A Plymouth mum has admitted she once convinced her daughter they had visited London on a day trip – when they had actually only made it as far as Exeter.
The mother, known only as Olivia, begged for forgiveness on BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo drive time show Confessions segment, when she revealed took her four year old daughter Exeter two years ago – and told her they were in London.
Reading her letter to listeners, Mayo said: “To the venerable Father Simon and your team of human moral compasses; a couple of years ago, my work often took me to London and coming from Plymouth, this usually involved an overnight stay.
“During which time my then four year old daughter would get palmed off on long suffering relatives, and as she hated me leaving, she would have to be peeled from me in floods of tears. I hated it too and often set off to London teary eyed myself.
“When I returned I inevitably returned with yet more tat; souvenirs from the Paddington shop in a desperate bid to alleviate my guilt for abandoning her again, books, toys, pillows, you name it, she now boasts quite a collection of guilt soaked, Paddington memorabilia.
“You could say that London was quite a big deal for my daughter. She used to beg and plead with me to take her with me one day so she could meet the now idolised Paddington in the furry flesh.
“Spotting an opportunity to make my own life easier, I told her that when she could walk for more than five minutes without whinging, I’d take her on her very first trip to the big smoke.
“She hastily agreed and when, a few months later I has able to make it all around the supermarket with her without the constant moaning about her achy legs, I knew it was time to deliver on my promise.
“The day finally arrived and she packed her little rucksack and with barely a wink of sleep the night before from the excitement of it all, off we headed to the train station.
“While excitedly sitting on the train and tucking into our lunch and snacks, I began to receive worried texts from my mum and sisters, each of whom had heard on the news that there was a security alert in the capital.
“This is where my plea for forgiveness actually begins.
“I’m not proud of this, but I actually began to feel a little panicked inside. My maternal instincts were now pinging off this way and that and I was beginning to feel uneasy about being in Paddington Station at a time of high security with my precious little girl.
“I realised how daft this sounds now, but as a self-confessed bumpkin from Devon, I just wanted to head straight back home, but, going home was not going to go down well and I was faced with a real dilemma.
“We alighted the train at the next stop – Exeter St David’s – and I was just preparing to break the bad news to her that London would have to wait for another day, when I noticed there was a strange spring in her four year-old step that stopped me in my tracks.
“’Hello London dog!’ she called to a passing puppy. ‘Hello London lady’ she called to the passing puppy’s owner, confusing her greatly. ‘Hello London’ she shouts.
“I should say at this point, how fortuitous it was, that my darling daughter had not yet learnt to read or indeed question me, and so it dawned on me, that she thought we were actually already in London, and so taking a deep breath I just sort of went along with it, and the deceit just kind of escalated from there really.
“Off we jolly well trotted to Buckingham Palace, which was Exeter Cathedral, a quick spin around the Natural History Museum, which was the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, before having our picnic lunch and an ice cream in Hyde Park -what could be better? – well it was Northernhay Gardens actually.
“We even happened to bump into my friend and her little boy, who lived in Exeter but happened to be just passing through London for the day. What are the chances?
“We bought a smart new pair of London boots from a well-known discount fashion store, we even managed to get to Hamleys – Build a Bear, which my daughter said was slightly smaller than she had expected – to buy a stuffed reindeer or something like that because sadly the Paddington shop was closed.
“Well, all that walking and sightseeing was tiring, so off we went to our hotel, the Chorus Hotel, Hyde Park, which was of course, the Premier Inn, in Exeter, but she didn’t notice that.
“Yes, I did indeed pay for another hotel room that night, in order to cover my devious tracks. It was without doubt the most expensive trip to London I had ever not made.
“We headed home the next morning, she full of our proud tales of our grand day out in London, clutching evidence for her show and tell in her school the next day. I’ve no idea how her poor teachers handled that one, but I guess they probably concluded that I was just a bit mad.
“So my fate was sealed and to this day we speak about the momentous day that she went to London for the first time ever. My friends and family are in on the joke and nobody able to mention London without putting it in air quotes.
“My daughter is now six and a half and still doesn’t know that she’s never been to London.
“One day she will discover what a deceitful mother I actually am, but for now she lives in ignorant bliss.
“She does ask from time to time why it is that there are areas of Exeter that children are not allowed to go to but other than that it does seem that I’ve got away with it for now.
“Father Simon, I seek forgiveness not from my daughter for pulling the wool over her eyes, although I am sure I have some serious grovelling to do when my cover is finally blown, but from the good people of London who on learning about my self-spun web of deceit would quite rightly consider me as a massive wimp for taking such drastic action to avoid the whole of London, because I’m a scaredy-cat.
“But try telling me, that you would have done anything different and come clean, wiping that gorgeous smile, from my daughters face.”
The radio DJ then turned to his fellow presenters, travel master, Bobbie Prior and voice of sport, Matthew Williams for their opinion.
Bobbie said: “It’s quite easy I suppose as you’ve got the Maritime Museum as well so you could say you’re on the Thames. As there’s boats at Exeter, you could say you were at Greenwich, so I suppose there are ways of getting away with it.
“The only thing I’ve got a problem with is show and tell because there might have been another child that went ‘that’s not London’ so she did very well to get away with it.
“She could have been exposed, but I thought she did very well. I wouldn’t have been on it to say that it was London so well done for her quick thinking. She is completely forgiven.”
Matt Williams added: “The key quote in this confession I think was that ‘she was too young to read or question me’.
“Oh how I hanker back to the days when they weren’t capable of independent thought, and this is obviously pretty inspiring as well because the very idea you could tell your children ‘we’re going to Disneyland’ and then just take them in the train for half an hour and then get out and say ‘this is Disneyland, it’s not as good as I thought it would be, but it is still Disneyland’ I could save myself hundreds.
“I think I am definitely going to forgive.”