Long time, no post, dear reader. I’ve been neglecting my blogs while getting my proverbial pants in a twist over the recent road/ferry trip from England to Spain. When I was ‘sans ninos’, or when I had just one little baby, I used to hop on to planes without a care in the world. But I’m starting to think that “upheaval is the mother of mis-invention” and I dread the process of packing and loading/unloading, unpacking... half-filled bags everywhere. Argh!
Misgivings aside, the sea and land-borne trip was completed last week, thanks to (a) a bickering ‘co-pilot’ who disliked my tendency to play endlessly with Facebook for BlackBerry en route and (b) the Brittany Ferries’ Cap Finistere vessel. Nice ship but shame the swimming pool on the roof was closed and we considered it sinful that there was no ‘middle ground’ for dinner options between haute cuisine and budget sandwiches. A £60 family restaurant dinner didn’t appeal (a meal for four cost us a purse-friendly £22 on P&O’s ‘Pride of Bilbao’ last October) and I felt as if another packet of crisps or pre-packaged wrap might send me overboard. However, breakfast made up for this shortfall, with a decent full English served for 3.95 Euros.
My preference for Brittany Ferries pervades even though the Cap Finistere had a conspicuous lack of kids’ entertainments. P&O’s ‘Pride of Bilbao’ has a well-run kids’ club but it’s unfortunately located directly opposite the shop which features bumper packs of Minstrels and Smarties at kiddie grabbing height. The Cap Finistere is a better class of ship and the crossing is 12 hours shorter than on P&O, which means there’s less time to waste money on food and drink. Furthermore, there were no ‘booze croozers’ or gnarly old ladies tutting at my toddlers. However, I was chatted up by a dodgy Spanish bloke in the ‘nightclub bar’. Despite obvious glares from the barmaid, he bought me two glasses of vino blanco and then tried to hand me his spare room key. “Oooh nooo!” I whinnied. “I’ve got another adult in the cabin and two small children.” I was duly escorted back to my cabin by a tattooed bloke – it was definitely time to flee.
Road trip rage
After disgorging from the ferry (helpful hint: note the location of your vehicle in the parking decks to avoid searching for it amongst fume-laden articulated lorries while fully loaded with toddlers and luggage), it was time to head south from Santander to Granada Province. Map reading is an activity that can strain even the calmest of relationships and my relationship with the ‘co-pilot’ can hardly be described as ‘tranquilo’. He was disgusted by my tendency to look at my mobile instead of the map, which resulted in us driving in the wrong direction on the autovia for at least an hour. Oops.
Many hours and a slight van fault later (it kept going into “limp mode”, which is never desirable, ladies and gents), we arrived in La Alpujarra in the ‘dead’ of the night. Although I was fearful to inspect my Spanish house after hearing tales of the trail of mould, dog poo and sick-covered towels left by dodgy tenants, I discovered that the wreckage was confined to a ruined set of pans, clearly used as chip pans, and three missing wooden child chairs, presumably incinerated in the wood-burning stove during winter. So no hideous surprises there – although burning kids’ chairs is beyond the pale, really. What Is Wrong With Some People?
Adjusting to La Alpujarra
It takes me a few days to adjust to a new environment. After almost a week in La Alpujarra, one thing that strikes me is: I want Tesco Direct back. Instead of spending 20mins on an online shopping cart from the comfort of my own home, on Saturday evening it took five hours to visit Granada Carrefour for the family’s weekly food shop. Thrilling, ey? My two little boys were bored after an hour and proceeded to graze the produce. They enjoyed a baguette and strawberries by the pescaderia (fish counter); a whole box of chopped sausage by the ham counter; some Baby Bels by the cracker counter; a Gatorade in the condiment aisle; a strawberry milk drink beside the frozen goods... and then my youngest started screaming for sweeties beside the checkout. Oh dear!
This is where it All Started Going Wrong. My normally patient eldest son suddenly announced “I need a poo and I need it now, Mummy!” and started placing his hands down the back of his trousers – not a good sign. Trying not to abandon either child or lose my place in the long queue, I ushered my eldest towards the toilets then asked some Spanish people to watch my youngest, who was still creating a fuss in the trolley. I then followed my eldest to the loo but couldn’t see him anywhere. After a heart-stopping moment, he emerged near the checkouts and we resumed our place in the queue, whereupon he duly “entertained” the Spanish shoppers by throwing a large pineapple at the conveyor belt and loudly playing a mouth organ pinched from Daddy. Muttering “mucho tiempo en la tienda” and looking red faced, I stuffed groceries into plastic bags, aware that I looked like a lost-it single mother case who couldn’t control her children. Meanwhile, my youngest was still screaming and gesticulating at sweeties, while the well-behaved Spanish toddlers viewed the spectacle with bemusement. By this time, it was 11pm. I ushered my boys into the MacDonalds concession, where several Spanish kiddies were playing on the indoor play frame. Can you imagine that in England? Someone would probably call Social Services if you took your toddlers into MacDonalds after 8pm.
Will I stay or will I go?
The dust of the journey has settled now. But after having the dullest weekend I can remember in a long time, and with considerations about my sons’ education in the UK, I’m unsure whether I’ll remain in Spain for summer or go back to Blighty in mid May. Is it the people or the place that count most? After giving the matter 'mucho' consideration, I’d say it’s the people. I prefer it here in Spain: besides the climate, there’s more room in ‘mi casa’ for the kids to play and, well, the lifestyle’s more laid back, innit. Not forgetting the cheap vino and the cheaper diesel. But my closest old mates and constant companions are in England and that counts for something. Furthermore, moving around with two toddlers and juggling such undertakings with work certainly takes it out of you. Watch this space... will I stay or will I go now... if I stay, there will be trouble... if I go, it will be double. Or will it just turn into a prolonged episode of ‘The Simple Life’. And is that what I really, really want anyway? Watch this space...