It's 9 o'clock at night, you're sipping a melt-in-the-mouth malbec and snuggling into the arm of your date, when suddenly you jump five foot in the air as a shriek loud enough to break the sound barrier rings through your ears. The people on the table next to you have got a toddler with them and the bloody thing won't stop screaming. Infuriated, you shoot the mum a look of daggers while muttering under your breath that shouldn't the kid be in bed by now? and what sort of parents are they anyway?
Kids should be barred from bars, right? Right. Well, except if it's your kid and you're on holiday. Yes, they're tired, but they're having fun and well, basically, you're sick to death of having to go to bed at 8 o'clock at night because you, your husband and your two toddlers are all sleeping in the same shoebox of a room where you can barely fart without waking the baby, let alone have a whispered chat or read a book.
This was me last week.
Our little family took a trip to Disneyland Paris, a treat for the kids using money left to me by my dad when he died. We've been citing it as a celebration of Big Grandad's life, and a present from him to us as something to keep us smiling even if we feel sad. So when, at the end of a jam-packed day, hubby asked if I fancied popping into the hotel bar for a cheeky drink, I jumped at the chance. The night before we had settled the brats at about 8pm then laid motionless in the dark, barely daring to breathe for fear of waking them (and facing another hour-long setting session while they screamed Disneyland at the top of their remarkably loud voices). Yes, having nodded off by 9 o'clock we got a good night's sleep, but the idea of doing that for the next three nights was unappealing to say the least. So into the bar we headed - one Beaujolais for me, a Havana Club 7 for him, and two warm milks for the offspring.
As we settled down with a deck of cards, the four-year-old beamed as he practised his French on the baffled waiter, but the 2-year-old got itchy feet and decided to take a stroll - along the window sill. There were audible tuts as she traversed the narrow ledge, shrieking with delight every time she wobbled.
Now the old me would have been the one tutting, but not any more. Not now I'm a parent who also likes to have a bit of a life too. This was a family hotel. A hotel in flipping Disneyland, the land of Peter Pan - the boy who never grew up. So were we in the wrong, allowing our grubby little daughter a bit of late night fun in the form of her feral version of gymnastics? Or should the grumpy old gits behind us have been the ones to lighten up?
Unless the idea of sitting on the edge of a toilet and chatting to your other half in whispers while you shine a phone torch into each others eyes sounds like your idea of fun, you don't want to put your kids to bed at eight every night when you're on holiday. They get Mickey, Donald, and dozens of treats and I get a wine before bed - that's the deal. And rather than roam hotel corridors it seems fine to me for us to hole up in the bar. But the looks directed towards us would have been better aimed at a butcher who's just gatecrashed a vegan convention than two parents enjoying a quick drink on holiday.
As I sipped my drink, The Girl decided to spit hers all over the table. An act of defiance as I asked her to quieten down. She then proceeded to marvel at the 'puddle' she had created. And by this point The Boy was in on the act too, giggling and squawking as he dodged Daddy's attempts to sit him down again. But so what? They're on holiday, they're having fun. Well that's not allowed, it would seem, especially when it's past a certain hour and other guests want to watch the football in peace.
So I struggled and strained and managed to strap The Girl into a pushchair with one hand while downing the remainders of my wine with the other. I muttered a multitude of apologies to grimacing guests as I ushered her away and took her to bed. But as I lay her down, I was fuming. How dare these people bar my kids from a bar? They were only having fun and, to be fair, I'm a lot louder than they are when I've had a couple of drinks, and so are most of the people who pop out for a few pints before bed on holiday.
Yes, a pub is no place for a child on a regular basis, but as an exception while on holiday? I'm standing my ground next time. You won't bar my kids from your bar.
Unless we take the mother-in-law with us, and use her as a free babysitter. Now there's an idea...