Babysitters are thin on the ground — our parents are elderly; looking after a one-man cartload of monkeys like Freddie, who requires as much supervision as a toddler, is exhausting for them. I have no siblings, and Tim’s live a distance away, and don’t get to see Freddie all that often. I only trust those who know Freddie well to keep him safe: it’s too easy to undersetimate his abilities and his fearlessness. We’ve fallen into the habit of socialising seperately. This is probably a good thing, because we live in each other’s pockets most of the time.
Daddy and I don’t get much time to ourselves as a couple.
So when Tim said he wanted to go on a boy’s weekend to Budapest to celebrate the 50th birthday of his Hungarian-born, long-time friend I was totally cool with it. In fact I was looking forward to playing ‘man-of-the-house’ for a couple of days, you know — having complete control of the TV remote, slumped on the sofa munching crisps, lightly covered in a golden coating of crispy crumbs with no one complaining about it. I would be able to stir my coffee as vigorously as I liked, and take as long as I wanted to drink it.
The news that it wasn’t going to be a boy’s weekend after all — the other guys were taking their partners — caused me a considerable headache.
But how could I go? We’d never left Freddie in anyone else’s care for more than a few hours. But it seemed to mean such a great deal to Tim, and I am acutely aware of how often, and how readily he puts his own needs to the back of the queue for the sake of our family. I had, at least, to show willing. So I asked Freddie’s Nanna if she could possibly manage with him for a whole weekend, making it clear that I didn’t automatically expect a positive answer.
Surprisingly she agreed — Big Sister would be there to help out, and at sixteen Lucy is not only capable of looking after herself, she is a dab hand at looking after Freddie too, and keeping him occupied. And if Grandad got worn out with it all he would just take himself off upstairs for a snooze.
King of the Castle … And guess who’s the dirty rascal, down at the bottom behind the camera.
Flight availability meant that we would have to be away for four days and four nights, but this was not such a problem, as for two of those days Freddie would be at school, which would give Nanna a bit of respite. We briefed the school and the minibus escorts about the arrangement in case he should be upset or out of sorts.
You’d think we’d jump for joy at the prospect of some time alone, but when Friday night came, and it was time to pack Freddie’s things and take him to his grandparent’s house (a five-minute walk around the corner, pulling his Trunki along behind) we really didn’t want to part with him. I think we both privately had visions of his tear-stained, bewildered little face wondering why Mummy and Daddy had left him. We kept out goodbyes as business-like as possible,assuring him that we would be back on Tuesday afternoon. Nanna said she would make him a chart so he could tick off the days.
We had a fine time. I wasn’t expecting a romantic break, and indeed I didn’t get one, but it was an affirmation of our relationship and how well we work together as a team. I read the paper map when he got in a pickle with Google maps on his phone, he held my hand every time we crossed a road as though I was his child. I wonder what he must have thought when I knocked back a shot of Palinka in one, and proceeded to tell a fuzzily-remembered story about once being carried out of a bar after doing a few . Tequila slammers. If he was thinking that he perhaps didn’t really know the woman by his side, he didn’t say anything. Perhaps he believes I was a different person back then, living another life. Certainly I didn’t exist in the form I do now.
And Freddie and Lucy? I’ll let the pictures she took do the talking.
Anyway, I was so busy I barely noticed you’d gone. Lol – Grandad never did get a snooze in peace!