Speed Dining Champions

You’ve done the speed dating, the proper dating, the living together, maybe the marriage part and then decided what you really really want is a couple of kids.  They duly arrive and it’s all very strange until routines are established; no one can make a spontaneous move without sanction from the other person and there are lists, lots and lots of lists.

Gradually, the older one gets more independent, the younger one can sit up and take interest in what is going on and a latent feeling starts to grow in the parents – an odd confidence in themselves coupled with the desire to…eat out!

Foolishly, they wait for a special occasion – a birthday – before deciding a family meal is a Good Idea.  A restaurant is chosen, phrase-book packed (this is, after all, France), snacks and drinks for the baby packed, toys to keep him amused, jumper and blanket in case he gets cold (as if dining out were not enough these reckless parents chose dining outside as well) and expectations are running high.

Then they are reminded why Saturday night is takeaway night.

The first hint all is not well is the arrival of a dubious looking high-chair on wheels bought by a restaurant whose outdoor space is on a slope.  The proprietor wedges the high-chair under the table and the baby is installed.  But wait!  There are no restraining straps so all the baby does, over and over again, is stand up and try to escape.  In between escaping he tries to grab the wine glasses, the cutlery, the bread basket.  When these are moved out of reach he just grabs the tablecloth and pulls them back again.

No worries, they think.  A minor problem.  Two courses and a bottle of wine are ordered and the children’s meal for the older one which includes a free ride on the carousel operating just up the road from the restaurant.  Which promptly closes.

Just avoiding a major tantrum from the four-year-old whilst giving up attempting to contain the baby, the first cracks start to show.  The baby is hauled out of the high-chair and handed over to the other parent.  The starters and the four-year-old’s meal arrives just as she announces she needs the toilet.  The baby is handed back, a glug of wine taken, and the trip to the toilets seems to take a lifetime.

Back at the table it’s all bonhomie and smiles – cheers!  The baby is happy holding on to the high-chair’s legs and walking around it, the four-year-old is tucking into her chips.  A chill breeze starts to blow, jumpers are dispensed, a second full-size meal arrives for the baby – uh-oh, we didn’t order that, did we?

Rapidly cooling moules are shovelled in at speed – forget about the frites – as the baby thinks crawling around the other diners’ ankles is much more fun.  The four-year-old decides she doesn’t like her meal and when can she go on the carousel?  And needs the toilet twice more.  The wine disappears in under half-an-hour as well as the food, the table is cleared and the bill requested.  The baby, filthy, covered in the bread, chips and mussel-shell detritus from under the tables is man-handled into the pushchair.  The bill arrives including that second child’s meal and heads are starting to ache from too much red wine drunk too quickly and the prospect of an argument in French.

The bags are packed, the money counted out (less the second meal but plus tip which added up to the same amount – the parents are unsure what point is being proven, they just know there is one) and the last dregs of wine are sunk.  From start to finish in fifty-five minutes.

And wouldn’t you know it – the four-year-old starts playing jumping games with the little boy from the next table watched gleefully by the baby.  Peace and happiness abound.

Same time next week?

No way.  Definitely back to the biryani.

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About Kerry Mayo

I have written three novels, I have been published in the Whitstable Women Writers anthology, Place, and had one non-fiction book, Whitstable Through Time published by Amberley. I have also had two short films produced and short stories and serials published in national magazines.
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