The End of our French Adventure

The Husband’s sojourn in France ended on a high note.
Even though he doesn’t exactly have a mop of hair to manage, he can’t go more than a week without getting a haircut. Our two weeks in France were no exception. And so, on our second last day (miraculously, a non-cycling day), we took a walk into the village of Fayence in search of a “coiffeur hommes”. This coiffeur hommes was not manned by an 80-something year old Frenchman with a pair of shearers and a shaving bowl. Instead, we were greeted by an attractive 40-something Frenchwoman with some sort of modern hair-cutting machine that The Husband approved of. The hairdresser couldn’t have been friendlier and The Husband even tried to practise his French on her but the real clincher was when she paused, looked at him in the mirror and said, “You know, you look a bit like Bruce Willis.”
Well, The Husband was in seventh heaven. The hot French hairdresser had made his day.
Buoyed up by his new-found mean man looks, his confidence in practising his French that evening was up too. He decided to practise a sentence on the waiter at our favourite Fayence restaurant. We were thinking of ordering the crayfish risotto and wanted to know whether the crayfish was served in its shell. I wasn’t entirely sure how to say this in French so I translated it literally from the English: “is the crayfish still in its shell?” It didn’t sound entirely right but I was at a loss as to how to phrase it any other way and so I taught The Husband this literal sentence in French. He, very bravely posed our question to the waiter. But the waiter beautifully finished his sentence because, you see, in French there is a wonderful word which means “out of its shell”. “Decortique”. Isn’t that just so neat and beautiful? Sigh… French is such a beautiful language.
After our last dinner under the stars on the terrace of our villa, we retired for our last night in France, before waking up the next morning to a 24 hour journey back to SA. We had to check out of the rented house by 10 in the morning, even though our flight from Nice was only at 4pm. When I say “our” flight, I mean myself, The Princess and her nanny, Charity. The Husband had found out a few weeks ago that he had to fly straight to London for work. I was terrified and decided I had nothing to lose by asking the French granny at the check-in desk whether there was any chance Charity could be up-graded to business class? Pretty please, with a swish of creme fraiche on top? Of course, there was not a frigging chance of that and so The Princess and I were going to be all alone sans daddy and sans nanny on the long haul flight from Paris to Jozi. Oi.
We had a six hour layover in Paris where The Princess fell asleep once only on Charity’s shoulder, lulled into slumber by the soothing music in Sephora. She promptly woke up 20 minutes later and was as wired as anything for the rest of the night which is precisely what I had been afraid of. Our flight was only leaving at 23:20 and I figured by then she’d be hysterical if she hadn’t slept. I was praying I’d have no-one next to me in the two-seater configuration but it was not to be. The flight was jam packed. Luckily, the guy next to me was a father of two kids under the age of five and was the most chilled neighbour you could wish for. A Brazilian engineer living in Maputo and building a mine somewhere in Mozambique, he kept on telling me that everything I apologised for was “no problem, no problem” in his thick Portuguese accent. And when I think back to my tolerance for babies on planes, I should be ashamed of myself. A tiny peep out of any kid on an aircraft in my former life and I would’ve shot the “pathetic” parent the blackest look ever… How the tables turn.
Fortunately, The Princess reserved her two hysterical screaming fits to nappy changing time in the bathroom. The first time, the well-meaning stewardess who was holding her while I mixed her bottle, told me she thought she’d heard some butt thunder. There was nothing but pee but The Princess was still outraged at being dragged into that tiny bathroom and placed under those bright lights and boy did she let me know it.
The next morning, just before breakfast we really did have a Code Brown on board. Of course, it would be one of those Code Browns that had smudged all the way up The Princess’ back and soiled her vest, so we had to do a full clothes removal and re-application. NOT a happy princess.
That aside, though, she really behaved well. I was too terrified to “abandon” her in her little bassinet as I was certain that would produce screaming, so she simply slept in various positions on my chest all night and I think the two of us actually got a fair amount of sleep. She must’ve sensed her mommy was panicked and that she needed to behave.
When we finally got our bags and met our transfer company, the idiots hadn’t sent a safe baby seat for The Princess, so we were off on our next adventure: The Princess’ first train journey aboard the Gautrain. The Princess is strictly a one-poo-a-day girl but on very, very special occasions she has been known to poo twice a day. Today was one of those occasions. With ten minutes to spare until the departure of the Gautrain, we had our second Code Brown on board. It was too bad, though. There was no time for a nappy change. We had a train to catch. And so it was that The Princess, Charity and I, boarded the Gautrain with a monumental whiff wafting about us, for the final leg of our two week adventure.
Twenty minutes later, we were home AT LAST. And what fine weather we have come home to! Summer is upon us. The Princess and I celebrated by taking a stroll to Tasha’s in all our summer finery. Long may it last!

