(Not that I would know about anything remotely like ideal circumstances. I am, after all, the mother of a teenager.)
Prior to our recent trip to London, life in our household was a bit chaotic. We juggled sophomore final exams (not fun, believe me) and two horse injuries (a bruised leg and a cut eyelid, not fun and also quite expensive — those vet bills add up). We had to coordinate a house-sitter (my sister) and rides to the airport (my sister-in-law). And then there was that little snafu with the wrong helmet.
But, eventually we got it all done, got to the airport, and got on our plane. The flight was fine. As per usual, both my husband and daughter were able to sleep. And, as per usual, I was not. I can't help it. The seats are uncomfortable and my mind is racing. I watched Frozen and read a few back issues of The New Yorker.
These days, hotels in London are prohibitively expensive. But, I was able to find a "flat" (as a Yank, I can't help but smile) in Hampstead. I'm a big fan of Airbnb, and you would be too. A one-bedroom apartment, full kitchen and bath, five minutes from a Tube station for about one-third the cost of a single hotel room.
Early Friday morning, a little bleary-eyed, we had arrived and were unpacking for our stay. Suddenly, I heard ...
"Oh nooooooooooooo ....!"
My daughter held up her riding boots. Two of them. Both left.
"Mom, I'm soooooo sorry."
Let me explain. Back home, she owns two pairs of these boots. The older ones are used for lessons and mucking about the stable. The newer ones are in better shape and she wears them for clinics and competitions. But, here's the rub. Both pairs are so perpetually caked in mud and dust that it wasn't obvious which was which. Despite my constant "clean your boots" refrain. (All right, that's another story.)
Being rather a stress-freak by nature, I try to maintain my cool in these situations. ("It's a thing, not a person.") This wasn't the end of the world, I assured her. It was an inconvenience and would cost us some money. That's all.
Little did I know.
In addition to all our fabulous bat mitzvah activities, London sightseeing, fish and chips, and pubs, we would just have to find a tack shop and buy some boots. How hard could it be? We were in England, after all.
The Brits love their horses. From Velvet Brown to Lady Mary to Queen Elizabeth herself. In the movie What a Girl Wants (which we watched at least a hundred times when my daughter was younger), not-yet-crazy Amanda Bynes hugs her stuffy grandmother. The older woman explains "No hugging dear. I'm British. We only show affection to dogs and horses."
Thanks to my smart phone and our adorable flat's adorable WiFi, I found a tack store about four miles northeast of us. Of course, we didn't have a car and the Tube didn't go there, but we would manage somehow. Meanwhile, my husband jumped online and found a famous sporting goods store, Lillywhites, that had a large selection of boots and a location in central London. (Must say "Well done, old chap!")
We were tied up with bat mitzvah activities all weekend, and my daughter was heading to Spain Tuesday, so Monday morning she and I went to find Lillywhites. Despite a huge selection of equestrian gear online, the store had only one pair of boots that looked more like fashion wear than sports gear. I asked if there was any other place we could look and the associate immediately said, "Harrods," but warned that they would be "rather expensive."
Rather was right!
Harrods, arguably London's most famous and fashionable department store, did indeed have a lovely equestrian department. In fact, they had my daughter's exact boots. Really. For exactly $513 more than we paid for them back home. Really. They were a higher price to begin with and we had to factor in the dismal exchange rate.
To my daughter's credit, she didn't even think about asking me for them.
That afternoon, we toured Shakespeare's Globe and that evening, we had tickets for a show — only a couple of hours in between and it was my daughter's last day in London. My husband to the rescue again! He found a Decathlon Sports store and this time called ahead to make sure they had boots in stock. My daughter and I raced to the Tube and took it out (way out) to Canada Water, a freshwater lake and wildlife refuge (and, sporting goods mall, apparently) where we met several of the queen's swans and finally, finally found some boots.
We made it back to the flat in time to change and go to the show. And my daughter made it to Barcelona the next day with two boots.
One left. One right. One happy girl. One tired mama.
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