They’ll have been nagging and begging all week. You’re reluctant because it’s a monster faff and you’re pretty sure your cozzie is see through on the arse.
You will say: ‘Maybe next weekend…’
You put them straight from PJs to swimmers because doing so reduces the time spent in those hellish pube pits that are changing rooms. You also have to remember 19 towels, snacks, shower gel, four armbands and a dino watering can. You’re sweating in your threadbare one piece.
You will say: ‘Just get in the bloody car!’
3) Actual swimming
If you’re lucky, like me, you’ll have one over-confident two year old and one over-anxious five year old. That way, you can be reigning one back by the ankle whilst the other is clambering on your head and you’re drowning in elbows and armbands.
You will say: ‘Two more minutes…’
4) The changing
Showers. Wrestle off swim nappies and trunks. Towels. Snack. Shiver. Peel on trousers. Unpeel someone else’s plaster from your heel. Stop children from peering under the cubicles. Negotiate second round of snacks. All while you try and get a sports bra on while you’re still damp.
You will say: ‘Do NOT eat off the floor’ #verrucajuice
Everyone’s tired. It’s all too much. You may think you’ve got time to stop on the way home for a quick food shop. Think again. The younger has puked pool water in to his dino watering can and fallen asleep evoking the ‘secondary drowning’ fear. The older has a blood sugar drop resulting in a shit fit.
You will say: ‘Grab a towel- he’s gonna blow!’
6) Done in
It’s not even lunch time and you’re all exhausted. Once you’ve put the wash on you have the perfect excuse to set up a home cinema for the kids whilst you doze to Paddington but still feel like you’ve done something wholesome.
You will say: ‘We should take them again next weekend’
The whack of the work for a kid-free weekend goes in to the prep: make sure you consciously dither about buying tickets until they are at least 300% more expensive than when you first checked. Bicker about this. Sets the mood.
Spend lots of time on trip advisor and iamsterdam.com. Everyone loves a neurotically over-planned schedule.
Other ground work includes finding like-minded, kid-free friends. We met our chosen ones on a bike tour of Berlin and if that’s not a sign from the friendship gods, what is?
The WigWearer and I were flying from Norwich airport which is like Heathrow but completely different.
As you’ll most likely be flying from here too-either directly or on a stop over from any number of the eleven destinations Norwich AP flies from- here are my tips because it can be overwhelming.
It’s a little intimidating but, with a map and a compass, you should be able to find the right terminal. If you’re lost, keep the bike shed to your left and go straight.
When you first burst through the doors (automatic-new for Norfolk so watch your step), you may be confused and think you’ve stepped back in to the stationery cupboard you once cried in on a temp job. Rest assured, you haven’t.
You’ll be searching the screens to find which desk you should go to. It’ll just be a picture of a gurning Norwich FM presenter. You’ll stare at it for a full three minutes before you realise it’s an advert. And there’s only one desk.
Sit back, relax and enjoy.
We were flying KLM and all 23 of us were shuffled out on to the tarmac (I had time to reach over the fence and get my book out of the car) and on to our flight but the best thing was we got a free biscuit on the flight! It’s a 30 minute flight! I’ve flown to Australia on nothing but a Jacobs cracker somewhere over Hong Kong! God love the Dutch hospitality.
Anyway, I’m going to be here forever if I carry on like this so let’s skip to the bit where we hop off the airport bus and stumble in to the centre of Amsterdam.
Because I’m a tightarse and a misery, I don’t like paying for checked luggage so AO and I had a spare pair of pants and a rain coat in our backpacks meaning we could head straight out to explore. Look how happy I am!
I had bought a map beforehand and expertly navigated us to a museum I wanted to go to which we couldn’t find because it had moved/fallen in to the canal. Not to worry! On to De Pijp.
De Pijp, pronounced dee pipe, is an area full of cafes and bars and boutique shops (Finger.Pulse), and it’s quite hard to find when you’re lugging a bag about and eaten nothing but a KLM stroopwaffle since 6am. I recommend buying and scoffing Dutch crisps. Why are foreign crisps so much nicer?
De Pijp was nice. The bars were plentiful and full of face hair and tight jeans. And there was beer. I think the first drink of beer on a holiday is my favourite drink of them all.
Suitably refuelled we trudged on to our hotel via the De Pijp market which is worth a mooch if you like tshirts, tat and magnets with hash leaves on.
