When you live in Brussels, people always say – oh, you can travel very easily to anywhere – this is true, but you rarely do. However, to celebrate (ahem) the fact that the boys have decided not to nap at the weekends, on Sunday we went on a day trip to Lille in France. We emerged from the car park into the last day of the Christmas market. Michael instantly wanted to go on the big wheel. We managed to put him off until we had all had lunch. The big wheel was a tremendous success as the children don’t seem to feel the cold at all. Arrived at ground level with three happy children and two frozen parents, one of whom could only see odd square patterns out of one eye (hello, migraine, welcome to France). We bought the children a helium balloon each (18 euros, fools and their money etc.). We wandered the streets of the old town, perished. The children were cheerful, though. We bought the Princess a pair of boots and a pair of shoes in an expensive shop, on sale but still dear (fools and their money part ii).
We decided not to go to the beautiful chic and expensive café which was probably the best decision of the day. We took ourselves to a creperie where we had upstairs (reached by a hair-raising spiral staircase) to ourselves once we had dislodged the unfortunate courting couple who had been there when we arrived. We spread ourselves and our 8 balloons (3 helium, 5 non – a present from the expensive shoe shop – we started with three but then the Princess wanted more yellow ones so we had to go back and get more – sometimes I think that there is no greater humiliation than being a parent) over three tables and I put my head in my hands, glad that the migraine patterns had stopped but beginning to wonder whether they might in fact be better than the pain (slightly reduced by the application of paracetemol). Mr. Waffle tried to stop the boys turning on and off the lights and rescued helium balloons from the ceiling. The Princess was actually very good and quite sympathetic and I began to entertain brief hopes that she might turn into a pleasant and considerate grown-up eventually. We finished up in the café and took children, buggy and eight balloons out the door with considerable difficulty. I felt very sorry for the other patrons who were clearly frozen as we went in and out several times.
We decided to cut our loses and head for home. The car park was small and narrow and there was no room to get the children in to the car because although the car park had been empty when we arrived, it was now full. We were about to try putting them in place from the front when the large car beside us left. I shamelessly opened the door and put in the children causing a long delay which nearly killed my husband. We put the three helium balloons in the boot with the Princess (you know in her seat in the station wagon, we’re stupid but we’re not heartless) – one covered by a coat. Mr. Waffle then tried to get out of the car park with gritted teeth. Daniel who is our most sensitive child and Daddy’s boy, stuck out his lower lip and started to cry because, as he explained to me “Daddy cwoss”. We explained in great detail to the Princess that the balloons had to stay down because otherwise Daddy would not be able to see out the window and we might all die.
I filled two bottles for the boys in the hope that they might sleep. Much of the milk got in the bottles but a certain amount landed on me. My mother always said that children don’t mind being warm and wet and I can now attest that this is true. It wasn’t too bad being wet and milk soaked in the car but when we screamed to a halt on the hard shoulder of the motorway and I had to go to the boot and remove the balloon which had escaped its moorings and was floating about the car, the chill wind was deeply unpleasant on my damp jeans. For the remainder of the journey, the Princess had to hold the remaining two balloons on her lap. I should have taken them all into the front but I feared her wrath (grim death on motorway v. child’s wrath – which would you choose?). The Princess was moderately successful at keeping the window clear but the whole thing was a bit of a strain and we were very glad to get home.
Gave the children dinner and packed them off to their beds. Before collapsing into ours, Mr. Waffle made dinner for the following day and we discussed the weekend.
Him: I think the children liked it.
Me: Hmm. They liked yesterday’s outing better.
Him: What did we do yesterday?
Me: Um, can’t remember, but they liked it.
Him: There may be a point to our complete photographic archive.
Me (checking camera): Oh yeah, we went to a farm.
Him: Have we lost our minds?
This morning, her highness donned her new expensive boots with great reluctance because “Safa at school has the same shoes and we might get confused”, could only wish that she had been inspired to raise this on the previous day.