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Albert Versus Southend

Albert Versus Southend

On Saturday, Andrew and Sofia made their monthly pilgrimage to London, no doubt to either Greenwich or Borough Market – you don’t even have to ask where their going any more, chances are it’ll be one of those two. The mere suggestion of anywhere else would leave Sofia with a face so sour it could turn her organic milk. It was up to us to entertain young Albert, and rather than stay in, letting him run about the house like some mad chimp in a cage, we decided to take him out for the day, to Southend-on-Sea.

Andrew’s new turbo charged Saab 9-5 Aero HOT was quickly chosen as our method of transport so as to better blend in with the ‘boy racers’ cruising down the front in their modified Focus ST and Saxo chav chariots. After half an hour, Dad finally found first gear, and we were off, Albert happily chirping away in the back, smearing melted white chocolate over the the clean upholstery while I helpfully pointed out all the areas he had missed. Things were looking good – the sun was out, Albert was behaving, gear changes were down to 5 seconds accompanied with only a smattering of swearing. The traffic was God awful, as usual, and I feared we were doomed to spend the day searching for that mythical perfect parking space, but Albert was becoming grizzly and we parked wherever we could.

As soon as Albert had more sun cream than an Aussie cricketer, we strapped him in the pushchair and went in search of some Rossi ice cream. It was Albert’s first time using the high end ‘Mamas and Papas’ pushchair which Dad found cheap in a charity shop, and compared to the old buggy it was a Godsend, and I highly recommend it to those who have the funds (or if you’re my Aunt, just steal one). Reaching the front, avoiding the vomit, syringes, beer cans, half eaten fish ‘n’ chips and inebriated chavs which littered the pavements, the search was on for the cheapest ice cream Southend could offer. There was little chance of Dad spending two pounds on a cornet only to watch it hit the ground in a cold dirty startling splat that thumps one right on the heart, sounding as loud as it feels. Luckily, we soon found a ‘Pensioners Cornet’ for 75p, and Dad was happier than Albert. There was no question of age, the ice cream man assuming Dad was on day release from some local care home. Becoming increasingly confused by the sight of an ice cream cone being shoved in his face, this new concept of dining was initially beyond Albert. Dad had the bright idea of snapping the end off the cone and dipping it in the ice cream, creating a miniature ice cream cornet, which Albert quickly licked at with delight, later gnashing on the crunchy wafer cone with his razor-sharp armour piercing teeth.

Albert approached the beach with the same trepidation an adult would feel stepping onto the surface of the moon for the first time. He enjoyed his time on the beach, taking in the new surroundings, busy discovering a whole new world. It was soon time to go, but before returning to the car, we stopped at an overcrowded playground, where Albert had a go on the slide, with some help from his Nan.

On the way back home, we stopped off to visit Uncle Gerrard and Auntie Sioban. After a vigorous knocking on the door loud enough to wake a crack den it was assumed there was no one home, until I noticed an open window and the sound of a hoover inside.

Door finally answered, Albert entered but stayed put just beyond the threshold for several minutes, expecting the promise of his favourite food (crisps, and plenty of them) to be some form of cunning ruse designed to discover the stash of milky bar buttons melting away in his pocket. It was only when the salty snacks were shown that he stepped forth, salivating. Hula Hoops were a first for Albert. The initial crack accompanying every Hula Hoop sounded like snapping bones, a noise familiar to anyone who has ever offered Albert their hand. It’s difficult to say whether he preferred them over his usual diet of Monster Munch (Hot and Spicy flavour, no other), but safe to say he enjoyed them very much.

His feasting was interrupted by his Cousins brief appearance, not to lavish affection and gifts upon him, which Albert fully expected, but to a bum a ride from her Dad to a nearby BBQ. Thoroughly irked by the blatant snub, Albert decided to move her from top position of his list of ‘Favourite Cousins’ to last place, behind distant cousin Olof, a recluse living in the woods of Northern Sweden, hunting moose, deer and the occasional American backpacker.

Before leaving, Albert took a tour of the house, pressing every button he could find and causing more damage than an electromagnetic pulse. Ovens turned on, clock radio alarms reset, phones and mobiles left calling various police forces and speaking clocks from around the globe. Crisps eaten, nappy changed, chaos caused, it was time to go home. Final score: Albert 1, Southend 0.

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