The Omega Mummy’s Guide to: Holiday Safety.

The summer holidays are over. I waved Freddie off on the school bus on Wednesday, and in the silence that followed the click of the front door latch, I consoled myself with the thought that I now had the perfect opportunity to work out how to upload the photos that Freddie took when we were in Spain recently

Yes! Not only have I managed to go on holiday yet again, but I’ve also managed to return with all my kids. Hurrah for me!

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How immoral! Not only have I brought a child with Down’s syndrome into the world, but I have the temerity to flout every rule in the Book of Ignorant Misconceptions by having a normal and very enjoyable life. Really – some people just have no idea how to behave.

It’s a worry, isn’t it – taking the little ones abroad: exposing them to unfamiliar food, strange insects, the heat, the funny water, and virulent exotic microbes? And as if that wasn’t enough, events in recent years have taught us that there is every danger that some Filthy Foreign Pervert will steal one of your little darlings while you’re not looking.

Worry no more: I have found the solution. But how could an ignorant ill-educated, common-as-muck housewife and ‘special needs’ mum possibly know something that some well-educated, well-off, professional people do not? Well, the answer was right under our noses all the time. Where our kids should be.

But what if you want to go out in the evening, you know, have a nice meal and a few drinks? After all, this is YOUR holiday, you don’t want to be cooking: and even if your hotel offers a babysitting service, who wants to shell out extra just to give the staff an excuse to go and rifle through your personal things while your little ones are asleep? Here’s a novel idea – take your children out with you.

That way, no one will be able to get their hands on your most precious things … or your kids.

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The culture in Europe is still suffieciently continental enough for it to be considered perfectly acceptable to take your children out to a restuarant in the evening. And when I say restaurant, I mean restaurant – this was a very nice place specialising in seafood and champagne, but they didn’t bat an eyelid when we rolled up with kids in tow. Freddie didn’t want to wait until 8pm to eat something with tentacles, so treated him to some fast food beforehand, then he was perfectly happy to sit at the table enjoying a drink and dessert while we ate sea monsters.

You never know, they might enjoy staying up past their bedtime (another novel idea – a treat that doesn’t involve spending hundreds of pounds, just some quality time with their family, on the FAMILY holiday).

A Menorqui man once told me that the things that mattered most to the people of the island were ‘the four Fs’ – family, friends, food and fiesta. Of course, that’s just the sort of tourist-beguiling clap-trap that tour guides are paid to say. This year we went top Malaga by accident and witnessed not only that this attitude is genuine, and holds true as much in a cosmopolitan city as on a sleepy island, but of how it translates into practice. It made our holiday a wonderfully relaxing and memorable experience, especially for Freddy, to whom almost everything is new.

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Our apartment was on the edge of the Old Town, above a Churreria, a place that served deep-fried donutty things, dipped in chocolate- for breakfast – with real kick-ass coffee, or peach juice for those too young or sensible to have become addicted to caffeine.It was an area that did not seem to be much frequented by British tourists; it took us a couple of days to realise that people were staring at us not because our child has Down’s Syndrome, but because he has a shock of pale yellow hair, and we weren’t speaking Spanish.

Anyone who was not a local was a holiday-maker from another part of Spain who had come for the Feria, a  fiesta or fair, which in the case of Malaga commemorates the re-conquest of the city by Isabella and Ferdinand in 1487; interpreted via the medium of a week-long flamenco-and-fina(that’s sherry to you and me)-fuelled street party. Despite this I witnessed only one example of drunkeness in the whole week: a beautiful, reed-like girl in an extavagantly flounced dress who lurched sideways across Marque de Larios with all the grace of a baby giraffe flung from a moving car, before collapsing into a souvenir stall.

 

We landed in Malaga mid afternoon; by the time we had collected our baggage, and the hire car, and checked into our apartment it was early evening before we were ready to go out and get something to eat. Freddie had been cooped up all day, so we figured he could stand to have a later-than-usual night. We picked a restaurant at random, sat at a table outside, and watched the world go by as we waited for our food. Many of the tables around us were occupied by what seemed to be intergenerational family groups; the narrow street in between was a constant stream of people of all ages, and there were children everywhere, from babes in arms upwards. Never once was I conscious of them being loud, or annoying, or getting under anyone’s feet.

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If there is any danger that your little darlings will spoil your night with their whining when they get tired and cranky, then, instead of telling them they are ruining your evening, and shouting at them to behave, try taking them on your knee and soothing them for a few minutes. When Freddie’s feeling grumpy he loves to have his face stroked, especially with a soft, tickly brush. Even in the warmest countries it can get a little chilly after sundown, and where hot water bottles are not readily available, a toddler makes a great substitute.

Most of our evenings ended here, on Calle Martinez. Freddie soon learnt to recognise it, no matter which direction approached it from: it was his favourite street in the town. Can you guess why?


If, during the course of the evening, your children get so tired that they can barely stick out their tongues to lick an ice-cream, then just tuck them up in the buggy or pushchair, or on a comfy seat, perhaps with a light cover over them so they don’t look too untidy.

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Now you have the perfect excuse not to get roped into making a fool of yourself joining in with any dancing, plate smashing, etc that is going on around you. Or you and your partner could take it in turns. Just don’t forget to gather everyone up at the end of the night and take them with you when you head back to your accomodation.

Yes, I gave a small child my brand-new camera, and let him take photos of whatever he wanted. It kept him amused for ages, while we sat and enjoyed a leisurely lunch together at a bar on the marina. The results were really interesting, especially the shots he took with the camera resting on the table-top, of his dad looking like he was having a close encounter with a UFO (which was actually just a plate of Iberico ham).

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Letting Freddy have the camera was a great way of getting him to really take notice of the things around us. Now here’s a sight you don’t see every day. Hola, ladies! (This isn’t one of Freddie’s pictures).


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This isn’t something you’d see back home either, thankfully. This ‘quaint’ mural of gross racial stereotypes was painted on the wall of a nursery school in the street where we abandoned the hire car for a week, after discovering that it was too small to accomodate the Major Buggy.

Of course, the most important thing to remember is that children are NOT the ultimate lifestyle accessory, whose appearance, possessions, activities and acheivements serve as a magnifying mirror to their parents’ status.

When I came to upload the pictures I found that almost all of them had been deleted from the camera. I could have cried… But, it’s really not the end of the world. I’d had the pleasure of spending whole days just witnessing his delight at being able to snap pictures of whatever came his way, the tender patience of his sister, posing for him at his command, even though she hates having her photo taken, and the memories of a week of family, food, fiesta and fun.

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There’s more culture in this hand than just Staph Aureus or  E-Coli. It’s a Picasso sculpture (sadly, this isn’t one of Freddie’s photos either).

So, there you have it – the Omega (i.e. the opposite of Alpha, but not actually ‘slummy’) Mummy’s Guide to Holiday Safety. Of course, dear reader, I realise YOU knew all of this already, and your friends all know too, as do mine. It just amazes me that there are some people out there who apparently do not: and I am reminded of this every time I go on holiday and return with my family intact, despite the fact that I do not have access to kid’s clubs, babysitting services … or prescription drugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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