Capability Brown in shoot out with Calamity Jane

With age, they say, comes wisdom.

Not so.

I recall preparing to go on a travel freebie to review a country house hotel. It was for a +1 so, charitably, but not entirely wisely, I took my mother.

This is the woman who, not so long ago, insisted on showing old cinematic film of my youth (or more accurately her youth) to my husband. She’d had it put on video, and still has a video player.

She’d had a few buckets of Californian rose and everything got too much. We watched a combo of static and my childhood (and her posing in large hats, with drinks, plunging necklines and various 60s James Bond outfits) unroll backwards very quickly.

She asked politely if we’d like to see it forwards now. ‘No.’ Then she discovered the other side. ‘Oh look, that’s you Denise, coming in from a night in.’ I watched as June Whitfield opened the door to a very drunk Eddie hanging onto the doorknob. Eddie was wearing multi coloured striped socks, an afghan coat and some sort of fez. ‘Patz’ (Joanna Lumley) was a short step behind her. I’m not sure who my mother thought she was.

But I digress. So this is the woman I took with me to ‘a fairly posh place.’

As we drove up the sweeping gravel drive and took in the undulating gardens and vista of the great house my mother chirped in her telephone voice ‘I think you’ll find these gardens were designed by Calamity Jane.’ and nodded sagely. My repost ‘or Capability Brown?’

It earned me a scowl. Good. So we went to the spa. I did 20 of the 40 minutes I’d planned on the treadmill in the small gym which overlooked the pool. I’d instructed my mother to go and have a lie on a bed there, and I’d join her after my shower.

To my utter horror I watched as she walked past a string of women in fluffy white towelling robes, lying on the thoughtfully provided fluffy white towelling towels on the perfectly white pool loungers. They all had pink nail polish and drinks with fruit in them. Copies of Hello gave off a blinding glare under the lights and all of them wore engagement rings with stones too large to be any kind of choke hazard for a small child.

Yes mum strutted on past, took out her Tigger beach towel which was, I believe, mine back in the day, when I was seven, spread it out and then lay down to give the towelling women the evil eye over the Daily Mail crossword.

So sprinting in and out of the shower I grabbed my mother and said come on let’s get into the Jacuzzi. Mistake number two. She kept loudly asking what a Jack Kutsie was. I really needed to jam some sort of drink with fruit in it (and alcohol too) into her hand at the bar.

So we did. And we ate dinner. And she went to the loo and got lost. I had to send staff to find her. Then she came back and flirted with the piano player who, by virtue of his job poor chap, was trapped. I feigned tiredness, rescued the ivory tinkler and my mother and I went to bed. She to sleep and me to a chorus of earth shattering snores from the twin bed next to mine.

She doesn’t remember any of this, and nor does she believe it when we recount it. Apparently with age comes a sharpening of some things that are better left alone – wrapped in thick white towelling.


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