I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment a couple of weeks ago – always dangerous. One of Ellen’s lovely carers was going to be in Portsmouth on her own for her birthday and her birthday just happened to be on a Wednesday – bling – why not have an Ellensdays day trip out to Portsmouth! Well, one good reason why not turned out to be the M25.
It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day I travel or even what day for that matter I always get stuck in traffic on the M25 and yesterday was no exception. What should have been a 2 hour journey took 3 hours. Luckily Ellen found the constant traffic jams quite amusing ‘not another one!’ I would moan and she would giggle away to herself, her spotty ray soft toy cradled on her lap. Ellen’s chief motivation for the journey was not to celebrate Eloise’s birthday (she has no real interest in anyone’s birthday except her own) but the promise of a visit to the Aquarium, and even the constant traffic delays could not dent her enthusiasm for finding spotty ray’s ‘friend’ who is apparently an orange ray with red spots.
I was slightly concerned about the chances of us finding spotty ray’s friend, as from looking at the website for the ‘Blue Reef’ Aquarium (http://www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk/portsmouth/) I could see that it was not the largest place in the world and that the chances of them having a wide range of stock in their gift shop was low. And so it proved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we finally arrived, Portsmouth was sunny but windy and whilst I was getting blown away trying to feed money into the parking metre. Ellen sprinted off towards the aquarium. Thank goodness we had Eloise the super-carer with us, as she kindly chased after Ellen. By the time I’d got through the doors they’d already gone through into the aquarium leaving me to pay a bemused looking sales assistant. It always amuses me how many places Ellen walks into completely unchallenged – she once walked into a ticketed exhibition at Tate Britain – and no one tried to stop her. Still, honest as I am I did pay up.
‘Umm does she have…..?’ the saleswoman asked carefully, obviously not keen to assume a disability without confirmation. ‘Oh yes’ I confirmed and promptly Eloise got in for free as a carer. I had already printed a 20% off voucher from the internet and so for the three of us it cost £18. This was pretty good value, especially as we went around three times. I’d read some rather dismal reports of the Blue Reef Aquarium on Trip Adviser but for us it was perfect. They had pretty much all the fish out of Finding Nemo, a lobster hiding under a rock and three different kinds of shrimp – who knew there were so many! And even though the gift shop did not have an orange ray with red spots they did have a shark and a Nemo toy which seemed to satisfy Ellen.
Ellen was also exceptionally generous and suggested we bought a very large pink fish balloon for Eloise, which seemed totally appropriate for her 19th Birthday. Eloise wasn’t at all embarrassed at taking it round the aquarium although Ellen did keep having to prompt her to lift her arm because she wasn’t holding it high enough in the air – I can’t imagine why.
We topped this all off with burgers and chips at a beach cafe, safely inside though and looking at the choppy waves through a porthole-style window. Ellen was in such a good mood that she even allowed us to go back to Eloise’s room so that she could open her presents, although me drinking a coffee was a step too far and she started chanting ‘home’ and banging on the toilet door until it was time to leave.
We got held up in traffic on the way back too, but again Ellen didn’t seem to mind. Spotty ray had been relegated to the boot and it was Nemo and sharky who had the best views of the car park that is the M25. Ellen is already planning her return visit; ‘next time’ she says ‘we shall get purple ray and seahorse’. Yes maybe we shall return, but only if I can have a balloon as well.