A bag of Lay’s, 38471 checks of the map and four miles of beautiful canals and suburbia later, we gave up trying to find our hotel. We stocked up on beer, rose and fried snacks at Jack Dish and soaked up the sun shooting the breeze together.
Hold on, what’s that? No, not the hirsuit Dutchman but that thing in the back ground? It’s only our bloody hotel according to the waitress!
And look! Our friends have arrived too! And we are all called Oliver!
Does anyone else get mad excited when they’re about to check in to a hotel? I love the moment when you’ve finally got the pissing swipecardlockthing to work and the door clicks open and it’s all white towels and free soap. Heaven.
The hotel our friend Oli had found us was Hotel Twenty Eight opposite the Olympic Stadium. It’d been open for two weeks and it was like heaven on earth. The staff were beautiful and made Andrew swoon in lust and me wish I looked that good in a jumpsuit. And they gave us wine. Free wine. Before we had even seen our room. My kinda place.
And check out our room.
Right nice, innit? And there wasn’t a Hot Wheels or Cheerio in sight. Score!
To supper! I have always wanted to be one of those people who stumble upon a steamy restaurant hidden in an unknown corner of the city where the food is hot and buttery and the wine is cheap and tasty and it’s full of locals and they lock the door behind a thick velvet curtain at midnight and you can stay until the small hours laughing and chatting.
I don’t think I’ve ever posted photos of my food online before but, my word, look at this:
After a good night’s sleep and a lie in (glorious lie ins!), we were up and out and hiring bikes. Seeing as the average bike hire shop assistant is about 16 and clearly recovering from a heavy night of tits and tattooing, the whole process took about half a day. Annoying when there’s a schedule to keep.
Onwards to find Foodhallen -the only market open on a Sunday. This also seemed to have fallen in to a canal but we did find Winkel43 and Dutch food of the gods, appeltaart and slagroom.
We spent most of the morning wending about the Jordaan and nine straat area until Laura honed in on this little beauty where there was strong beer and more deep fried cheese.
Feeling gassy and happy, we toddled back on to our bikes to shop up the Rokin. AO and I soon realised we didn’t have room in our hand luggage for any purchases so we went mooching and found this gorgeous little square of beauty hidden down a small staircase in amongst the H&Ms and JD Sports:
And back to our bikes and on to Vondelpark where I had the oddly enjoyable feeling of cycling through that park in Mary Poppins. What an incredible place. And I didn’t have to sit on a crusty bench watching my sons kamikaze off seesaws. I just glided along perched atop my prim bicycle thinking about house prices in Amsterdam.
After a nap and some more wine back at the hotel we were ready to tram in to the centre for the obligatory beer in the red light district. We all remembered it from previous visits and thought of it fondly as quaint and faintly risqué but actually it was seedy and embarrassing and stank of piss and I saw more than one sign that said ‘Please don’t piss, shit or puke in this doorway. We live here’ and it made me feel sad and grubby. I had to go and eat a very large schnitzel to recover. (‘Eating a schnitzel’ isn’t a euphemism, btw. I know the Dutch are filthy, but I’m not).
So to bed only to rise and bike early.
We cycled from our hotel to Waterlooplein flea market on the Monday morning. Our friends were tramming but the WigWearer and I zipped up our rain macs and joined the slip stream of the day’s commuters.
The rain had just stopped and it smelt of wet blossom and early mornings. Our tyres hissed and spat and bells rang out politely as we shushed our way through the outskirts of the city.
We beat our friends to the market (#TeamOliver) and settled in for a coffee and a brownie (normal kind thankyouverymuch). The cafe we had found was full of people plugged in to laptops humourlessly tapping away at their screenplays. Everyone knows great writers type on their phones while in bed with a towel on their head *cough*.
I think, while we are on reality vs fantasy, it’s time for a photo. You have to remember I had spent 36 hours around tall, healthy Dutch women all of whom look excellent on bicycles. I felt at one with them. I had convinced myself that I was a 20 something, media something with an apartment in De Pijp and a wholesome attitude to sex and work/life balance.
Here’s a picture of me actually.
I’m wearing a cagoule over my fake Mulberry, my hair is beyond beyond and I’m wearing 17 pints of beer on my arse. And I’m as happy as tulip.
