With February half term coming up, I am yet again cursing the fact that I didn’t have both the foresight and funds to whisk us all away from the rain and cold to somewhere sunny. Instead, I’ll be left scratching round for ideas to entertain the kids, when the sky looks like the dawn of the apocalypse.
The best I could come up with this weekend was to go swimming. Though even I couldn’t pretend that our local leisure centre is much substitute for Tenerife; the closest thing to tapas round the pool is a vending machine that sells pork scratchings. But the place is at least warm and wet.
The trouble is, while a swimming pool trip means non-stop fun if you’re a kid, as a parent, it can be a complete palaver.
Personally, I’m still reeling from the experience. There were two adults (my cousin and I) and four kids, ranging in age from 7 months to 11 years.
As any parent knows, the first challenge begins in the changing room, particularly if you’ve also got a baby to get ready.
There begins the strange dance involved in trying to balance a small, wriggling child on your knee while simultaneously trying to undress and re-dress both of you. The balancing act involved in removing your jeans while preventing a toddler from licking a floor covered in a stranger’s athlete’s foot powder is a feat of unequalled skill.
And by the time you’re out and have thrust your belongings into a locker (in our case, enough gear to see us through a camping trip to the Dordogne), you’re lucky if 25 minutes hasn’t gone already.
To women not accompanying a crew the size of the Von Trapp family, this wouldn’t be an issue. For us, the countdown was on to get the swim over and done with before the younger members of the party started getting hungry.
There is not enough space to fill you in on exactly what happened over the next three quarters of an hour - except to say that one child started complaining about a suspected broken toe, another ignored the ‘no bombing’ signs and got told off by a man toting a drill (he was fixing a door to be fair), a third started crying when they thought their finger was stuck in a water filter . . . and I personally felt close to tears when somebody else’s bunion plaster floated into my cleavage.
What good fun it all was. But I’m saving up for next February in Tenerife now.
It's all in the eyes (or how to master the 'hard stare')