We'd arranged to meet at St Pancras Station, underneath the gigantic clock on the first floor. I was travelling into Euston, while my daughter and two nephews were arriving there.
Their mum - my sister - had texted wishing us a great day out. She and the rest of my family were enjoying a week in the sun after another of my nephew's Mamma Mia- style wedding to his half-Greek girlfriend, now wife.
We had a packed agenda. Imogen was booked in for her final wedding dress fitting at 4pm. Before then, we'd promised to take the boys on a grand sightseeing tour of London.
“Do you know where we are?” I asked Patrick, nine, at our first stop.
“Is it Albert Square?” Paddy replied.
“Trafalgar,” I retorted. “It is the most famous Square in the UK!”
“Actually, Aunty Ruth, I think you're wrong,” he quipped. “You'll probably find Albert Square is better known these days.”
And so the glorious sunny June day continued. We walked miles, laughing with the boys, admired Imogen in her beautiful bridal gown and promised Patrick we would go and visit the place he was desperate to go to and had been talking about all day…The Clink.
“It's London's oldest prison,” he told the wedding dress designer. “Full of horrific torture instruments and gruesome weapons.” Neither me, Imogen nor Chris wanted to go, but we had promised him and were heading through Borough Market to it. Halfway across, Imogen turned and told me Tricia was on the phone, needing to speak to me urgently.
“Dad's in hospital and they think he's had a heart attack. Mum and Tony are with him and we're on our way to the hospital but it's an hour from our villa," she said. “What do you mean? There's nothing wrong with his heart," I replied.
Dad was a fit 82-year-old, still playing tennis and making a good recovery from prostate cancer.
I tried ringing my mum in Greece. I was incoherently sobbing down the phone saying I was sorry for all the grief I'd caused them in my menopausal madness and that I loved him. I thought mum heard, but she'd obviously thought the phone was off as I could hear her and Tony, my brother-in-law, asking how they were going to get Bill (my dad) home. At the same time, London Bridge Is Falling Down was being played on repeat by a tourist attraction.
Imogen tried reassuring me all the way back on the Tube to St Pancras. “They'll be giving him a pacemaker.” We put a brave face on. I even laughed when Paddy asked if he could have my dad's catapult he used to chase squirrels off his (bird) nuts.
But I knew my wonderful father was already gone. I'd seen the largest, whitest feather ever land at my feet in slow motion in Borough Market.
After the longest hour, we were back at St Pancras, this time in front of the incredible building which has been so magnificently restored.
I took the call I'd been dreading. It was my mum. “I'm so sorry,” she said. “Your dad's dead. I didn't want to tell your three sisters until they reached the hospital.” I was right. Mum and Tony had been asking how they'd get his body home to England.
We never did go to The Clink.
© Ruth Supple 2021-08-19