This story started four days ago, at 8pm in our girls’ bedroom, long past bedtime. For twenty minutes I comforted a weeping small child. She was devastated, properly ‘gasp-sobbing’ as I explained something that is really difficult to understand when you’re two.
“Sometimes, princesses do go away”
“But (gasp) where (gasp) is (gasp) she?”
“She’ll be back.” More devastated sobs muffled by a drenched pillow and beating of fists.
To give some context to the situation, we have suffered a grave loss in our household this week. The Duchess of Cambridge has disappeared without a trace. She was last seen, quite happily in the Happyland country cottage hosting a dinner party with Mummy Pig and Madam Gazelle. Prince William and baby George are understandably bereft. It took a long time to reassure my little girl, that state visits are very common when you’re a major Royal and that you can’t always take your baby with you. Eventually she fell asleep, little gasps carrying on into the small hours, me praying that by the morning she would have forgotten about the missing Early Learning Centre version of Kate, or that the Duchess would somehow appear. Some hope, eh?
Anyway, the big news of the week is that we’re going on holiday. Well, kind of. Every school holiday we see my parents, either they make the long trek to Cornwall or we visit West Yorkshire. This time, we’re venturing north to the great delight of the entire family and (I hope) mum and dad too. I’m giddy at the prospect, of a lie in, hearing the words “Can I help with… (insert childcare related chore)” and a bottomless cup of tea. Seriously, I used to like tea. Before I had children I used to think about having a cup of tea… And then have a cup of tea. Now? No no no no no. My husband makes me a coffee at 6am because he’s a saint and he knows if he doesn’t, I won’t get one. Often he returns home at 6pm to a shrivelled dehydrated and rasping wife who hasn’t seen a drop of fluid, save the odd imaginary cup of tea served by our toddler. So mum and dad’s is a dream come true.
The packing situation, however, is a total nightmare.
My husband is wonderful at many things: the coffee every morning is amazing. The DIY, faultless. He cooks! But packing, is not his thing. Packing involves visiting the ironing basket (that I haven’t even started) rifling for a couple of minutes and then doing his ‘quick scan’ technique (see No One Likes Tuesday) then shouting for me to come and retrieve whatever it was he was looking for, usually about 3ft from where he’s standing. “Why do you hide these things?” Because it’s hilarious love, it’s the only way to make it through the day, don’t you know I spend hours plotting these japes? Honestly, I can’t sleep for thinking about where next to hide his socks. By mutual agreement, we decided that if he can leave a pile of un-ironed, mostly worn garments in a place I’m likely to trip over them, I’ll sort the rest. This makes it sound like I’m happy with this arrangement, I’m really not. Packing for a week in Yorkshire during summer is like preparing for an arctic expedition with a stop over in the Sahara during a dry spell. It’s impossible to get it right. One year at Easter we were caught in a ridiculous blizzard. The boy had to have makeshift ‘carrier bag’ wellies taped up with parcel tape and covered with grandad’s walking socks. Another year I arrived in late September to visit my best friend who had just given birth…in a tropical Indian summer Yorkshire heat wave. Ironically I had brought the baby a snowsuit. Typically I began ‘packing day’ pondering all this on the sofa with a rare cup of tea. My sister in law had kindly offered to take big boy and girl for the afternoon to make the process easier. As me and the little one sat on the sofa in the playroom it did occur to me that packing would realistically take an hour, two tops. How often did I get the run of the house to move a spot of furniture around? Baby napping, before I knew it, this had happened:
I know, I know. How could I have got into this position without realising it wasn’t going to fit through the door… Because, well, it’s me. My husband would tell you with glee I have absolutely no sense of direction or spatial awareness. Someone I used to work with would often refer to me as a motor moron, due to my lack of co-ordination; cruel, but shockingly close to the truth. As I was stood trapped in the living room with the playroom sofa stuck in the doorway and no way of escape, I thought about this and duly had a word with myself. You can do it Langers, you’ve seen worse than a sofa, you’ve worn bodily fluids to work for 5 years now, you’ve survived on 3 hours sleep with 2 year 11 classes in exam season, whilst 7 months pregnant… SHIFT IT! And with an almighty shoulder shove, it came loose. Somewhere from the top was a distant clunk. Deep in the recesses of the enormous sofa, something small had pinged slowly through the springs, like a pinball. I manoeuvred the huge beast, this way and that, to ease it back to its original home, whilst slowly moving this tiny object the length of the sofa til I could reach down the side of the arm closest to the floor (bravely I might add, who knows when it last saw a vacuum) and retrieve it.
“And where the bloody hell do you think you’ve been, your majesty?”
When my husband returned home that evening and rather puzzled, questioned – why on earth had I bothered moving the huge sofa to the other side of the playroom, in a pointless move of 6 feet, benefitting the layout of the room not at all? I attempted to give my best breezy, nonchalant “Just fancied a change.”
Perhaps the gritted teeth gave it away.