We waved goodbye to our friends who had an early flight home and hopped back on our bikes to track down a museum. Now you know I love a museum but I wasn’t blown away by Amsterdam Museum. It was ok but about a third of it centred around Schiphol airport and I don’t really care about that. (When you’ve flown from Norwich, all else pales).
The last moments of a holiday are always sad: AO and I had ‘one last beer’ and ‘just one more slab of apple pie’ and meandered our way up to the train station stopping only for meatballs on white bread and a final last beer at a beautifully dingy and atmospheric bar near Dam Square.
And home. Home to our two boys who’d barely blinked us goodbye and certainly didn’t look up to welcome us home. Home to lesson planning and trial prep. Home to play the best/worst post-holiday game ‘This Time Yesterday’-this time yesterday I was cycling along a canal and now I’m on bus duty.
I think I prefer my new game ‘Next Time’. Next time we could go to Copenhagen…
Planning a kid-free weekend break? Here is one about Prague and here is one about Berlin.
Other outs and abouts are Olivers in the Cotswolds and Olivers in London and this Oliver would like a book deal and a job writing about holidays so share these posts far and wide please, you lovely lot of readers.
The first sign you’re a parent who’s celebrating their birthday is that you’re up at 4am. Not because you’re crawling in to bed after a night on the lash, but because you’re toddler has some early AM whim (cuddle/milk/extra blanket).
The next telltale sign is that no one gives a shit. Husbo did wish me a happy birthday and William did his best handwriting in a bday card but there were still PE kits to pack and teeth to brush.
The next sign is you have to go to work. I marked the occasion by listening to the finale of S-Town on my commute.
The next sign that it’s your birthday and you’re at work is that YOU have to provide the cakes. Cakes at Break is a school tradition. Potentially galling that you have to bring the baked goods when it’s your bday but I love it because my classroom is nearest to the staff room so I’m quids in for most of the year.
Another clear sign is that get the kids down in record time. TV. Bath. Book. Bed. Booooooze!
If you’re still unclear if you’re a classic parent-on-their-birthday(PotB), you need to consider your evening activities.
It’s the night of your birthday. Are you:
B) Sorting lunch boxes
C) Eating pasta in front of Line of Duty
Congratulations! You’re a PotB!
The final sure-fire sign is gifts.
Here is a typical wish list of a 30-something mother:
1) The Scummy Mummies book ✔️
2) Selfish Mother Mama jumper ✔️
3) New gym wear ✔️
4) A weekend away without the kids✔️
I have helpfully ticked all the ones I’ve asked for and generously received.
I realise I am assuming everyone else has ‘god hadn’t the year gone quickly?’ conversations over prosecco and a box set for their 30s and above birthdays but it may not be the case, of course. Can you let me know on insta, comments or Twitter if I’m the only one?!
** Was going to entitle this ‘Signs Your Mum’s Staying’ but it sounded like a year nine ‘your mum’ joke and I didn’t want to offend anyone. And now I’ve gone and offended year nines. #minefield **
Being a parent to young children is a bit shit a lot of the time. I would rate the following things as the two worst bits of having children:
1) having to be the adult
2) all the time…it’s relentless
Which is why it’s so bloody lovely to have mums come and stay because they are never-ending mothers to us therefore henceforth et voila they then have to be the grown up and we get to opt out!
Think about it/take my word for it, they are your parent and a parent’s job lot is to care for their child and mop up their literal and metaphorical mess. My children are my mess! Literal and metaphorical!
I like to hand over the reins the moment I clap eyes on mama White. Sometimes I even send the kids up ahead to get things going early: ‘Ooh, look children, isn’t that granny in the distance’
‘You mean the one warily and slowly making her way towards us emanating reluctance and a long lists of things she’d rather be getting on with?’
‘Yes darling! See you on Sunday!’
Having the grandparents visit means there is finally someone loco parentis and so that’s when I check out. I ruthlessly and shamelessly exploit my parents’ presence.
Here is a typical conversation:
Me: ‘Fancy a cup of tea mum?’
Put Upon Mother(PUM): ‘Lovely’
Wait long enough. Wait for it.
Me: ‘Oh, mum! I would’ve done that!’
Aren’t I the pits?!
But cups of tea aren’t the only sign that a grandparent is in da house. My mum leaves a trail of marvellousness behind her- sometimes, days after she’s left, I will realise she’s emptied our bins or changed bed sheets or distributed spare loo rolls or some other such helpful and thoughtful legacy from her visit.
