Trapped with his mother

The statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. Picture: LJM

The statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. Picture: LJM - Credit: Archant

It was a mother and son bonding experience and, happily for us both, it lasted under an hour

I sat on this ice cream cone seat... buttock alert! Picture: LJM

I sat on this ice cream cone seat... buttock alert! Picture: LJM - Credit: Archant

I expect I am one of the last people in East Anglia, if not the UK, to have experienced an Escape Room.

Last year, my daughter and I went to the Second World War code-cracking complex at Bletchley Park and, wishing to make peacetime use of those recently-acquired skills in decoding ciphers, my son and I went to an Escape Room in Bermondsey to see if we could solve the puzzles and get out of a locked room within an hour.

The first test of initiative was getting to Bermondsey from Liverpool Street.

There are a number of permutations for getting onto the Jubilee Line, one of which is changing underground trains at Bank. In my experience, finding another platform at Bank involves something akin to a five-kilometre hike with stairs, so we didn’t go that way.


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Arriving at Bermondsey with an hour to spare, the next challenge was to get a cup of coffee. The only place we could find was an ice cream parlour which was heaving with parents and children, out for a Friday after-school treat. All the comfortable booths were full, so Mark and I perched on seats fashioned as ice cream cones, which were designed for smaller bottoms than mine. “Just count yourself lucky it isn’t a 99,” said my son. Refreshed but with slightly chafed buttocks, we headed for the Old Biscuit Factory wherein lay the Escape Rooms. After a health and safety briefing (press the button and ask for help) we were also told where clues would not be found... clearly previous internees had attempted to dismantle the place. “The back of the radio does not come off and nor does the wallpaper” - that sort of thing.

Mark and I were the minimum number (two) and, me being a novice and Mark having to put up with me, we had opted for the easier task. Easier? It was fiendish but fun. I had a few operational difficulties. For example, I got on the floor to help solve one puzzle and couldn’t get up.

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“You go on without me – I can’t make it but you can, son. Save yourself,” I over-acted.

Mark ignored me and carried on being much better than me at this sort of thing. In the end, we managed to escape with four minutes to spare. I was rather hoping for a medal but got nothing.

There are escape rooms popping up in towns everywhere and they are great entertainment: a sort of cross between the Crystal Maze (only without prizes, see “no medal” above) and Only Connect (only without Victoria Coren Mitchell). Escape rooms are an antidote to social media because you have to work as a team and communicate via the old-fashioned method known as speech.

After our triumph, mother and son, like conquering heroes, headed to the Southbank, where we celebrated with a pre-prandial drink. Mark had a pint of Mortimer’s. It’s a cider and it’s given me a really good idea for what to get people for Christmas.

After a meal, we headed back to our hotel across the river (via the tube). It is called the Hub and the rooms are like futuristic pods. There was a lit panel where a window might have been and the bed, which fits into a space exactly made to measure so that luggage can go underneath. On the wall at the foot end is a television and in the panel at the pillow end are controls for lights, do not disturb, air conditioning and temperature.

Once I had managed to hurl myself up onto the bed, there was no further reason to leave it. Mark and I were six floors apart so he missed out on his mum singing him bedtime songs and tucking him in.

The following morning we ambled around Spitalfields market and then Mark headed off home to Cait and their three sons while I headed for Parliament Square to pay my respects to suffragist Millicent Fawcett, whose statue has just joined the men - Disraeli, Churchill etc. A bunch of flowers had been placed at her feet. I did a selfie with her but the camera angles weren’t ideal - I couldn’t get far enough away from myself.

When I returned on the Circle Line, the seats were all taken so I grabbed an overhead strap and looked forlorn.

It worked. A man offered me his seat. It was a kind and gracious gesture from one human being to another, older, human being and I appreciated it. I thanked him and sat down. Please don’t judge but I also walk through doors when they are held open for me. Sometimes, being slightly unreconstructed gives me a warm glow.

Back at Liverpool Street, I was momentarily thrown by a notice pointing to Old Broad Street – could it be a sign? Well, yes, of course it was a sign, but was it an omen?

I decided it wasn’t.

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