French Adventure Begins

Fortunately for The Princess and I, The Husband is now so “used to” flying business class for business, he is unable to downgrade to fly cattle for leisure. Even more fortunately, Air France allows The Princess to travel business class for the bargain price of R2,000 – the cost of a last minute ticket to Cape Town but instead, she can go all the way to Paris. She even gets her very own flat bed, although that is about all she gets as she can’t partake in the champers or the fois gras. The problem with babies and business class is that babies don’t know how lucky they are that they’re not in cattle and so they still cry just as loudly. The Husband confessed yesterday he was not very sympathetic to parents with screaming babies in a class reserved for stressed business people in need of their sleep. He used to think to himself, “why don’t those lazy parents just do something?” That was until we were “those lazy parents” on Thursday night. Suddenly, “just doing something” seemed impossible. What was that magic ingredient that would make The Princess stop screaming? It turns out, in her case, it was food. She broke all records by gulping back 200ml of formula at 7:30pm (and that was a top up as she’d been breastfed at 6pm). By around 10pm, in desperation we prepared another 100ml which she drank, in stages, between naps. Under the circumstances, I think she was virtually as good as gold after her meltdown from about 9 to 10:30pm.
At one stage, she was fast asleep on my stomach (she wasn’t as impressed with her flat bed/ bassinet as she ought to have been and preferred to sleep on Mommy) when another baby, somewhere in the plane, was howling. The woman behind us had clearly had enough because suddenly a loud “Jesus Christ!” could be heard throughout our section of the plane. No doubt The Princess’ earlier screaming had gotten to her. Obviously, we felt bad for all our fellow passengers but firstly, there is precious little you can do and secondly, we were just thrilled that when this woman’s temper finally flared, it wasn’t our baby who had been the cause.
Having survived the flight to Paris, we still had a long journey ahead of us:
       four hours in transit at Charles de Gaulle
       a one and a half hour flight to Nice
       a six hour drive to the Alps The Alps was slipped into the holiday itinerary by the ambitious Husband who wanted to take part in a gruelling cycle race on Sunday 21 August, before embarking on the six hour drive to our villa in Fayence.
Air France, however had other plans. When we landed in Nice, only The Husband’s bike and our nanny’s suitcase arrived too. Two suitcases plus The Princess’ stroller had been left behind in Paris. There had been some kind of mistake at Charles de Gaulle and they would only arrive in Nice late on Friday night. With much sadness and negotiating about future bike races, The Husband agreed to forgo his race in the Alps. We now had to find a hotel for one night, before our villa would be ready on Saturday. And so it was that we found ourselves at the Park Inn, with a beautiful view over Terminal 2 of the Nice airport as well as the railway tracks, for added aesthetic value.
On the bright side, we had escaped the cold of Joburg for the beautiful balmy weather of Nice. On the downside, The Husband and I had nothing but the sweaty, stinky, hot clothes on our backs and so could not even take advantage of the hotel’s pool. But we had survived our first international trip with The Princess ….

