The brilliant blogger South of the River Mum hosted a blog hop last month and the prize was dinner for two at Hotel du Vin or Malmaison plus four glorious hours’ of free babysitting with a registered babysitter from London childcare agency, Likeminders.
The theme of the blog hop was ‘Time4You’, and South of the River Mum explained it like this:
“I’m actually talking about time out with your partner. Yes, just your partner, getting to know him again after the madness of colic, sleepless nights (and not in a good way) and feeding schedules, when all you wanted to do was slouch in front of the TV when you had any spare time. There comes a point when it’s actually time to take your head and body out of mummyville for a few hours and reconnect, relax and ideally have some fun with your other half.”
I wrote this post about a cheeky little habit we’ve developed of slinking away for a breakfast date when it all gets too much and we need some time out. And… drumroll please… I won the blog hop!
I couldn’t take up the free babysitting part as Likeminders are based in London but, as luck would have it, my parents have just relocated to Ireland and now live around the corner from us, so guess who got lumbered with the little darlings while we hot-footed it out for lunch at the Belfast Mal? Talk about karma. It was glorious.
We dug around in the depths of our wardrobes for something beyond our usual scruffy look. I laughed when I realised we’d both resorted to the old ‘throw-a-smart-jacket-over-this-haphazard-look-and-it-might-pass-muster’ trick. I managed to put all my make-up on for once, instead of my usual habit of reluctantly braving the bare-faced look, having forgotten where I put my make-up bag the last time I hurriedly applied it in the car.
I did threaten to call the whole thing off when the kids went berserk in the frantic half hour before we left the house, but tried to celebrate the madness of the moment and remind myself that I’d won this prize in honour of the sage truth that taking time out for parents is a feat of wondrous endurance in itself.
Screaming like a banshee while dripping from the shower, clad only in an inadequately-sized towel is not the way I like to start a date, though, it must be said.
Still, we had vichyssoise and goat’s cheese tart to start, then aged rib-eye steak with bordelaise sauce, followed by chocolate yule log for him and a selection of to-die-for artisan cheese for yours truly.
We only had to pay for drinks but still managed to rack up an eye-watering bill of £35 despite restraining ourselves to a single glass of red wine and an after-dinner glass of port for him, and a scrumptious espresso martini for me.
Incidentally – Carrie Bradshaw was so wrong about Cosmopolitans – my signature drink when I’m a famous novelist will unquestionably be an espresso martini, and I’ll throw a diva-esque strop if it’s not garnished with the requisite three coffee beans. Mine wasn’t on this occasion but I first fell in love with what my husband pointed out is basically an Irish Coffee gone cold at the Belfast Mal on a press trip, so I decided to let it slide and save the strop for when I’m actually footing the entire bill.
After lunch we indulged in a spot of retail therapy (I kicked myself later when I realised we’d forgotten to order the coffee and chocolates after our meal) and then it was time to pick up my brother from the airport in time for our first family Christmas on the North Coast, and head back to reality… and parenthood.
Fortunately the lads had behaved themselves impeccably (despite fleecing their grandfather in an expertly-manipulative manouevre at the local toy shop) – to the point that their grandparents gushed about their delightful charges while their father and I exchanged bemused glances and wondered silently where we’re going wrong. Back at home they reverted to their normal
demanding assertive selves, and there were tears before bedtime.
But that’s you-time when you’re a parent, isn’t it? An epic effort to recapture, for a fleeting moment, the care-free social whirl that once came so effortlessly, interspersed with various logistical challenges of giant proportions, to the extent that you wonder if the you-time at the end of the tunnel is actually worth it. But at the end of it all, the warm fuzzy glow of an espresso martini in the middle of the afternoon and the unmistakably alien sense of feeling relaxed, thanks to the joy of uninterrupted conversations, labouring over lunch instead of speed-eating before anyone throws a wobbler, and meandering around shops without negotiating your way out of tantrums over must-have toys. It was heaven.
And thanks to my lovely lunch date, too! The next one’s on you…