Kids just know. They have an inkling that you’re on a tight schedule and decide to play with you because, quite simply, they can. We set off early on Friday, heading for Cheshire and Jill’s cousin’s wedding, the first that 19 month-old Elsa has attended in her short life. Well, when I say attended…
After a nifty bit of M62 rush hour-avoidance, we reached the M6 in plenty of time and all was running smoothly until we heard a gurgling from the back seat. A cursory glance behind confirmed our worst fears – Elsa had revisited her breakfast in spectacular style. We pulled off the motorway and searched for somewhere to commence the clean-up operation, eventually happening across a care home car park and utilising an entire packet of wet wipes in the process. Memories of our postponed trip to Manchester due to chicken pox came to mind.
Back on the road with a now-calm toddler and windows wound down as we whizzed south, it became a battle against the sat nav’s estimated time of arrival. Every two-days-early Sunday driver in the winding rural roads and each ponderous traffic light system saw the digits click closer to midday, with child and mother still needing to change into their finery before entering the ceremony (quite lucky, considering what had happened earlier).
We pulled into the courtyard of Peckforton Castle (which you’re really not meant to do) with minutes to spare and Jill leapt out to change, leaving me to dress Elsa, who had just that minute dropped off to sleep. Obeying the golden rule of parenting, I let sleeping baby lie and, rather than witnessing the beautiful union of Jon and Alex unfold, I sat in a vomit-smelling car for an hour, cursing the lack of 3G in the rural location.
We made it inside for the very end of the service and had a great time afterwards running around on the grass, with Elsa intrigued by the tethered birds of prey near where the guests were enjoying a drink in the sunshine. Little ‘un managed to get through the wedding breakfast and the speeches without incident (mainly thanks to a cleverly thought out distribution of sticker books on the bride and groom’s behalf) and afterwards it was time for bath and bed and to test out various methods that would let Jill and me spend time downstairs together whilst still keeping an eye the (hopefully) deep slumber of our daughter.
The problem with castles is that the people who built them didn’t consider whether the signal of a baby monitor would reach from the bedrooms to the public areas. Ours didn’t. We even tried an app that allowed you to use two iPhones over the wi-fi network as makeshift monitors but that was intermittent at best. We instead took it in turns to take a much-needed nap whilst the other danced (atrociously in my case) to Uptown Funk and all was fine until the mobile DJ mentioned my name. Nothing good can ever come from that. It turns out that Jill had rung down to inform me that Elsa had redecorated the bedroom in an exciting shade of dinner which, as disco dedications go, leaves a little to be desired. The toddler won’t be the first or last person to suffer from that issue after a wedding in that room, but maybe not for the same reasons.
Cue more cleaning, baby calming and a castle-wide search for Calpol which thankfully proved fruitful. The looks on the faces of the young night staff as they dealt with Elsa’s handiwork on the towels on sheets will stay with me forever and will surely act as the most powerful contraceptive possible for them from now on.
As it happens, we actually had a good time despite the ‘unfortunate incidents’ but, if I am to take anything away from the experience, I’d say the main points are:
- Don’t try and do anything. Ever.
- If you have to do something, don’t put your best clothes on until the last minute.
- Always ALWAYS take Calpol with you. And wet wipes.
All in all, a learning experience.