Parenting Denial

Okay, so lunch at the neighbours’ was a diet disaster. She made phyllo pastro draped in crumbling feta, dressed with fig pieces to start. For mains, there was seared salmon topped with fresh mango, avo and coriander, served with some delicious form of mash – which I normally don’t eat, because I put it down to a total waste of calories – but it was beautifully unstodgy in its consistency, creamy and utterly divine. What was a girl to do? Even The Princess had some. Not by choice, though. She was perched on my chest in her Baby Bjorn carrier (these things are the BEST, by the way) on my chest, looking out at the dinner table and innocently watching the goings-on. Her head happened to be in the path of my fork on its way from my plate to my mouth, so it was kind of inevitable that I ended up dropping a chunk of seared salmon on her little head, poor angel. The hazards of eating with a baby on you – well, perhaps more hazardous for the baby.

Dinner, I’m afraid was equally hazardous. The Husband’s pilot cousin-in-law was in town before jetting off tomorrow morning and so we took him to The Local Grill. Home of THE best steaks in Jozi. So of course I had to have a fillet. I did pass up the uber yummy shoe string fries in the name of Weight Watchers but their Local Salad with its secret dressing is just too good to be very diet friendly. Anyhoo – today is Monday and what better day to restart a diet than the beginning of a calendar week.

On another note, The Husband came up with a classic yesterday. Contemplating what to do on a Sunday afternoon, he said, with a dead straight face:

“Do you think we can take The Princess to a movie?”

Sure, honey. At the tender age of three months and three weeks, we’ll just prop her up against her box of popcorn, put some Coke in her bottle and discuss montage with her afterwards. I’m sure she’ll love it.

Shame, I think he’s experiencing some form of parenting denial because when I asked him what planet he was on, he didn’t really see the insanity of his question.

“Really?” he said. “We can’t?”

He even made the genius suggestion that we simply take her in her pram, and if she cried, we swiftly wheel her out. The irony is that, six months ago, if a crying kid had to so much as interrupt 10 seconds of his movie, he would have been down the aisle in a flash, lecturing that mom on the selfishness of her actions. But because we’re talking about The Princess here, well, there should be a special Ster Kinekor dispensation for this incredible child!

One area where I am happy to report that he’s no longer in denial, is in the poo department. Would you believe that he has willingly changed poo nappies since the hospital? Not bad, huh? For someone who once swore he’d employ someone to be solely responsible for poo, he’s come a long way…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s/Breakfast at Tasha’s

I’ve just read Truman Capote’s fabulous novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I picked it up while having breakfast at Nice in Parkhurst, in their gorgeous, little adjoining bookshop, where one can browse whilst waiting for one’s scrambled eggs and smoked salmon – a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning. Although The Princess did wake up just as our food arrived, which is highly unusual for her. She really is her Daddy’s girl – she absolutely LOVES restaurants. She feels so at home in them that she usually sleeps just as happily in a restaurant as she does at home in her crib. She doesn’t mind the din of coffee machines, the buzz of people, the noise of the waiters. Normally, she just sleeps. But that particular Saturday morning she woke up wanting food. Fair enough, I suppose, since we were all sitting there enjoying our breakfast baskets.

The other good thing about restaurants is that The Husband likes to show off his fathering skills. So, whilst he will generally decline the offer of a top-up feed at home, he’ll happily oblige in public. Which suits me pretty well as I get to relax while he sees to The Princess when we are out.

When The Husband is around on weekends (which is whenever he’s not cycling) we’ll venture to places like Parkhurst, but when it’s just The Princess and I during the week, she and I frequent Tasha’s, just up the road from us. The bumping along on the pavement on the way there almost always puts her to sleep and so by the time we arrive at Tasha’s she is sleeping like a little angel – mouth open, little arms up with fists in the air every time I peek under the muslin. The picture of content.

When I described to our night nurse (yes, we have one of these angels sent from heaven so we do get to sleep) how good walking to Tasha’s was for The Princess’ day sleeps, she exclaimed:

“Ah! She likes to travel!”

