of us will be captured for
posterity in all our pre-theatre jollity. Our neighbouring diners look a little put out but don’t protest. Nor do I, because being at the front of the table, I am aware that had our photographer positioned himself any nearer, I would almost certainly
have sported a double chin in the resultant photo. As it is, I just look, well, appropriately Jolly.
Ah, yes, it’s the annual Outing of the Jolly Girls and
Boys - nine of us in all - and we are all looking forward to a delicious meal, a theatre trip, and (if time) a farewell drink together to see us all on our separate ways. Granddaughter Hazel Bagel has had the shortest journey from her lodgings in Chiswick;
My Boy has had the longest, travelling by coach from Cardiff which meant leaving home before 7 a.m. The saving grace, he tells us, was being able to watch, undisturbed by young sons and domestic duties, the Women’s Final in the Australian Open
The previous evening, the Eldest of the Darling Daughters messaged me to ask if this year was the tenth anniversary of our annual Jolly Outing. I
consulted the scrapbook in which I have documented our various adventures and had to respond that this was actually our eleventh year, our Tenth Anniversary having somehow passed unmarked. This is very unlike me, to miss such an opportunity and I can only
surmise that it must have been because this time last year I was still recovering from major surgery on the Problem Shoulder. It’s not a good excuse because you’d have thought I would have welcomed some excitement to distract me. It now seems we
shall have to wait a further nine years for a special anniversary, as in, one with an 0 at the end. I can only hope I am still (i) alive and (ii) able to climb the countless stairs to the Grand Circle...
One of the requirements of participation in the Jolly Girls and Boys Outing is the sharing of information as to where everyone is on their personal journey. No, not a deep personal journey, just how near we each are to our
Final destination. This may sound like Control Freakery on my part but is simply destined to (i) to add to the anticipation and (ii) to ensure that nobody gets lost. Especially me. At Victoria station, I am met by the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her
own daughters to be shortly joined by My Boy, hot footing it from the coach station. We take a taxi which makes extremely slow progress across London (though interesting in its way - oh, the crowds! The people! And was that really Ian McKellen being filmed
on the streets near Buck House?) In the end the taxi driver suggests we walk the last few hundred yards to the restaurant where the rest of our Jolly Party is waiting for us. (They knew we were coming, obviously, because we had exchanged numerous text messages
on our way...)
Our theatrical treat this year is “& Juliet” a gloriously funny, musical delight based on the fascinating premise - what if Juliet
hadn’t actually, well, died at the end of Shakespeare’s most famous romantic tragedy? Granted a second chance at life, Juliet is determined to do things her own way...
Our Will and his wife, Anne Hathaway (still smarting from being bequeathed her husband’s “second best bed”) vie with each other to come up with yet another twist to the tale. I can hear all my Jolly Girls and Boys, seated along Row
F in the Grand Circle of the Shaftesbury Theatre, chortling with each new twist and turn.
The Jolly Girls started in 2009, just the three Darling Daughters
and I enjoying a visit to the ballet, an “experience” in lieu of a Christmas present. As each of the granddaughters reached sixteen, they, too, became Jolly Girls. Last year we agreed to extend our remit to include our very own Jolly Boys. Each
time we add a new member to our Jolly Gang, he or she brings a new dynamic to the group. An extra brand of jollity..l
Looking round at My Foursome chatting
animatedly over glasses of white wine and at the four oldest grandchildren catching up with all the news on their individual busy lives, I wonder - would we be so close were it not for annual events like the Family Beach Day and the Outing of the Jolly Boys
and Girls? I like to think we would be - but as the (self-appointed) architect of these traditional get-togethers, I hope they have added some of the glue that binds us together.
It’s not easy to fit all nine of us into the obligatory selfie outside the theatre but somehow we do it. If you look closely you can see my craning neck (no double chin in sight.) We travel to Victoria by tube and taxi according to choice and
convene in a station bar for a Farewell Drink before going our separate ways.
Do you have a seat? Are you nearly home? Back safe and sound! The messages continue
to ping between us as we travel to our respective homes, as if we are reluctant to see the end of our Jolly Outing.
Like Juliet, my Jolly Girls and Boys,
once again we did it “Our Way”...