Last week, with the easing of restrictions, we took a break to Essex with friends and bubble mates, Mary, Neave and their son Manu. I never ‘holidayed with friends’ growing up because our 13-seater minibus was usually at maximum occupancy, and few families professed any desire to accompany our rabble to a second location. So it felt adult and sophisticated to go away on a relaxing family trip with pals; the sort of thing rich English people do in sumptuous midcentury dramas.
Our trip reached new heights of relaxation when our son refused – for the 1,000th time that day – to share his trucks with Manu, causing them both to clatter to the ground like spilled pennies. Our boy arose, bawling, with a welt on his head the size, shape and colour of an uncooked Ikea meatball. This slowly filled the gap between his temple and left ear, and started bleeding. We immediately jumped in the car and sped to the nearest hospital, a 30-minute drive away.
Due to Covid restrictions, I was stopped from entering and so watched through the window as my wife and child sat in the waiting area. I was joined at this remove by several groups of people who’d clearly migrated to A&E from the pub, as this just so happened to be the first evening bars were back in action. As I watched to see if my son was being treated, it was – serenity itself – to a soundtrack of plaintive youths, desperately asking their companions not to make things worse by storming inside to apologise or, in one case, re-start the fight that had led them all there in the first place.
My phone had died by this point, so I decamped to the car to await word from my wife. She, meanwhile, was testing her own battery to the limit by mainlining episodes of Ra Ra the Noisy Lion, the only thing capable of stopping him screaming. (This has, incidentally, long since overtaken Peppa as my son’s favourite bedtime viewing, so it’s good that we now have proof of its secondary utility as a powerful anaesthetic.)
Thankfully, the wound was superficial, but my wife’s phone had died by the time she found this out– and the hospital hadn’t had any episodes of Ra Ra the Noisy Lion to fill the gap (I blame government cuts). Robbed of his medicine, my son thrashed and writhed until the doctor made such a mess of the bandaging that even he insisted we’d be better off taking him home to bed and replacing his efforts in the morning.
This we duly did, with me clamping him in my arms as if he were a rutting foal, while Mary painstakingly removed and replaced the Steri-Strips one by one. We were delighted to find that his swelling had gone down and as we placed him back to earth, he took one beat before racing after Manu to make sure he had accrued no further trucks in the interim. Our rejuvenating trip was resumed, and the rest of the holiday was an unalloyed success. But next time, we’ll bring helmets.
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