Yes, that’s my princess – she likes to travel, just like her Mommy and Daddy. And not unlike Holly Golightly, the fabulous female protagonist from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Tiffany’s (the magnificent New York jewellery store) is to Holly what Tasha’s is to The Princess. If I recall correctly, the book implies that one can also enjoy breakfasts, brunches and lunches at a Tiffany’s cafe adjoining the jewellery store – hence the name of the novella. Tiffany’s is where Holly goes when she wants to feel safe from the maddening, frightening, ever-changing world. Alas, Holly can’t afford a piece of jewellery from Tiffany’s but she can afford to get the store to print her calling cards. Now, Holly sees herself as a bit of a rolling stone, and so, instead of having her New York address printed on her cards, she simply puts: Holly Golightly, Travelling. Isn’t that great? What a fabulous address for a woman on the move.

Basically, if you haven’t yet read this gorgeous novella, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy. It’s a very quick, easy and entertaining read and Holly Golightly is one of the most amusing and original characters you’ll come across. To view the trailer of the movie, go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urQVzgEO_w8

But back to The Princess, who really will be “travelling” soon. I am thrilled to announce that after only 8 working days, Home Affairs has managed to produce her passport! Now she can venture beyond Tasha’s and out into the world…

Now I’m Fat AND Old

I’m on a bit of a campaign to spread the news of how hard it is to have a kid. None of this sugar-coated B.S. when people ask me how it’s going and I coo: “Ah, it’s a miracle!” Nope. I tell them it’s unbelievably, incredibly, mind-blowingly HARD! Why? Because NO-ONE TOLD ME! So I figured I’d tell anyone who wants to listen.

I was on this trip when The Mother Figure’s best friend asked me how things were going. When I told her just how tough I thought mommyhood was, she said the following – wait for it.

“Well, the thing is – you’re not that young anymore.”

WTF? She’s calling me old? I was practically speechless.

“Er…really?” I said.

But what I was thinking was, “You’re not young AT ALL, Grandma!” In fact her grandkids are basically my age. Okay, fine they’re pushing twenty but that’s not that far off 32. Which is apparently half dead. Bloody hell!

I think she saw my look of horror because she went on to clarify by saying that 32 was old to be having one’s first child.

“I mean, I was finished having my babies by the time I was 26,” she said.

I was like, “Maybe, but that was in days when women were named Fanny and no-one found it funny. This is the 21st century and 32 is the new 22 for Christ sake!”

Okay, that’s not what I said but that’s what I was thinking.

I’d thought my post pregnancy troubles all had to do with my expanded waist-line. But now I was fat AND old and I just can’t seem to shake the last 3.5kg of baby boep. And the only reason we’re talking about 3.5kg of lovely lard is thanks to an earth shattering bout of gastro that shed 3kg in something like three days. The gastro was so bad, I thought I was dying so I didn’t even care about the kilos when I was hunched over the toilet bowl – and I do have to be half dying not to care about kilos. The Best Friend, however, didn’t quite see the serious side of the situation.

Best Friend over phone: “Hey. How’re you doing?”

Me: “I’ve just had the worst gastro of my life. I thought I might be dying.”

Best Friend: “Shame… More importantly, though, did you lose weight?”

Me: “I’m horrified. I’ve just told you I was practically dying and you want to know if I lost weight? Okay, if you must know, I lost three kilos.”

Best Friend: “So unfair.”

Me: “I know.”

The issue with the remaining 3.5kg (oh, and the additional aspirational 5-10kg I’ve been trying to lose since I was 14, but one step at a time here…) is that my new home away from home is Tasha’s. The Princess is not the best day sleeper but as soon as I wheel her out of the complex gate in her pram, she’s out for the count. And as soon as I wheel her back towards the front door she wakes up – no matter if we’ve been out for 10 minutes or two hours. It’s like she smells home and she’s wide awake. So what we do is we walk to Tasha’s so she can pass out on the way. We’re there in all of five minutes but we need to pass the time while we’re there so The Princess can carry on sleeping. And so…mommy has a decaff cappuccino (the joys of breastfeeding) and then on some days, a large slice of baked cheesecake jumps out at mommy and demands to be eaten. And all the while The Princess sleeps like a dream…I guess the beauty of a sleeping baby is almost worth all the calories that come along with baked cheesecake.

Anyhoo, enough calorie counting. It’s 10pm which means it’s bedtime for the likes of us “old” mommies.