Monday, 10 May 2010

New parents and the First Weekend Away By Kate

It was with a mixture of pleasant anticipation and dread (OK, probably slightly more of the latter) that Theo and I embarked on our expedition to Caceres in Extramadura to take in the sights and sounds of the WOMAD festival. It's been held in the city for the last nineteen years and as well as boasting quaintly picturesque streets and plazas as a perfect way to set off the festival stages, the added attraction is that it is completely free. Theo and I went last year and had a wonderful time watching some fantastic world music being performed in the May sunshine. So we decided to make the journey again this year, but with an obvious alteration to our entourage: we had a baby in tow.

Because of a long-winded problem involving our car insurance which I won't go into now, we elected to take the train from Atocha Station in Madrid to Caceres. Accordingly, we boarded two buses on Friday morning (one at a time) carrying a gigantically stuffed-full rucksack (Theo) a flowery backpack with essentials for the journey (me) and pushing a pram containing our Precious First Born (Theo, mostly).

Stage one went well. We got to Atocha horrendously early and although Rosie remained awake for the journey from our flat, she sustained a cheerful countenance. We killed some time by having a cuppa in a cafe - with a waitress who was so slow fulfilling our modest order (orange juice and a Colacao) we started to fear we might never get our drinks before we had to go.
Getting on the train with our baggage was challenging, but we managed it and after Rosie decided she didn't want to stay in the sling (she tends to protest if whoever wearing the sling isn't in constant motion), we put her in her car seat/pram seat where, following a feed, she obligingly fell asleep (with a little help from a muslin providing some strategic tenting). Rosie slept for well over an hour, awoke and enjoyed looking around the train carriage and watching the passing scenery, then after another snack from Mummy, dozed off again in her seat. We felt cheered - this was proving to be an unmitigated doddle!Rosie only woke up again when we alighted at Caceres station, but was quite content to ride in her pram to the hotel where, once ensconced in room 608, with a clean nappy and another feed inside her, she took another nap. Our spirits continued to rise. A well-rested, contented baby was nine-tenths of the battle for winning an enjoyable weekend. Anticipation started to win over dread.

Our first hiccup came when we sallied forth to check out the festival under suspiciously brooding skies. Theo decided we should keep Rosie in the pram, despite my disappointment at not being able to be a proper hippy mum and have her in the sling (plus I was dubious about negotiating narrow, deeply cobbled streets and crowds). But after only ten minutes, it started to chuck it down and our unwaterproof pram and lack of rain cover suddenly seemed like a bad idea for baby transport. In the shelter of a doorway, I hastily donned the sling, popped Rosie inside and stuck up a brolly. After ascertaining that the rain and wind (which was gusting pretty strongly and called for some serious jockeying of our bucking umbrellas) had momentarily postponed the WOMAD entertainment programme, we turned tail and retreated back to the hotel to dump the pram in the dry and make a second attempt at our trek into the historical centre of Caceres.
This time we were more successful and actually managed to catch bits and pieces of some of the acts, do a little shopping (purchasing some Indian-style head-wear made by our friend Rosie) and eat some home-baked pizza while Rosie (our offspring, this time) was snugly tied to me in the wrap. Impressively, she proceeded to sleep through an incredibly loud Spanish ska band in Plaza Mayor, only waking to the more modestly-volumed folk ensemble, Spiro in Plaza St Jorge (which also featured a Bristol acquaintance of ours, Jon from The Wraiths).But all good things come to an end. Rosie started to lose patience with her situation after a few hours so we rushed back to the hotel while she wailed loudly at us to hurry up because clearly she was about to starve to death.We constructed a tent over Rosie's babynest in our room and after a feed and change, she was content to go off to sleep with minimum fuss. By now it had stopped raining, but there was a distinct chill in the air and although Theo and I both offered a babysitting service to the other, none of the acts was sufficiently captivating to tempt either of us away from the warmth of the family bosom (which must be mine, I suppose). We did the rock'n'roll thing and had an early night.Saturday dawned dank, overcast and, well, crappy. Rosie gave us an unwelcome alarm call in the form of a spectacular poosplosion, which leaked out of her nappy and went....everywhere. After dealing with the excremental crisis, we took it easy in our room, munching on fruit and croissants while reading and babyminding until afternoon came and we decided to venture out again. This we did, to find almost nothing going on, so after scrutinising the market, downing some food and having our photograph taken while chatting to trilingual Eduardo (Spanish, English and Hindi...oh, and he was also busy learning German) with his strapping 9 month-old daughter, Anouk, we went back to the hotel.

Back out again and this time we took part in a dance workshop led by an exuberant Kenyan band - something that Rosie seemed to enjoy (or at least, tolerate) in the sling with Theo. He was also voxpopped by Spanish TV and made a pretty decent fist of it, in my opinion.
After some veggie curry, the rain returned in earnest so we took shelter under a stone archway, gave Rosie a feed and rather glumly surveyed the situation. The downpour, depressingly British in aspect, showed no signs of abating. Although it was only about 7.30pm, we decided we'd had enough. Perhaps without the responsibility of a three month-old baby, we would have shrugged off the inclement weather, downed a few sidras and kept ourselves warm by dancing to some of the more lively bands. But Rosie was showing signs of getting fed up and the charms of the meteorological conditions had long worn thin. Back to the hotel, then.This time Rosie was more cantankerous about bedtime, despite our attempts to mollify her with a relaxing bath (which she enjoyed) and it took much swaddling and un-swaddling plus several attempts at feeding and pacifying before she finally gave in to sleep. Unfortunately, she then woke up wanting a comfort feed every two hours after that, so by morning I was feeling somewhat jaded, to say the least.
We packed up and took a cab to the station, deciding against walking once we had observed the horizonal rain outside. And guess what? We were three quarters of an hour early, so once again we holed up in the station caff with orange juice and Colacao while Rosie gazed in fascination at the screen pumping out Spanish MTV above her head.

The train journey back to Madrid was nowhere near as easy a ride as the one to Caceres. Rosie fussed and cried and having had her routine disrupted for three days now, had obviously decided enough was enough. In desperation, I fed her while standing up in the train corridor, hoping the white noise and motion would help calm her. It did. She finally consented to get some sleep in her chair and we breathed a sigh of relief. It was not to last. Another poosplosion abruptly woke her out of slumber and Theo and I had the joy of changing a baby, whose lower half was liberally coated with her own excrement, on a train seat. Thankfully, teamwork won the day (and Rosie, thankfully, treated the whole thing as a grand escapade put on for her own entertainment) and with the judicious use of babywipes and travel changing mat, we had the situation back under control.

Unfortunately, that was when Rosie's patience, such as it was, ran out and I spent another half hour trying to calm her down (including a second breast-feeding sojourn in the corridor) and persuade her back to sleep. Ironically, it was as we waited in the press of passengers to get off at Atocha that she finally consented to doze off. Impeccable timing.

So, what with one thing and another, it was a relief to make it back home. All things considered, we figured we'd mainly got away with it from Rosie's point of view. She could have been much less tolerant of the venture but as it was, only the minimum of time was spent baby-calming and we were impressed that we'd managed to keep her generally good-natured throughout. No, the main drawback of the whole affair was the miserable, un-Spanishlike weather. But you couldn't blame that on the baby.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like Rosie has the whole festival thing down pat!