In order to celebrate having such a spiffing mother and to celebrate all her kindness and to in some small way thank her and make amends for my quickness to shun my children and head for the hills whenever she visits, I have compiled a list of signs that mother has visited. Recognise any of them?
Everything is tidier and nicer
The washing that has been sitting the drum of the machine for three days is now out and drying. The wellies and smelly gym shoes are even called to order. It’s all tweaked and civilised.
There’s food everywhere
Thinking about what everyone is going to eat and then sourcing and making it and then fielding complaints and rejections is prob no.3 on my most hated list. But when mum’s around, so is food. Heaven.
The washing is neatly folded
Yes, you’re right, it is sorted in to orderly piles to ease the process of putting it away. Well spotted.
The kids becoming way less annoying
This may have something to do with the fact that the parent/child ratio is now 4:2. It helps immensely to have two more bods to help meet the children’s irrational, specific and ever changing demands.
No wonder we all adore her.
Although I harbour a good deal of resentment and envy towards people who have parents living nearby and on hand to step in, I know I am lucky to have a spectacular and endlessly patient kind and thoughtful non-judgemental mum to sweep in and be mum so I don’t have to. I think this is going to be the first time I use this without it being deeply sarcastic but I am ready to say I am, in all sincerity, #blessed.
I just hope my kids aren’t as entitled, lazy, needy and irritating as me when they have children. I’m wrapping up my parental duties the moment Kid2 hits 18. We can’t be too involved in grand parenting, the wig wearer and I have got retirement to be getting on with. I suppose I can always text the great-grandparents from my sun lounger.
No school runs! No work! You can turn off your alarm clock! It’s the holllllliiidaaaaays!
‘Why don’t the buggering children SLEEP IN?!’
How do they not realise it’s the holidays and they don’t need to be up at five fucking AM? They went to bed at ten last night so WHY are they up at this hour? Don’t they realise mum and dad went to bed at 11.30 after too many gins, giddy on the thought of there being no work in the morning?
‘How am I going to survive two weeks of this?’
It’s 10AM on the first Monday and the darling kids are already eating each other. Peppa Pig is on her fifth hour and even she is flagging. You could drag them all out to the coast but the youngest gets car sick. Ugh.
‘How have I spent this.much.money?’
You’ve cried twice trying to get the kids the out of the house, but you’ve hit up the joint account and bought a handful of tickets to the Dino Park. You may well have spent over £3000 and that’s not factoring in the ice creams you’ve bought to avoid shit fits. You’ve also bribe-promised a cinema trip and a zoo day. Pay day feels a long long way away…When was the last time you did any work, anyway?
‘Do I really need to go back to work?’
The kids are finally asleep and you’re mooning at photos on your phone of them hugging each other on the beach or sharing their ice creams and there’s even a photo of you and the children smiling at each other. Do you really have to work? Maybe you could home school them instead? You could live like this all the time: life would be one long holiday of pub lunches and laughter.
And then your bank statement arrives.
Back to work it is.
Until the summer holiday.
Oh god-how are you going to survive six weeks of this?!
When I stay awake at night fantasising about all the ways I can make millions, I often come back to my alternative NCT plan. Still scratching around for names but the winner so far is ‘Sprogging for Slackers’.
Here’s a sketchy outline of my ideas/principles. I’m considering crowd funding.
NCT: pregnancy is a beautific experience
Me: pregnancy is, at best, uncomfortable in a ‘I ate a too-big roast and now want to sleep on the sofa’ way. At worse; it’s the only time you will puke and cry and wet yourself at the same time.
NCT: you can breathe your baby out to sounds of whale music
Me: you can do whatever the eff you like: drugs, doolas, dads or no dads. Your womb: your rules.
Nct: breast is best
Me: breast, bottle, both. Whatever.
NCT: having a baby together will shine joy on your relationship
Me: will it HELL. And never, never give sound to your 3AM inner voice: howcanyoulaytheresleepingwhenweareawakeandwhycantyoulactateyouuselessbastardsCURSETHEMISOGYNISTICGODS!
NCT: sleep when the baby sleeps
NCT: send you home with leaflets about hand expressing and how to recycle your nappies
Me: I would send you home with a stash of shitey mags and the secret to exactly how much booze you can have before it affects the baby.
So, I hope you like my business plan. Please leave in the comments any suggestions for the curriculum. Please also leave pledges for thousands of pounds so I can set up this gig up.