It is date night. This is as rare as me going for a 10 mile run at the moment (i.e. it never happens). It has been in the diary for some time, bobbing valiantly in a sea of infant vaccination appointments and playdates but now it’s here. We are just going to the local pub and getting a babysitter. We will be back by 10.30pm. It’s not adventurous in anyone’s calendar but it is the height of daring in mine.
“Shall I just rub melon on my face?” I mutter to the mirror, peering at now permanent jowl lines. I was trapped, breastfeeding in front of Cindy Crawford’s ‘Meaningful Beauty’ advert earlier today. It has extract from special French melons that ‘don’t age’. Apparently, cutting out alcohol and smearing melon juice on your skin will make you look 13 again. It’s almost tempting.
“We haven’t got time,” says NW distractedly. “The babysitter will be here in a minute.” He is en route to NG’s room with warm milk, which he hands to me. “She wants you to take this in,” he says, “and tell you about her biscuits.”
I push open NG’s bedroom door. In the dark, her little arm curls round my neck. She finishes slurping and I take the cup away, kiss her and tell her I love her.
“It’s a little bit dark and a little bit light.”
“Yes. It’s called dusk. And your mushroom light is on too, so you can see a little bit from that.”
“No. Baby Rabbit, um, um, um, uh, Baby Rabbit is scared.”
“Of the dark?”
“Don’t worry Baby Rabbit,” I say. “It’s just dusk, where the sun is going to bed like you but you can still see a bit of it. And you have got something next to you Baby Rabbit,” I say, bonking my elbow on something. “What is it?”
It’s Tupperware. It rattles.
“Those are my biscuits.”
“Did you make these with Nana today?”
“Yes. They are chocolate. And … something.”
“Shall I take them downstairs?”
“NO. In the morning, Daddy says I can have them in the morning. In the morning.”
“One. You can have one in the morning.”
I stroke her head. In the dusky, nightlighty gloom I spot something through the opaque plastic.
“What’s that?” I panic-whisper.
“Spider,” NG says calmly. “Don’t worry, Spider. It is just Mummy.”
It is a large, plastic spider NG nicked from the hospital last time NC was there. I am ashamed to say I did know she had taken it but she loved it so much, I told myself she was saving countless arachnophobic mothers and children from minor heart attacks. (Though they would have been in the best possible hands).
“OK. Well, keep the biscuits safe, Spider, and snuggle down,” I say.
I shut the door quietly and find NW in the kitchen discussing craft beer with the babysitter.
“We’re only going to the pub, so any problems at all, just ring,” I say.
And that’s it. I’m OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. On a weekday night, not heading to the doctor’s or the hospital or anything child-related at all. And I’m wearing a skirt. And I didn’t rub melon on my face.
The local pub is a gem. We settle in the corner. The Duchess of Cambridge’s latest sighting in an ‘outstanding Norfolk country pub/restaurant’ comes to mind but I don’t ‘opt for sparkling water’ like HRH or (probably) Cindy Crawford. We are walking home, so it’s all about prosecco.
We are two thirds through our main course when NW’s phone rings.
“Baby Rabbit scared Spider,” my husband sighs after hanging up. “So Spider left his post as biscuit protector and now NG is worried all her other animals might eat them.”
We make our way home and find the babysitter upstairs, with NG, having a picnic on the bed. NL is drooling next to them, all over Baby Rabbit and the disgraced Spider.
“Mummy and Daddy!” shouts NG delightedly. “My biscuits are not safe!” she says, pointing to the open box. “So shall we eat them?”
“We haven’t had pudding yet.” I say, looking at NW.
“OK,” he relents. “Let’s all just have one and then clean our teeth and go to sleep.”
The babysitter joins us and we all munch happily together.
“The other thing you put in them,” I say to NG. “I think I can detect a trace of it … it’s very faint though. I can’t think exactly what it is. Did Nana tell you?”
“Date,” says NW. “It’s date.”
“Yes!” says NG. “And Nana said, ‘you don’t need a lot of it.”
“Hmm,” I say, remembering that at least I only got halfway through my prosecco and we have a melon downstairs.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and a half year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and four month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)