I booked tickets for Spamalot months ago, blissfuly unaware that February was going to be a month of heartache, ups and downs and a succession of car journeys on the A1. However, ending the month with a show full of singing, comedy and pure daftness was actually a great tonic.
Initially we planned to just see the matinee show and come back home again, thinking we would use the Park and Ride as parking is a nightmare in the city. However, on Friday night, just before bed, Dougie and I changed our minds and decided to book a hotel room for the night. The Crowne Plaza, bang in the centre of town, has underground valet parking which worked well when we used it for the Ross Noble gig, once Dougie had stopped hyperventilating after handing over his keys to a stranger.
We checked online and they had a special Family Saver deal which included free breakfast, free parking and 20% off the bar and restaurant bills plus a free gift for the children. As the parking is normally an eye-watering 18 quid, this seemed like reasonable value (well, for Cambridge anyway). The rooms have two double beds in them so certainly plenty of space for two adults and a lanky adolescent (wonder what free toy he would get???!).
After a bit of faffing on the computer, as the website kept booking us two rooms instead of one, we were sorted and went to bed happy but not packed. Next morning was a bit manic, shoving toiletries into bags, but by 10am we were on our way. Ten minutes in, Dougie asked me:
“Did you sort the heating out?”
“Yes, I’ve got it to come on at 11am tomorrow. We’ll be back around lunchtime so that will be ok”
“But it isn’t 11 yet today, so the heat and water will come on today too.”
“Bugger…..I know, I’ll ring your Dad, I’ll tell him to pop over in about an hour or so and press the override buttons so it will cancel the timed heating today. It’ll still come on tomorrow”
“Not if my dad has anything to do with it”
I took a long time explaining to George how to press the override buttons, just as I have explained our heating to him for the last 15 years they have lived near us. However I was confident he had understood.
The drive to Cambridge was very quick, the key handing-over ceremony quite painless and we even got into our rooms early as I had signed up for their Priority Rewards scheme some months earlier. Unfortunately the room had a funny smell. Vaguely smoky, dampish, old bungalow mustiness. Rory and I weren’t too bothered but Sir’s extra-sensitive nose wasn’t happy. Dougie has a thing about smells and his poor patients always get caught out if they promise him they’ve stopped smoking and he tells them he knows they haven’t as he can sniff ’em out. So he was snuffling about like an old bloodhound.
The windows were permanently shut to make the air-conditioning system work better. Can never see the sense in this in the UK and at times like this, when getting a good breeze through the room would have worked wonders, it is even more annoying. We should have asked for a different room straight away but, not ones to make a fuss, we looked for other options. As part of the hotel group’s solution to a good night’s sleep, the “Sleep Advantage” scheme had provided two squirty bottles, one to sniff and one to spray on the pillow. Dougie squirted these around the room and near the air vents and we left the room to go shopping.
Two hours later, after exhausting Superdry, Jack Wills and Hollister (which was so dark we couldn’t see the clothes), Rory had spent his birthday money and we returned to our room which still stank of old bungalow, but an old bungalow in a pine forest.
Dougie became masterful at this juncture and set off for reception, leaving me cursing Rory for spilling crisps on the floor when we might not be stopping. A few minutes later we were transferred to a much nicer-smelling room which also had a better view. Lesson for the day….make a fuss!
The show (remember that’s what this blog post was originally about) was fabulous. Phill Jupitus, Todd Carty and Jessica Martin (replacing an injured Jodie Prenger) were starring in this brilliant musical version of Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie, with a splash of micky-taking of musicals thrown in for good measure. The energy in the small cast was tremendous, the singing punchy and harmonious and, all in all, it was a very, very silly show. The tour is continuing around the country so try and catch it if it’s near you (Sunderland, Ipswich and Bradford are the next three venues). If you love Monty Python, can sing along to ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ and remember with fondness the fish-slapping dance, this is definitely your cup of tea.
Our 20% off dinner in the restaurant was really very good. I know we could have found some heavenly little bijou place in town but this was good value food without having to put your coat on and go outside again. Plus, when Rory had finished and didn’t want to linger, we gave him his keycard so he could go back to the room for Take Me Out! All this culture in one day.
So much for Crowne Plaza’s Sleep Advantage scheme. It might provide gorgeous pillows and lavender spray but it doesn’t take into account a husband with a cold. Bloody man snored all night.
A good scoff the next morning, the return of a blissfully undamaged car and we tootled off up the M11. For someone who is quite anal about having a full tank, Dougie hadn’t filled up with petrol on the journey and the reserve tank light started flashing near Peterborough. I know Top Gear reckons we probably had a good many more miles available, but it made me nervous so we pulled into the next petrol station. We hadn’t used it before and it looked rather quiet. The main entrance seemed to be cordoned off and there was tape near another entrance. Getting lost around the car wash, we carried on driving and ended up in the empty forecourt to be greeted by a harpy in a zip-up fleece waving her arms at us. She accused us of driving through the red tape and cones. When we disputed this, she shouted at her colleague that he’d missed a bit and eventually moved some cones to let us out. So now we had a flashing fuel gauge and the petrol station had some sort of ‘incident’. Arse.
Five minutes later we thankfully found a petrol station which was selling petrol and filled up. The journey continued well until we reached home….to be greeted by a waft of hot air as we opened the door. George hadn’t pressed the override buttons: he had just pushed both switches down to ’24 hours’ meaning the heat and water had been on constantly since 11am the previous day. That’s what I call a warm welcome home.