This post is the fifteenth in our England 2015 series.
If Rochelle Canteen and Kensington Gardens weren’t enough fun for one day, we were able to count on one more invigorating experience before we got to bed that night: returning to the flat and realizing that we were locked out.
How could this happen? In our efforts to be efficient and travel light, we had downsized the number of keys on the key ring we’d been given, not realizing that someone would be coming in to clean the apartment while we were gone, and that this someone is used to locking all the locks. Jon and I immediately put our electronic devices to work, calling and texting anyone on either side of the Atlantic Ocean who might be able to help us contact our host and find a way into the flat.
A flurry of thoughts took their place at the forefront of my mind:
- Do not panic, Mama. Especially in front of the children!
- We are going to be okay. We have our wallets, no one is sick, and we have a virtual stack of e-books as long as your right arm. Worst-case-scenario: we book a room at a hotel.
- This is an opportunity to make a memory. Get busy cultivating a spirit of fun!
And so we had a picnic dessert in the courtyard, feasting on some obscenely large chocolate and strawberry meringues that we had picked up at a patisserie on the way home. I put on my most compassion-inducing flustered-mother expression (not difficult, under the circumstances) as we ventured over to a local pub (The Cask) to use the loo, girls trotting quietly by my side.
We returned to the flat, sat on the carpet in the hallway, and I read aloud for hours from Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Tree, a story that was just entertaining enough to while away the hours, but not quite engaging enough for me to completely prevent the swell of panicked anxiety (“Do not panic, Mama!”) every time I looked at the clock and watched the minutes ticking by.
Our saviors were named Tom and Kate, and I thank God for them. These kind friends of Teresa’s drove nearly an hour across London to let us into the flat. (https://www.facebook.com/kate.greer3) I hugged them out of sheer joy, even though that is Not English, then served them tea and ginger biscuits. (It was from Kate that I learned I’d been steeping my English teabags for way too long, which explained why my tea was bitter!) They even stayed to chat for a few minutes, creating the illusion of a spontaneous late-night social event rather than an error-induced rescue mission.
That night, as we lay in our beds that night, I reflected with gratitude on the generosity of these friends who had mercy on our little American family — and on the fact that, truly, I did not panic. Whew!