Our London trip’s last mission, should we choose to accept it, was to infiltrate MI6 at its Vauxhall headquarters. Our plans were detailed, rehearsed and foolproof.
“Does MI6 do guided tours?” I had asked. The response was laughter, so I guessed no.
“The most heavily guarded building full of the country’s top secrets is hardly going to hold guided tours, Mum,” said son.
“Maybe we could just sit on the other side of the road from the building, looking at it through our hands like binoculars, wearing sunglasses,” I said.
“With balaclavas on!” said son.
“Oh no,” I said, being more realistic. “They would think we were terrorists and shoot us.”
That morning had been gloriously restful – no appointments or tours to get out of bed for.
Instead, we watched Match of the Day, which featured son’s schoolfriend Charlie Kay as Manchester City’s mascot. (Charlie is a superhero in our eyes – 10 years old, not held back by cerebral palsy, he has walked, cycled and swum 179 miles – the distance between his home and the Etihad Stadium – raising money for Muirfield Riding Therapy and East Lothian Special Needs Playscheme. He was rewarded for this achievement by being invited to meet his heroes and join them on the pitch before a Manchester derby match. We squeaked when we saw him on the telly. “Charlie’s famous!” squealed daughter.)
Our train home to Edinburgh from London was booked for 3.30pm, so we had plenty of time to kill, and Dad once again came to the rescue by driving us to Three Bridges to pick up a train to Victoria.
As an aside, I don’t know why there hasn’t been a revolution led by commuters down in the south of England. The train service is shoddy. Rubbish. Ill-equipped and not fit for purpose. The unreliable trains must cause huge losses in the economy, not to mention stress and ill-health in those who depend on them. Sort it out commuters – storm the barricades and demand an overhaul. Or nationalisation, which would be better.
Anyway, son and I abandoned husband and daughter at Victoria and walked to Vauxhall, to get a glimpse of that iconic view of the MI6 building (it’s called Vauxhall Cross. I didn’t know that). It was pouring with rain and blowing a gale but son’s eyes positively lit up when he realised what he was looking at. He’s a big fan of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books, and, as we walked over Vauxhall Bridge, regaled me with his “knowledge” of the building’s interior.
“There’s a car park underground. And there’s more of the building underground than there is above it. Look at all the cameras! Do you think they’re watching us? Maybe they can hear us too. Do they have soldiers inside? I think they do have military personnel who can respond immediately to an invasion. The glass is thick enough to withstand a bomb falling on it.”
I have not fact checked this information so can’t claim it’s true.
We walked down the steps onto the riverside and marched all round the building, looking up at the spike-topped walls and the dead-eyed windows. There was no movement inside. No lights. It was eerie.
After a few photographs, we got the Tube back to Victoria, met husband and daughter, and casually made our way to Kings Cross for our train home. The journey was undisturbed. Smooth and relaxing.
And now we are home, and home is very… quiet.