There are certain challenges to travelling abroad with children. One is bedtime. It’s not only that no-one wants to go to bed, but that none of the smaller members of the team want to go to bed in a strange bed without full illumination and a parent present. The first night things went okay, mainly because everyone was quite tired. The two smaller ones slept on a bed and a pull-out mattress in one room and the older two on a futon in a back room. The owner of the flat was sleeping on the sofa and had to leave at 6am. When I woke up around an hour later, I found daughter one on the sofa and daughter two upside down on the pull-out mattress next to only son. Apparently the futon was very hard, the room was hot and there was a massive mosquito circling the area all night. The next night we swapped around and bought mosquito spray.
Daughter one was on the sofa; daughter two was on daughter three’s bed and the two younger ones were in the back room on the futon. Only son loomed over our bed. “Can I come into your bed?” he said. “It’s very dark in there.” Two minutes later daughter three appeared. “I think there’s a mosquito,” she said. “I heard it buzzing; the spray doesn’t work.” I turned on the bathroom light and took them back to the room.
Only son covered himself in a sheet against the supposed mosquito. “I want to go home tomorrow,” he said. “Mosquitoes are very bad. They suck your blood.” Oh dear. As the sheet was up to his neck, he soon got very hot. “I can’t sleep,” he said. I suggested a cold shower. Everyone was too afraid that mosquitoes were queuing up outside the door to dive bomb them on the way to the bathroom. Eventually, I managed to persuade them to make the perilous journey to the shower. Everyone cooled down and returned to the room. By around 1.30am everyone was asleep. By 3am I woke up with a crick in my neck because the futon was really hard. I crawled back to my own bed. This has been the pattern for the last few days.
Another challenge has been locating vegetarian food for the two eldest. Daughter two, who doesn’t like eggs or cheese, has eaten an awful lots of chips and lettuce in the last few days.
But mainly we’ve done a lot of walking round Bilbao and along the river, often with only son on our backs. Only son runs round and round like a small puppy until he wears himself out and has to piggyback on everyone in the family to get back home. We’ve sat in parks and in play areas and cafes and watched the world go by and small people run round and round in circles and mostly everyone has got on, which I consider a bit of a success. We’ve also spent quite a bit of time watching Olympic water polo and synchronised swimming on the tv since Spain seems to be good at them. In fact, daughters one and two have now developed a bit of a fascination with water polo which we may be trialling in the paddling pool when we get home.
Bilbao itself is gearing up for its annual fiestas. There are stands being built down by the river. One has Star Wars figures on it. Another is a tribute to sexual liberation. All life is represented. The other day we woke up to a bank holiday and the area where we are living was covered in posters of a woman called Maite. Some of the posters had flowers pinned to them. There was a banner in one of the squares near us. I Googled her name. It turns out she was a member of ETA who died when the bomb she was detonating exploded back in 1987. She was from Bilbao. Today is the anniversary of other ETA members who died.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.