There aren’t many weekends away that are over a year in the planning. But we applied and got tickets for some Rugby World Cup games in Leeds over a year ago, and this weekend we went off to watch them.
This kind of thing is exactly what other families do, right? They go places, have fun, it all looks great. The outer experience belies the frantic preparation and the complete exhaustion that goes on behind the scenes.
Here’s what I packed to take. Travel light, was the advice:
- Tickets – games and trains
- Hotel confirmation
- Train timings
- Phone chargers
- Face paints. Wipes.
- Snacks. Drinks.
- Sticker book, bedtime reading books.
- Clean pants, socks, toothbrushes, PJs, tops x 3. Bedtime nappy. Mooncup. Nurofen.
- Travel kettle (it was a budget hotel)
- Jumpers. Hat.
Written down it doesn’t look too bad but we decided to make use of the railway station’s left luggage anyway. On the Saturday at least.
When you worry about doing new complicated things with a child, it’s useful to remember how nerdy they are. E is a transport nerd. Trip on a train? Being at a railway station with lots of trains to look at? Further trip on a shuttle bus? Alongside lots of double deckers? Stay in a hotel overlooking the railway line and the bus station? It’s already the weekend that has everything. She loved it. This was the first train trip she can remember and the first since she got into Thomas the Tank Engine so she spent some time telling us who they were from the books (mainly all Gordon, according to her).
The anticipation had been building all week as I’d prepared a pile of things to take. We got onto the second train before she requested getting the face paints out. Obviously this was the train with less space. Still I was pretty impressed with my efforts – a cat which she liked but then rejected, and then a pirate.
Once at the stadium she got really excited, joyfully collecting two flags (one for each country), passing her bag (containing crisps) to security to check and then climbing the stairs to our seats. It was at this point that it occurred to me to mention to her that it might be noisy, so I told her it would be ok to shout if she wanted. Suddenly it clicked with her that the noise she could hear was coming from just round the corner and as she climbed the stairs the excitement grew until we emerged to see the pitch before us. At this she was visibly thrilled – the grass, the men running, the sunshine, all of it was familiar. “Mummy, it’s rugby!”
She enjoyed it all – the atmosphere is so much nicer at rugby games and there were a lot of families there – she loved shouting “come on rugby!”, waving her flags and cheering. She especially loved the Mexican waves where I held her up in the air as it passed us. She clearly didn’t concentrate on the game all the way through – she describes it as the game where “the man runs and then falls over” – but she was fine enough to eat, play and not disturb others near us. This was the same the following day at the next game – I was worried the novelty value may have worn off but she was just as excited then. Also there were more flags.
After both games the queue for the shuttle buses seemed too much to bear so we walked. We went slowly, E taking turns between walking and being carried, so it took about 40 minutes and wore us all out. On the first night, it felt too late to try and find a sensible restaurant that would serve us quickly and with food we all liked so we ended up picking up fish and chips on the way to the hotel, and eating them on the side of our bed when we got in.
The hotel was the final part of the weekend that E loved. I told her it was a special bed – and with a bunk bed over the top of a double bed she was immediately intrigued. It was a small room but she still liked exploring and her face when she found what looked like a cupboard was actually a toilet was quite something.
The three of us lay down together in the dark to get her off to sleep, and she took a while to settle but was fast off in time for us to watch England v Wales. Later, S took the bunk bed and I slept beside her. Or rather, didn’t sleep beside her. To be fair, it was hot in the room and I couldn’t switch my brain off but… how do people who co-sleep actually do it? At one point I found her foot in my face, another she was lying flat against the headboard, another time she sat bolt upright and started crawling at speed towards the end of the bed.
A broken night’s sleep, two days of vigilance and constant alertness to make sure E was ok in a strange situation, walking and carrying her a lot… by the time we reached the railway station to go home I would have killed to have a big bowl of something hot – a curry, a stew, a plate of pasta and sauce, anything – but all railway food seems to be bread based these days. Surely we can do better than this? All I’d had was half a sandwich for lunch and an ice cream. We managed to get an earlier train and got home just before 9pm. E had nodded off on the tram twice and was flopped onto my shoulder as we approached the house. By now I was shattered too – the kind of tiredness that makes you crave death – and as soon as E was asleep in bed and we’d had a cup of tea, we were both in bed too.
So that was the weekend. E loved it. She didn’t want to leave. She’s looking forward to going again next week and getting more flags. I’m really glad it was fun for her, and that she was so good. But here are my questions:
How do other families do this? Do they throw money at their arrangements? Do they drive instead of taking trains? Taxis instead of walking? Stay in posh hotels with room service? Or are they all on some kind of energising drugs? I have never known tiredness like it – of course you do have to be vigilant and alert all the time, just to pay attention to all the things to see, the things E wants to point out to you and so on. And we walked a bit. And carried her a lot. But still. I feel about 100 years old.