It's Friday afternoon. Normally I would be readying Boy #1 for his judo class in half an hour, bracing myself for the "But I don't WANT to go!"s and "Can't I just stay here and watch television?"s, before ultimately chasing him down the road at breakneck speed as he changes his mind and scoots off to the class. Normally I would also be dealing with a grisly Boy #2 who is most reluctant to be woken from his Friday afternoon nap, manhandling him up the stairs to his buggy, and bribing him to stay put in it with offers of raisins and apples (he thinks of these as treats and yes, I know, I'm blessed...).
But this is not a normal Friday afternoon. Instead of judo, I am currently bracing myself for an onslaught to the senses that has to be experienced to be believed, and which will leave me begging for mercy and longing for the peace and sensory deprivation of a flotation tank by the time I get home.
For yes, today, I am taking the Boys to a birthday party. And not just any birthday party, oh no. We are going to the Hell's Mouth of birthday party locations.
This birthday party is at... Gambado.
Apologies those who don't know what I'm talking about. To quote from a post I wrote 18 months ago (and that in itself is depressing enough; I've been going to parties there for that long..?) 'Gambado is a swanky play-centre in Chelsea Harbour with the latest in kid-centric entertainment, and a jungle gym big enough to lose a battalion of kids.'
This is nice in theory but when you are there with two boys it can be just a little... tiring . I can't count the number of times I've found myself frantically searching for them having not had sight of either for far too long, having to crawl into, over and through obstacles intended for people less than half my size. And the friction burns I've collected on my elbows from accompanying Boy #2 down the not-quite-slippery enough slides are not a thing of beauty, I can tell you.
I look back fondly to when Boy #2 was still small enough to find the ball pit exciting and at least I knew where to find him. Nowadays it's all about the slides, ropes, stairs and running from Mama. And in addition to the enormous Jungle Gym there are also kid-sized dodgems (imagine the potential for fisticuffs in the queue there with twenty entitled 3 - 7 year olds all waiting for rides on 8 cars, and you won't be far from the mark), and - I kid you not - a mini-carousel. At least once they're on that, I know where they are for 5 minutes.
It's an explosive mixture - crazy, hyped up kids, stressed out and exhausted parents - as borne out by a friend of mine who was there last year and actually witnessed a knock-down fight between two mums over their childrens' behaviour to each other...
Whatever happened to a gentle game of British Bulldogs in the park?
Heaven help me...
Update: We're back. Gambado lived down to expectations, and I have no more to say on the matter. Other than, pass me the corkscrew and of course;
The Empress is tired. You must leave her now.
(See Belgian Waffle for source of obscure quote)