Children’s birthday party is a bit rocky
”Mum, will you come with us?” My daughter asked.
“Whale watching? Oh dear, I’m not sure. Can’t Paul go with you?”
“He’s working that day, I can’t take six ten-year-olds, plus Beth, on my own. Come on Mum, you’ll enjoy it,” she wheedled.
So against my better judgment I agreed to assist with my granddaughter Stephanie’s birthday treat. I just prayed the weather would be kind to us, and the sea calm.
The day of Steph’s tenth birthday arrived, I drove to my daughter’s house early that morning, to find seven very excited little girls.
Steph’s sister Beth rushed to greet me. “Are you excited Mamma? We’re going to see whales today. Can you believe it?” She jumped up and down, her blonde pigtails flying.
“I’m really excited,” I answered, fingers crossed behind my back.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” I hugged my eldest granddaughter, “Now who do we have we here?”
She introduced her five friends, and I tried to remember all their names.
“Okay, who's ready to go on this adventure?” I asked, and according to all the answering screams of “me!” It seemed everyone was keen to get going.
My daughter, Jenny, packed the birthday cake and picnic into her car, and we piled the kids into our vehicles and set off.
Unfortunately the weather began to deteriorate the closer we got to the Indian Ocean, an hour later we reached the harbour.
Jenny went to speak to the boat people, and I stood counting heads, making sure we didn’t mislay any children. When Jenny returned, her face looked troubled, “The captain says it’s rough out there,” she said, nodding towards the ocean, “we can change our tickets for another day if we want to.”
There was a loud groan, and cries of protest from the group of excited kids. “Oh, no, Mummy. I want to go today. You promised.” Stephanie’s eyes filled with tears.
“Oh, come on, Jenny,” I urged, unable to bear the looks of disappointment in the kids’ faces, “it’ll be fine. Let’s do it. It will be an adventure. Won’t it kids?”
“Yay! We’re going to see the whales!” They all squealed and jumped around like a litter of excited puppies.
Jenny looked at me, “You sure Mum?” She looked dubious.
I shrugged. Did we have a choice?
About fifteen minutes out to sea, Jenny started to turn green. “I’m going down below. Watch the kids Mum. Make sure no one falls overboard.”
The children seemed to be having fun; they were running around the boat. I stood watching the angry-looking ocean; the boat began rocking from side to side, perhaps displaying anger at being out in this bad weather, when she could have been in a safe harbour. Looking up at the darkening sky, I knew we’d made a big mistake. We’d only been out to sea around half an hour, it would be at least another thirty minutes until we reached the whale spotting area. One by one the children left the deck, each going down into the cabin below.
Gripping the rail, I took several deep breaths, determined to remain upright, although my mouth filled with saliva and my stomach lurched.
I felt a pull on my coat, and looking down I saw a sad-faced, six-year-old Beth, “Mamma,” she whispered, “Mummy’s not speaking to me, she’s lying down and Steph’s being sick in the toilets.
“So sorry Darling, Mamma’s not feeling too well. Go and play.” I said, not daring to look down at her again. I needed to keep my eyes on the horizon.
I cast my eyes around the lurching deck, I could see no sign of the children, but there were a few adults leaning over the railings being sick.
I heard an announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please look over to your right, a whale is breaching about a hundred yards away.” By this time I was past caring about whales, I just wanted to die.
I felt someone standing close to me as I vomited into the green water and I heard a small voice say,
“This is the best birthday party ever.”
“I glanced to my right, there stood Sandy, Steph’s best friend. At almost the same time we were seasick over the side. As we looked down, there, directly below us, was the biggest creature either of us had ever seen. We both pointed, unable to speak. The whale raised its massive head, glaring with one huge eye at Sandy and me.
“We puked on a whale!” Sandy whispered. She looked at me, her eyes wide with surprise.
At last the ordeal was over and we reached land. Nine white faced people staggered on to the jetty.
“Are we having my cake now, mummy?” Birthday girl asked, her freckles standing out like chocolate sprinkles on her deathly pale face.
Everyone wanted to tell their own horror story of how sick they’d been. One little girl exclaimed, “and the boat was rocking so much when I was on the toilet, the door flew open, and everyone saw my knickers down by my ankles!”
None of us ever forget Stephanie’s tenth birthday, although it’s over twenty years ago.
Sandy is a young mum herself now. I saw her in the supermarket last week. “Hi Mrs M,” she said, “Do you remember when we threw up on that whale?”
How could I ever forget?