“HOW MUCH? THAT’S AN ABSOLUTE LIBERTY!” was my husband’s response when I broached the subject of taking the kids abroad for the first time during the summer holidays. “But think of the memories” I sheepishly smiled as I rapidly typed the credit card details in online before he had chance to say no.
When the day finally arrived, waking up the kids up at 4am you’d think would be a problem. Er no, they literally bounced out of bed and off every single wall like they’d just downed 3 fruit shoots and sucked the dye off the world’s supply of blue smarties. Ah they’ll sleep in the car on the way to the airport……yeah right!
I was dreading the flight to be honest. The girls had never been on a plane before and the youngest is completely feral. When boarding, I realised that my concerns were completely unfounded. A bonus to be it being the school holidays meant that the whole plane was full of feral kids! Every cloud and all that (no flying pun intended).
Arriving at Faro airport covered in Pringle crumbs and sticky from the Chupa Chups, it was literally like we’d let two greyhounds off their leads in an open field. They sprinted around the arrivals lounge, tripping over trollies, rolling on the floor and climbing on the carousel. In situations like this, I’d normally feel the need to apologise to anyone in close proximity but I didn’t have to in this instance as everyone else was trying to peel their kids off the arrivals ceiling too.
When we got to the hotel we were issued with the obligatory ‘all inclusive’ wrist bands and off we went to find our home for the next week. On route I had to practically rugby tackle the feral one from jumping fully clothed in to the pool. It was at that very precise moment that I realised that this was not your relaxing, read your novel, dozing on the sunbed kind of holiday, this was a full on, brain exploding, on edge, “oh my god where’s Freya gone” kind of holiday.
We quickly changed in to our swimming gear and grabbed a few essentials: 1 shark lilo, 1 frog rubber ring, 1 crab rubber ring, 2 noodles, 1 blow up football, 2 floats, armbands, snorkel, goggles, towels and the buggy. I wanted the kids to have a sophisticated lilo but no, they wanted a shark. A shark lilo that you didn’t lie on, you had to ride it! I’m 45 years of age, I do ‘lounging’ not ‘riding’! I’m surprised Greenpeace didn’t rock up alongside me in their dingy protesting about commercial whaling after my 50th attempt at ‘riding’ it. Between that and the illuminous white boob that would continually float up to the surface of the pool, courtesy of my kids grabbing on to my costume and pulling it down, I’d say I nailed the pool side chic.
Early on we became the family that everyone wanted to avoid, mainly down to the 2 year old constantly getting out the pool and standing over the grate that went around it to do her wee’s. Not to be outdone in the toilet stakes the 5 year would celebrate very loudly as she came out of the pool toilets announcing “the poo medicine has finally worked Mummy, I’ve just done a massive poo that won’t flush.” All bow down at the temple of the Lactulose.
The kids cottoned on very quickly that the more drinks Mummy and Daddy had in the bar in the evening, the more 1 Euro’s they would get to put in those crappy machines that chuck out complete and utter tatt. Those machines were like baby crack and they couldn’t get enough of them. My suitcase on the way home was full of bouncy balls, squishy’s and something that looked like someone’s hernia had burst through its mesh, post-surgery.
It became pretty clear on day 2 that the holiday was indeed paying for itself, mainly down to the all-inclusive breakfasts and unlimited alcohol. The only place where it was totally acceptable to have a boiled egg and a doughnut on your plate at 8am and then your snack 2 hours later included a large glass of white wine and a hotdog. The kids meals were beige but I came over all Annabel Karmel a few times and put a piece of cucumber on the side of their plate in case the food police were watching.
Despite the daily tantrums every time we had to leave the pool, said no to an ice cream, or said no to no more 1 Euro’s for the tatt machines we genuinely surprised ourselves by having the best week ever. I mean what’s not to like about a place that has unlimited alcohol AND the kids slept through the night having exhausted themselves throughout the day. Seeing the absolute joy on the girl’s faces as they cannon balled daily into the pool (and their horror when I attempted it) was worth every single penny. We’d not only survived, we’d lived! For the first time we had 100%, uninterrupted quality time with each other and surprise, surprise we actually liked each other (bar the ‘who would go up to the bar/where’s Freya?/I thought you were watching her/move that bloody shark out of the way/ it’s your turn to take them in the pool/ no you both can’t get in the buggy/where’s your Dad gone now?’ kind of rows.
Our holiday euphoria soon came crashing down with an hour long queue through immigration when we landed back in the UK. The girls starting winding each other up and to be honest I’d be in no hurry to let them back in the country either. Naturally there was biblical rain lashing down as we got outside and stupidly we were still dressed for a day at the beach. Oh how we laughed as we tried to find the car in the long stay car park whilst picking out rain washed fag butts from our flip flops. As we set off on the gridlocked M25 (seriously I could of got home quicker riding the shark) I could feel my previously chilled out (60% wine / 40% cake) blood pressure rapidly rising. Reality had well and truly showed up and punched us full on in the face.
When we got home, I opened the suitcases and tipped out the dirty washing (and 500 squishy’s) on the kitchen floor. Any bit of holiday bliss left the building. It had only been 6 hours since we’d left Portugal but the holiday already seemed a distant memory. I felt sad. Sad that our little piece of heaven was over and the trials and tribulations of life would once again get in the way of us living. Sad that I’d revert back to the London fast pace of life where I’d simply function and not have time to truly stop and take things in. Sad that having a glass of wine with breakfast would now be frowned upon and flip flops would not be regarded as acceptable footwear for the office. I even felt sad I wouldn’t get to ride that bloody shark again. And then I felt thankful….thankful for the amazing memories that we were very lucky to have and thankful for my little family. Yep, that thankfulness lasted approximately 20 seconds before Sky Sports was playing loudly on the TV and the kids started shouting at each other. Well it was good whilst it lasted.