15 May 2011 (Sunday) - Lullingstone

The phone rang at 1.30am last night. I thought there was a problem at work – it’s not unheard of for the phone to ring at silly o’clock. The ringing stopped, and I could hear ‘er indoors TM talking to someone downstairs. Therefore I decided that I wasn’t needed and I went back to sleep. Or that is I tried to sleep. After fifteen minutes of lying awake listening to ‘er indoors TM shouting into the phone, I went to see what was going on.
It transpired that My Boy TM ” “Idiot Face TMhad been on the beer with his mates in Hastings, and from what we could work out from his drunken ramblings he’d had a stroke of genius. He’d told his mates that he didn’t need a lift home. He was going to spend the night at his lovely grandparent’s house. And like all strokes of genius, this idea seemed like a good idea at the time.

However not being a native Hastonian himself he was unaware of the difficulties in walking round Hastings. If you are ever in that town doing the “tourist thing” you’ll be in the touristy sea front area, and you’ll not think the place at all hilly. However once you are more than fifty yards from the sea, the town takes on the physical characteristics of the Himalayas. And consequently a distance that you could comfortably walk in fifteen minutes in Ashford could easily take you an hour in Hastings.
Having walked from Hastings town centre to my mother’s house (a near vertical three mile climb) he found himself too scared to ring the doorbell in case nanny didn’t love him for waking her up at 1.30am. He also was wondering if mummy still loved him too. So he phoned mummy and daddy to ask if nanny would still love him if he woke her up. Speaking for myself, daddy still loved him and was quite happy to drive down to Hastings to fetch him. But mummy was cross and told daddy to shut up and go back to bed. Over the years I’ve learned when to keep my trap shut, and so I went back to kip. The first fruit of my loin was left with no option but to wake his grandparents if he wanted a bed for what was left of the night. In parting I suggested that if he couldn’t rouse them he might doss down in their shed. And I went back to bed. Because I could.
I’ve since heard that immediately after this little episode, “Idiot Face TM phoned my brother five times, and my brother has spend ages worrying what the phone calls at 2am were all about. I’ve also learned that this little booze-up has set “Idiot Face TM back over one hundred pounds…..

I phoned my mother at 9am to see how “Idiot Face TM was doing. My mother was pleased to hear from me, but she wondered why I was asking after the first fruit of my loin - she didn’t have “Idiot Face TM with her. I suggested she checked her shed. He wasn’t there. Panic set in, so I phoned “Idiot Face TM ”. He was at his girlfriend’s house and he was fine, and he wondered why I was phoning. When I related the tale of the previous night he seemed amazed; him and his mates had been on the beer in Canterbury last night, and they’d all come home together in a taxi. He did vaguely recall having remarked to his mates that he’d seen a house that looked like his grandmother’s house. Perhaps that was what we were thinking of? He had no recollection of phoning us in the middle of the night, but his phone log said he had, so he conceded that he must have done so.
And then after I’d hung up, he phoned me back and said that seeing how I was up anyway would I drive round to his girlfriend’s house and give him a lift home…

The real reason we were up (relatively) early on a Sunday was that with the motorway closed we were expecting the traffic round town to be busy, and we had quite a long way to go. Four of us set off from Ashford to Lullingstone Roman Villa where we’d planned to meet up with friends. Being on a serious economy drive but still wanting to do stuff at the weekends was at first sight a tall order. But putting our English Heritage membership to use solved the problem. We’d been to Lullingstone Roman Villa before - on News Year’s Day this year. And despite what their website had to say on the matter, it had been closed then. English Heritage had promised us free admission for a group of friends when we next visited. Unfortunately they didn’t honour that promise today. I say “they” – it’s probably worth elaborating on “they”.

It’s been my experience that English Heritage establishments see themselves as utterly independent of the English Heritage head office, and today just reinforced that perception. The nice lady behind the counter was polite enough, but made it crystal clear that whatever appears on the English Heritage website, and whatever English Heritage HQ might say or do, neither have any bearing on her daily round whatsoever.
So, for all that the eleven English Heritage members of our party go in for free, the remaining dozen had to pay up. But it wasn’t that expensive really. And it was a good place to visit, especially if one has an archaeological bent. Since I was last there, they’ve added a film show to the exhibits. If any of my loyal readers haven’t been to Lullingstone Roman Villa before, I can recommend it as a good place to while away an hour or so. But do phone first to check that they will be open.

And then after having an ice cream from the gift shop we drove down to a nearby picnic site. After a quick wander along the river we then climbed the hill and had a picnic lunch. It’s fair to say that the day could have been warmer, but then again I had only myself to blame: shorts and T-shirt when everyone else was wearing fleeces and coats. But we had a good time. The kids (of all ages) ran riot in the field whilst we sat and watched them, whilst exchanging insults. There was (apparently) a plan to go for a walk around the nearby woodlands, but we never quite got round to that. Maybe next time…?

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