After a full year of lockdown, we no longer know how to behave in public, apparently
For the duration of our latest lockdown, I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that one of the things I’ve missed most is being able to leave our local area and go for a day out somewhere.
Then, last Friday, we were finally allowed to leave our local area and go for a day out somewhere, and, all of a sudden, I remembered why I don’t actually like doing that any more, because leaving the house with toddlers is like trying to break out of Alcatraz, remember?
Even so, I had been counting down the days until our release, and, for our first foray back into the big, wide world, we decided to keep things simple, and take a short drive to Cramond Beach; a regular haunt of ours, which we always enjoy. “Maybe the little café will be open for takeaway, and we can buy some coffee and drink it on the beach, while Max plays happily at our feet!” I said excitedly, momentarily forgetting that this was our family I was talking about, not some fictional family who do things like that without mishap.
But I was filled with the enthusiasm of being finally set free, and nothing was going to harsh my buzz, so Terry and I loaded up the car and headed off, with Max complaining incessantly the whole way, and Terry interrupting our conversation every few minutes to declare that he’d HAD ENOUGH and would TURN THE CAR AROUND AND TAKE EVERYONE BACK HOME IF THERE WAS ANY MORE NONSENSE. And, you know, these are the kind of happy memories we’ve been missing out on during lockdown, aren’t they?
Things I Packed for Our One Hour Trip to the Beach:
* Spare trousers and underwear for Max, in case of accidents.
* A winter coat for Max, in case he was cold. (He wasn’t.)
* A zip-front hoodie for me, in case the two sweaters I was already wearing weren’t enough, and I was cold. (I was.)
* A hat for Max to throw onto the wet sand when he decided he didn’t want to wear it any more.
* Five gooollllddd riiiiiiings.
* Drinks & snacks.
* Max’s bucket and spade.
* Hand sanitiser.
* Face masks.
* A potty, in case the public toilets were still closed. (Er, this was for Max, you understand. For Max…)
* And a partridge in a pear tree.
Things I Didn’t Pack for Our Trip to the Beach, But Really Should Have:
* A spare pair of socks for Max.
* My chill.
* Terry’s sense of humour.
Thing I Thought I Hadn’t Packed, But Which Was Secretly Lurking in My Bag The Whole Time, and I Really Wish I’d Known:
* The changing mat that came with the bag, and which lives in a compartment of said bag that is so cunningly hidden (Note: not really, it was hidden in pain sight, I’m just trying to make myself feel better…) that I completely forgot about it.
Things I Picked Up and Looked At Before We Left the House, But Decided Not to Add to the Bag, Because There Were Probably Some in There Already, and Anyway, We Wouldn’t Need Them:
* Nappy bags.
Things That Were Not, In Fact, In The Bag Already:
* Nappy bags.
Thing We Left in the Car, Which We Came to Regret:
* The potty.
Well, we got to the beach and unloaded ourselves and our considerable amount of belongings from the car, then Terry headed off to the café queue to buy us those coffees, while Max and I walked down onto the sand, noticing as we went that the promenade was filled with TV crews and their cameras.
“Oh God,” I thought, as I picked a nice rock to sit on, and handed over Max’s bucket and spade: “I bet they’re doing some kind of, ‘Look at all these idiots crowding to the beach as soon as the lockdown is released!’ feature, and we will have the starring role as ‘The Idiots'”.
But no, it was worse than that.
As it turned out, the cameras were actually there for Scottish Liberal Democats leader, Willie Rennie, who was sitting on a wall directly above the part of the beach Max and I had set up camp on, doing some kind of pre-election broadcast / interview with the BBC. From where I was sitting, I could hear most of what he was saying – which meant he and his camera crew would presumably have been able to hear us, too – so, while Max got to work on digging a huge hole in the sand, I settled down for some blatant eavesdropping.
It was at that moment that Max decided he needed to go to the bathroom, and that he needed to do it NOW.
“MUMMY!” he yelled at the top of his voice. ”I’VE DONE A POOP, MUMMY! A POOP!”
That was when I realised that staying at home might have sucked, but it had also had its advantages. Like constant proximity to a toilet, say. And a supply of clean clothes. Oh, and somewhere to change my toddler WITHOUT a TV camera crew standing a few feet away. GOD.
And, you know, it was the whole “TV cameras” bit that was the problem, really. Fortunately for us, the part of the beach I’d chosen was fairly sheltered, with no one else nearby – other than the news cameras and local politician, obviously – so, in other circumstances, it would’ve been an OK – if not exactly ideal – place to perform the grim task that now lay before me.
As I removed Max’s shoes, however, and watched in horror as he immediately plunged both feet into a patch of wet sand next to us, thus soaking the only pair of socks we had with us, I couldn’t help but be painfully aware of the giant microphone in my peripheral vision, and the camera, which… surely to God we weren’t actually in sight of that camera, were we? WERE we?
Folks, we were definitely within sight – and, of course earshot – of that camera, and it was only sheer luck on our part (And, OK, possibly some clever editing on their part…) that ensured Max’s ear-splittingly loud poop declaration did not end up being broadcast to the entire country on the evening news. Instead, as soon as we’d changed him (In an operation which, incomprehensibly, took two adults the best part of 15 minutes, and required the use of at least 542 wipes, and endless cajoling…), he ran happily off to play, while Terry and I disposed of the used wipes etc in Terry’s empty coffee cup (Because no nappy bags, remember?), and then had a short – but spirited – conversation on the themes of Whose Fault Was It? and What We Should Have Done Differently. Then we packed up the car and came home again.
And that was how we re-entered society after 4+ months of lockdown: with a poop on a beach, in front of a TV camera, and every member of the family arguing with every other member of the family at some point. In related news, I suspect it’s been so long since we were out in public that we’ve literally forgotten how to do it, so I’m just happy that the weather seems to be being kind to us this, so we can hopefully get in some more practice with this. Because I think we need it, really.
I did very much enjoy my coffee, though…