Hello Blighty, I’ve just come back from a week in Greece, the old man is fast approaching 70 and all he wanted for his birthday was to lie on a Greek beach doing sod all, so that’s what we did, and when I say sod all, there are entire days when my fitness app struggled to make it over five hundred steps.
Oh by the way, before any of you jump to conclusions and start thinking “blimey she’s looking good for her age”, I’m 12 years younger than him and distinctly average for my age, a fact which basically means that on this holiday, I was bulging out of a size 14 all-in-one Boden swim suit and reading Lullaby by Leila Slimani, so far, so cliché.
Suffice to say, we were amongst the oldest on our patch of posh resort, a Sithonian sandy cove sloping gently into shallow crystal clear waters, the kind of pebble free beach that is ideal for small children finding their sea legs.
In fact, I have never seen so many toddlers in one place, it was like a sand-covered kindergarten and over the week I saw many sights that tugged on my rusty old maternal heartstrings.
My own daughter is 29, so it’s been a long time since I’ve felt a tiny sticky little starfish of a hand creep into mine, and years since I’ve built sandcastles that just get stomped on.
Toddlers are great aren’t they? The shape of them, their round little bums and wobbly big heads and the way they copy each other and fall over, and how brave they are about making friends even when the only language they have in common is complete babble.
I’d forgotten the paraphernalia that accompanies a two-year-old to the beach, the endless plastic buckets and digging equipment, the ever more elaborate inflatables and the sun safe foreign legion all-in-ones that the fair-skinned mini-Celts must endure. I’d forgotten the eternal parental cry of “come back, I haven’t finished doing your legs” as a greasy child bolts from yet another dreaded factor 50 slathering, and those endless plastic bowls of chopped up spaghetti bolognaise at the beach bar.
On the whole, I like children, particularly this age group, when they have yet to learn the value of meanness, I was particularly taken by a small French 18-month-old moppet who entertained herself alone for hours in a pool of mud and then learnt to jump off the end of the jetty and laughed in the face of danger.
I also saw some great parenting over the week, I saw mums and dads pretend to enjoy hopeless games of catch, with children who never once caught the ball, I saw Dads take precious three-year-olds in life jackets out on daring kayak adventures, and mums put down their Kindles and pretend to be crocodiles in the water.
I saw and heard so many things that made me feel really fond of complete strangers… and then we went out for dinner and all the babies came too.
Now, I don’t expect a baby-free zone when I’m eating most of the time, but when the table is reserved for 8.30pm and we’ve decided to go to the posh place with the view – which you know is posh because the menus are the size of broadsheet newspapers and everything is a “foam” and “an experience”, and the waiter only puts a tiny bit of wine in your glass, because you’re meant to savour the stuff and not knock it back – well then, yes, I do expect the smalls to be either absent or on their best behavior.
When I say “best behaviour” I don’t mean sitting eating snails and joining in the conversation about Brexit, but I do mean equipped with enough breadsticks to mush into their hair and harnessed into a high chair.
Children running around in restaurants is something that (forgive me) really gets on my tits, because as an ex-waitress, I know how dangerous it is and as a punter I once lost half a £35 tuna steak due to rampaging toddler accidentally jogging my elbow.
Faced with kids running around on this occasion, I strategically placed a handy ice bucket on a stand directly in their path and won that round. Go me, however, I lost the next round to Peppa Pig, which was being played at full volume on a nearby table by an exhausted two-year-old who was slumped, barely conscious over his iPad.
Now, I’m not going to get all self righteous about iPads, I think they’re great and any toy makes some kind of noise, lets face it, even colouring in with a squeaky felt tip can be annoying. But if a child is going to sit up in a place where pudding costs €15 and even I’ve kept my shoes on, then parents, please for the sake of all our sanity, do us a favour, dammit, and provide headphones.
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