IT was Dougie’s 12th birthday, and as an extraordinary treat, we all went to see the Lion King on stage in London’s West End.
It was a secret, kept for months, which none of the children were allowed in on, despite much begging and pleading. First rule of birthday surprise? No-one talks about birthday surprise.
For much of the run-up, the boys were convinced they were going to the Northampton Saints vs Leeds rugby match. It would have been a good day, especially as they won, and a treat, because it’s just too expensive for six of us to go more than once in a blue moon.
However, when we got them up early, and then pulled into the train station, they were properly confused. It was great. For once, we knew more than the kids.
All the way down they tried to catch us out: “So, what time do we have to be at the . . . what was it again?”
On the train, we ended up (standing) next to another family going to the West End to see The Wizard of Oz. Their girls knew, but as it was their first time on a train, and their first visit to London, they were already bouncing off the walls with excitement.
“I know!” shouted Dougie, barely able to contain himself, “We’re going to watch Man U V Chelsea!”
“That’s tomorrow,” reminded Bloke.
In the tube stations they watched carefully as we worked out which stops we needed, to see if it gave them a clue. It didn’t.
When we walked out at Covent Garden, the first thing they saw was a set of their grandparents, waving. Now they were really confused. Especially Bonnie. Why was Gang-Gang not at her house? And where was Toby, their dog?
Granddad told them we were going to have lunch, and let the first and only clue slip: “The restaurant’s down here, and it’s near the theatre.”
The boys were straight on it. “Is it Shrek? Is it Wicked?” We stayed tight-lipped all through lunch. The questioning continued relentlessly.
Billy was the first to really get it when we approached the theatre by a side road when he saw a poster. We actually got the secret almost to the door.
The show was amazing, well, what I saw of it. Bonnie decided that despite usually behaving on theatre trips, and a plethora of bribes, now would be the time to hop on and off everyone’s laps every few minutes, lie on the floor, kick the seats in front and shout loudly “Is that the BADDIE?”
When I gave her a whispered telling off, she started wailing and much to my embarrassment, an usher came to, well, usher us out until Bonnie calmed down. I watched the rest of the show from the back while Bonnie rolled about on the floor, laughing.
Thankfully, the birthday boy saw it all and loved it, and was delighted it had been a genuine surprise.
It ups the ante for next year though. Perhaps we can start saving for a Saints’ game next May . . .