The life of a Yorkshire widow: A right good weekend

09 May 2024 | Written by Marina O'Shea

In her latest installment of ‘The life of a Yorkshire widow’, Jan Dunbar’s protagonist shares the delights of a weekend away…

You’ll recall the recent discovery that my dear departed husband had fathered a child with another woman during our marriage. You might also recall that when he died, he left me ‘comfortably off’ by way of a life insurance policy I knew nothing about. Of the two discoveries, the life insurance was by far the easiest to deal with.

After discussing his antics with my sister (the child, not the inheritance) I decided I needed a break away so I had one, with my niece Abigail. Recently returned from Australia, Abigail is the daughter of Jack’s youngest sister Angela, the flighty one, currently stalking husband number 4. I get on well with Abigail so I invited her to join me for a shopping and sight-seeing trip to London. I didn’t want to let on about the windfall, so I vaguely mentioned a competition prize of an all expenses paid trip for two to London. Several hours of pre-booking, with the staunch assistance of the Google machine, meant I had the entire weekend booked and paid for, even though I had severely melted my debit card in the process.

Our trip started in York on Friday afternoon with a delicious and slightly decadent afternoon tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms, followed by an hour’s shopping; in my case, a pair of very nice court shoes with matching handbag – and to blazes with the cost. Dinner and an over-night stay at The Grand Hotel in York saw us into a taxi to the station on Saturday morning and two first class LNER seats to London’s King’s Cross. A black cab – with a very charming Cockney driver – dropped us at Claridge’s having regaled us with tales of the things folks had left behind in his taxi including a suitcase full of …er, marital aids, a set of false teeth and a sleeping baby!

I’d booked rooms at Claridge’s; a Mayfair Room for Abigail and a superior Claridge’s Room for myself. On this trip, cost wasn’t going to be an issue – and you won’t often hear that from a Yorkshire woman!

Saturday was spent in a whirl of coffee breaks, shopping, lunch, wine and more shopping. Whilst the prices horrified me, the experience was worth every penny and I felt like a million dollars with my Harrods purchases and several Harvey Nichols bags. After a short rest at teatime, we put on our glad rags which, for me, was one of my Harvey Nichols purchases; a flattering printed silk-blend midi dress in midnight blue. I decided there and then that this is what I want to be buried in, and made Abigail promise to see that my wishes were carried out on pain of being disinherited. We then taxied to Shaftesbury Avenue and the Sondheim Theatre with reserved tickets for Les Miserables. Whilst the tickets probably cost more than the GDP of a small country, the experience was priceless. Now I’m much more a film fan than a theatre-goer but I had to admit that this production was near perfect. Every note of every song a lingering echo in a hushed theatre with the most amazing acoustics. Afterwards, and feeling strangely emotional, we had a late supper at Hawksmoor in Piccadilly Circus. The doors to this building are enormous and a grand spiral staircase takes you up from street level to the biggest dining room I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, we were late abed on Saturday night, in fact it was Sunday morning.

After a late breakfast, we set off for Hyde Park and spent the rest of the morning taking in the sights, wandering around flea markets and bookshops, drinking coffee, getting lost and generally behaving like the tourists we were. It was wonderful. After a surfeit of fine dining, lunch was provided by a vendor in a burger van and delicious it was too, although the poor chap couldn’t make tea to save his life. Fortunately, Abigail stopped me from pointing out the error of his ways.

Our last evening event was a trip to the cinema to see the latest Ghostbusters film. While I’m not a particular fan of the genre, we wanted to see something light and entertaining so it was either that or Kung Fu Panda 4. I think we chose wisely.

Back at Claridge’s, we ordered a light snack from Room Service and I went off to bed, financially dented but happier than I’d been for a long time. Monday morning’s taxi took us back to King’s Cross after breakfast and we retraced our steps back to Yorkshire and home.

Spending money was fun and for just that weekend, I was the original merry widow. Perhaps I’ll do it again one day.

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