We’ve had a birthday and a trip to Antwerp and stolen a napkin from Brasserie Zedel. Two kids have been on three camps and I bought another handbag. The kids haven’t asphyxiated yet from the fumes along the Marylebone Road and I lost my passport. We’ve been out to a five course wine-matched dinner at The Providores and paid a thousand quid to fix the bit on the back of the Landrover that I smashed into a telephone pole in Devon. And yet…and yet, the marriage is still intact and life, frankly, goes on, even while you are suffering mid-life crises and cataclysmic life impasses. Family life is good for forcing you to get on with it, after all.
So, Mark turned 54 and so we held a birthday week for him. He got trainers, t-shirts, Nigella’s brownie (but with sour cherries instead of walnuts – a vast improvement), dinner out, brunch out, a naked-y burlesque evening and a conveniently-timed kidless weekend in Antwerp which wasn’t really a birthday thing at all, but we pretended. And how do people with five kids and no family around to help get to have a kidless weekend in Antwerp? This is how:
- Two months prior, you spy the cheap Eurostar deal of 29 quid each way, and you ask your architect foodie mates if they want to come and they say yes and you think you have two months to figure out the kid details.
- You have a rough idea of who to farm the kids out to, and you tentatively ask a few people and slowly a workable plan emerges. One kid to one family, two to another, and the last two to the third family. You are very grateful and say you will return the favour. You know you could pay a babysitter to come and stay the weekend but you think that will be very expensive (thereby negating the cheap tickets in the first place then really negating the whole point of the thing) and you also think that because you operate a kind of sociable, open house policy in your daily life, where the contents of the fridge are always welcome and the prosecco flows *rather* freely, that you might just see if your mates could help you out for one night in a quid pro quo kind of situation.
- Charlotte says she would love to take Magic away for the weekend. This is a massive thing.
- You email the people who have said they will help to remind them of it. One says yes, another says ON NO I CAN’T I’LL STILL BE AWAY I’M SO SORRY I WAS CALLED AWAY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD! and you think – fair enough. Another one (also called away to the other side of the world) doesn’t reply.
- You rearrange and wait and hope and wonder about alternatives.
- The day and a half before you leave on the 6:57am train, you find out that two kids cannot be farmed out anymore – and you panic.
- You ask everyone you have ever met – teachers, TA’s, the parish vicar who lives down the road, a woman you met once at a party, new friends, old friends – to take two kids overnight. You feel embarrassed to ask. It is awkward and it is turning a weekend away into a monstrously self-indulgent, ridiculous thing. Everyone is trying to help and they are ruining their own weekends. You think you should just stay at home, but two overstretched neighbours come to your kid-drama rescue.
- You leave at 6:57am. You have a lovely time except for the hysterical phone call from the middle child saying the eldest has smashed his already-broken wrist in a door. You are about to enter the Eurotunnel so can’t do much. Also you lose your passport and have to cry at the man at UK border control to get back into the country.
So I won’t be doing that again. Weekends away are for those with kind mothers/in-laws/more cash. Weekends away are for the childless, the free-spirited, those with au-pairs. They are not for us. We made our too-many-children-to-go-away-cheaply-or-easily-bed, and we just have to lie in it.
Anyway, this is what Antwerp was all about – first, the station, which may or may not still have my passport lost somewhere under a random bit of station furniture:
One of many daytime kir royals:
In a pub that was really like a church. A church of kir royals, if you will, and many, many Marys & her religion icon-ilk:
When we came back, Sarah and I went to a Poetry Reading in Fulham, which was surprisingly lovely and emotional. I thought poetry was too much like think-y maths, but I was wrong. Here I am wearing purposely mis-matched earrings but I think it just makes people think you are slovenly/short-sighted:
Also, that night (and many nights since) I have worn this Def Leppard t-shirt. The guy at the shop where I bought it didn’t know who they were. I am too old and he was too young. This is happening a lot lately:
Brunch at Grangers with my beloved. I missed out on Martha’s yoga class for this particular date, which pretty much proves I love him – because I also love Martha a lot. She touches me with tiny little kind movements (‘adjustments’ to my yoga postures is the official line) and it’s the only time someone touches me without actually wanting something back. Anyway, birthday lunchtime faces:
Otis The Wonky-Toothed goes to the barber and gets a Kit Kat:
There was an afore-mentioned brownie party. I ate seven pieces over the weekend and have had to make an emergency batch for when Mark gets home from Cub Camp:
More on my yoga crush later. And on the pod-cast plans. THE POD CAST PLANS! JUST YOU WAIT!