AKA - Three Colours Red
The best thing about travelling with a baby? The extra luggage allowance and being able to jump to the front of the queue.
The worst thing about travelling with a baby? You have to travel with a baby.
We’re on a plane half way across the Atlantic Ocean, pointed towards Antigua. I have a spare second, so naturally I’m downing a large glass of red wine. Zsuzsa is somewhere on the other side of the plane, chasing an insanely excited Mila as she toddles down the aisle at full pelt. I can hear Mila chuckling to herself maniacally as a red-faced, flustered looking Zsuzsa hurtles after her. This routine has been going on for the best part of three hours with myself and Zsuzsa seamlessly swapping roles on a regular basis. In our possession we have an iPad full of Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee, but as it stands, the temptation to slap strangers on the thigh, scream and then run the gauntlet in to the business class lounge is proving too great for Mila to resist.
I used to love the idea of long-haul flights. Settling down for several hours, a string of unexplored movies to watch, people bringing me alcoholic beverages and pretzels whenever I press the alcoholic beverage or pretzel button.
I glance up and see Zsuzsa grimacing and apologetic as she drags a rabid toddler away from the business class curtain.
It’s now several days later. We’ve successfully made it across the pond, the sun is shining, the beaches are sandy, the sea is wet and the rum is rummy. This is more like it.
I’m at our resort’s reception trying to find activities to fill in the gaps between beach fun and rum drinking. The man behind the counter is trying to convince me that an ideal activity to do with a twenty month old young lady is to jump in a speed-boat, head out to sea, dive in the water and swim with wild stingrays. I’m dubious.
“Are you absolutely sure this is okay for a toddler?” I ask.
“Oh yes sir. Very appropriate. Great family fun.” he replies with a beaming smile.
“And she’d get in to the ocean with us and swim with stingrays?”
“Oh yes sir. Stingray’s very friendly fellows. Your little lady would have much fun.”
I ignore the fact that he is referring to wild fish as ‘fellows’ and glance over at the two women in my life. At this precise moment Zsuzsa is attempting to wrestle Mila in to submission to prevent Mila from throwing rocks at a tortoise. This man does not know Mila. This man does not know that it’s often a challenge to put Mila in a bath of luke warm water with a rubber ducky. This man wants us to put Mila in the ocean with wild stingrays. This man is a fool.
A few days later and we are now all a luminous shade of rouge. It transpires that the Antiguan sun, being so close to the equator, is more powerful than the Pontypridd sun. We’re sitting outside a beachfront bar. My blood is running dangerously low on rum. Now is the time to act. I get up and flip-flop over towards the bar. As I approach I notice that the lady and man behind the bar are talking in a strange language. I remember the previous day when we took a tour around the island, the driver was explaining to us how the Antiguans speak a dialect of English that they developed many, many years ago, for the Antiguans to speak amongst themselves without their British slave owners understanding. It’s a language that I’ve actually heard spoken around Brixton from time to time. I decide to delight the Antiguans behind the bar. I will speak to them in their native tongue. They’ll love this.
“Whagwan bombaclart?” I say, before adding “Two rum and gingers, er, mon.”
They both stop what they’re doing and stare at me. The strange thing is that they don’t seem delighted. In fact, the man seems visibly riled. I smile nervously.
“Um, two rum and gingers please?” I repeat.
The man looks like he’s about to growl.
“Two rum and ginger?” the lady tries to clarify.
“Er, yeah…mon.” I say.
The man still looks a bit growly.
A few minutes later and I’m back with my wife and child. Zsuzsa looks at me.
“What’s up honey?” she asks.
“Not very friendly those people.”
“A real attitude! It’s almost like they were blaming me personally for my country’s hidious colonial past.”
Zsuzsa’s eyes narrow.
“You didn’t say anything odd did you?”
“No! Of course not! Just ‘Whagwan bombaclart’ and asked for the drinks.”
“Antiguan for ‘What’s up mate?’”
But now I have a nagging doubt. I decide to ask my good friend Google if he knows what ‘Whagwan bombaclart’ means. He does. I go white. Well, as white as you can go when you are luminous rouge. Bombaclart doesn’t mean ‘mate’. It mean’s ‘arsehole’.
“Oh. My. God!” I exclaim.
“I just went to the bar and said ‘What’s up arseholes?’!”
“Oh. That’s not so friendly.”
It’s time to make a sharp exit. We down our drinks and scarper towards the beach to work on our shades of red. Maybe travelling with a baby is not the worst thing about travelling with a baby after all.