Racing from the gargoyles to the big tree is a good way of wearing out your kids on a Sunday afternoon.
Wallington is a great place to be doing this. Its grounds are a gratuitous monument to the wealth of the few and the subjugation of the rest. How ironic then, that they've become a glorified playground for working families.
The house is a different matter. Built in 1688 for Sir William Blackett, it's stuffed full of pre raphaelite paintings and heirlooms. The National Trust guards these contents with old women. Recruited for their stern, pinched faces and general mistrust of others, they lurk in the corner of each room, ready to pounce on anyone who dare make a noise or god forbid, touch anything. Though the website says different, children are not made to feel welcome.
I like to take mine in sometimes, just to piss them off.
My hand was forced yesterday, when Dom stopped mid-sprint and shouted "I Need a Poo!" Lovely. Now, when Dominic says this, he means it. Not a boy to forward plan, he generally waits until turtle head before announcing these needs to the world.
We had three options;
1) Run to the public toilets some 500 yards away,
2) Drop pants and deposit toilet torpedo on a gargoyle, or
3) Ask the receptionist hag in the house if there was one to be used.
I opted for option 3. It is after all, a big house.
"Is there a toilet we could use?" I ask her politely.
"Yes", she nipped "but only in emergencies."
Now, I wasn't sure whether my child being in desperate need of a shite constituted an emergency. But in a brief moment of absurdity, I thought she meant the toilet was only to be used in an emergency;
"DORIS! The house is on fire!"
"Right, raise the alarm and start the evacuation. And Sue, unlock the emergency toilet!"
Dom woke me from my daydream.
"Dad! I need a Poo NOW!" Bless him, he was hopping from foot to foot.
Grudgingly (and I swear it was), she picked up her walkie talkie and barked "Escort required for toilet, urgently."
Thankfully one came quickly. Her twin sister, it appeared. Though older and more wizened.
"Follow me." She commanded.
As we were about to oblige, 1st Hag barked,
"Erm, excuse me! I need to see your National Trust card before you can enter the house."
And do you know what? I apologised. "Sorry, yes of course." I said as I fumbled in my wallet for it.
We were discharged from her presence, and were walking off behind Hag 2 when again she shouts,
"Erm, excuse me sir!"
Now, I'm getting irked. "Yes?"
"Bags are not permitted in the house sir, you will have to leave it here"
I tossed it at her.
"You need a ticket, so that I can retrieve it." She was obviously fretting that her duties weren't being discharged perfectly.
"Mrs," I say "There's only three bags behind you. We'll remember which one's mine."
"DADDY, I WANT A POO!"
There was no stopping her, she shoved a ticket into my hand as we were rushing off. It was number 24 incidentally.
Finally, Hag 2 led us to the secret emergency toilets. We had the choice of the standard or disabled variety. I chose the disabled. It wasn't exactly setting fire to the Houses of Parliament, but it was a protest nonetheless. I'm sure I heard her tut as we went in.
Dom launched his bum rocket with a smile of relief on his face.
Yesterday I was in the company of children. Today I am not. So I say to you Hags, you pair of sad desperate bints, why don't you just Fuck Off.