I was feeling deliriously happy as the train pulled up at Didsbrook Station. I had spoken to my father the night before who told me that he’d put two bottles of fizz in the fridge.
‘To celebrate the end of your three years of hard work, Lucy, love. Unfortunately, I can’t pick you up at Roehampton because I’ve got a meeting in Sidcup in the morning, but we’ll crack open the first bottle as soon as I get home. Mum will be there to meet you at the station.’
Apart from Tom Cruise, many famous names have disembarked at Didsbrook’s Grade II listed station, over the years. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde and Aldous Huxley were all frequent visitors to the Manor. So it’s Grade II listed walls are adorned with plaques in homage of some of Didsbrook’s famous visitors. Whatever the time of year, the platform at Didsbrook station is awash with colour. Seasonal flowers, lovingly grown in pots by the local branch of the W.I. are aesthetically displayed on antique luggage trollies. Unfortunately, my Mother was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised, as she’d felt bad that neither she nor my father could pick me up from Roehampton.
‘I’m really sorry, Lucy, but I have to go to a DADS rehearsal. It’s the first for our production of Les Miserables and, as you know, it’s my debut as a director. So I’ve got to be there, but I will be at the station to meet you.’ I was pissed-off that she wasn’t. I was impatient to get home, having already changed trains at East Croydon, while carting around three years worth of accumulated university paraphernalia.
Baggage-free, our house is about a 15-minute walk from the station. There is only one taxi company in Didsbrook, A&B Cabs, run by Ange and Bert who only turn up if you book online, in advance. So, it was the stationmaster, Mr Davis’s, idea that I should use one of the Victorian baggage trollies to drag everything home on.
‘They built things to last in those days, Lucy, love. It’ll see you home, just like it used to a hundred years ago. Drop it back next time you’re passing’.
Fortunately, there is a slight slope from the station into town where Kevin Harper, now a slender 21-year-old, appeared from nowhere and helped me to lug the trolley over the cobbles in the Market Place.
‘Are you back for good now. Lu Lu?’ He asked as I remembered all the reasons why he irritated me as a child, not least his nickname for me. Nobody calls me Lu Lu, except for Kevin. Lu Lu sounds like a character from the chorus of the Mikado, who understudies for Yum Yum, and Nanki Poo. Still, I was very grateful for his help, and when he asked me the question I knew he was dying to ask me, I agreed to meet him for a drink and left him cock-a-hoop at the brow of Ashdown Hill.
‘I’ll call you!’ He yelled, thrusting his arm in the air like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, his ambling gait suddenly turbocharged as he made his way back into town. He had been asking me to go out with him since we were in Year 9.
Freewheeling my goods and chattels down Ashdown Hill, another slope rather than a hill, I was grumbling to myself about why my mother had forgotten to pick me up when I spotted an ambulance parked outside Number Two Frogs Bottom. Our house. I crashed the trolley into the grass verge and ran through the open front to find my mother sitting on the sofa, about to pour cups of tea for a pair of smiling paramedics.
‘Lucy?’ My Mother’s face was a picture, crumpled somewhere between aghast, and guilt. ‘Oh, my God! I completely forgot. I’m so sorry, darling. You know we had a rehearsal this morning and it, you, completely slipped my mind. As you know, it’s my debut as the director. This is Andy, who is taking on Jean Valjean, and Laura, who is our Éponine. I asked them back for a cuppa before they start their shift.’
‘For Christ sakes, Mother! I thought you’d had a bloody heart attack!’