Weekend with Madonna
We spent the weekend in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, with my husband’s friend Donna and her daughter. My sons, having listened to years of Madonna music and heard about my trek to Madonna’s concert in Wembley Stadium two weeks ago, kept confusing our host’s name with Madonna’s, asking all through their first train ride ever, “Are we almost at Madonna’s house?” Now wouldn’t that make for an interesting blog entry?
Leigh-on-Sea is a gorgeous town on the Thames River. It is the birthplace of John Fowles (The French Lieutenant’s Woman), and it has been called the “second best place to live within the South-East of England, after Christchurch.” I now know why. (Ma)Donna is only a guest in Leigh-on-Sea, but her temporary home there overlooks the Thames and it is P-O-S-H, right down to the waterfall bathroom faucet and the abstract 4-foot-tall naked lady painting in the hallway. It seemed pretty brave of the woman to invite three three-year-olds to stay there, but the boys were on mostly-great behavior while indoors, so nothing expensive was shattered. And really, our host had been a kindergarten teacher before she joined the ranks of elementary school teachers, so she was more at home among multiples than most folks. The second-floor home gave us a lovely view of the Thames, which seems to me to be in a near-perpetual state of low tide. When the tide goes out, we look out the windows to see beached boats. But when it comes in, look out!, because it comes in F-A-S-T. We were scouting a good location for crabbing just below the pier when it started coming in and decided to move to higher ground; within five minutes, the area we’d been scouting was submerged. It was amazing to watch the tide come in as if someone had just turned on a waterfall faucet.
Another fascinating fact about Leigh-on-Sea’s beaches is that there isn’t any sand visible. It’s all coccle shells. I’ve never seen a beach like it. And considering their plenty, it should be no surprise that coccles were available in all the fish shops along the beach. Wanting to have the full Leigh-on-Sea experience, we sampled the coccles. Salty little buggers, but still tasty. Two of my boys loved them so much that they cried when we wouldn’t walk back to buy more. Our 2nd experience with crabbing was largely successful, with the exception of the dropped lines. But Daddy and our host were 2-for-2 in fishing them out of the drink, so no tears shed over lost lines.
Adventure Island came next, an amusement park on the beach. There, our boys rode their first rollercoaster . . . and were hooked. I’d expected the dragon ride to be a bit tamer than it was, actually. But I screamed and laughed from my belly just as much as the boys did. It’s been years since I’ve rollercoasted, but the bug is back. I even eyed their major roller coaster, which plummets straight down at one point. I couldn’t convince anyone to join me, though.
The boys also sampled their first bumper cars, which they’ve been pining for. They’ve drooled at San Diego’s Belmont Park bumper cars for years. This ride surprised me, too, I’d forgotten how incredibly jarring it is to have a car slam head-on into yours, even with immense rubber bumpers on both cars. After two near-whiplash collisions that merely sent the boys into laughing shrieks, us grown-ups learned to steer the boys into each other sideways, lessoning the jolt. Much more fun that way. And no risk of full-body traction.
I’d blog about the train ride home because it’s one of those “someday I’ll laugh about this” experiences, but “someday” isn’t even close to being here so I won’t. Suffice it to say that the journey was painful, with missed trains, chased buses, five change-overs due to railway maintenance, and several episodes of me sticking my hand down the back of one of my boys’ pants to scratch his bum because he insisted that he couldn’t walk, let alone run, when his bottom itched. Oh, the things a mother will do to make a 3:03 train. Our 3.5-hour journey turned into seven grueling hours. But the weekend was worth it. We’ve invited our hosts to visit us in Lowestoft, and they’ve asked us to visit Leigh-on-Sea again. We certainly will. Who am I to pass up a weekend at (Ma)Donna’s house?