Once upon a time, it was just the two of us (plus Arthur my dog-child).
Our London lives were a blissful riot of spontaneity. Dining out several times a week; Monday night soirées with friends; long walks along the river, hand-in-hand; impromptu theatre tickets; the hottest exhibitions; last minute weekend breaks… we were shiny happy people.
Now things are a little different. We are still shiny people, however mainly due to sweat and stress. And of course there are many moments of happiness, within the military operation of precision timing, that has become our ex-spontaneous lives.
Last Saturday we decided to take a little boat trip to Ngor Island, or L’île de Ngor as it is known out here. This idyllic gem is Africa’s most western point and is famous for its pounding waves, featured in the movie ‘The Endless Summer’.
Had I not had to pack two nappy and provisions bags to prepare for every possible baby scenario, the journey itself was very straightforward. You cross a few football pitches of water in a pirogue (a fabulously painted canoe), for the price of 500CFA, which is about 70 pence. And if you decide to dine for lunch in a lovely little restaurant called La Maison d’italie, they will send their very own pirogue to pick you up. Which is of course what we did.
Now up until this point the babies were (and still are) little heroes. They were dragged out in the midday sun, smothered in factor 50, forced to wear sunhats, tucked sweatily and snuggly into two Baby Bjorns, taken on a just-about-sea-worthy vessel, and for good measure, splashed in the face with some cold ocean spray. NOT A MURMER.
It wasn’t until my husband and I sat down, ravenous and spitting feathers with thirst, that they announced to us and the other patrons of La Maison d’italie, that they were pretty pissed off. Cue total twin meltdown. But that’s the way it is with babies (or so we are learning); they don’t simply fit into your life. You have to mould your life around them and become a master of anticipation.
After a lot of tears, face scrunching and fist clenching (and that was just from the husband), we persuaded them to have a much needed afternoon nap. At which point we seized the moment to order a feast of bruschetta and heavenly home made seafood linguine, washed down with a lovely bottle of wine. And just like that, a little family equilibrium was restored.
The afternoon was spent meandering around the island’s narrow lanes and clambering over the rugged clifftops above the Atlantic’s relentless waves. Peppering the coastline were quaint stalls with local artisans selling art, clothes, textiles and jewellery. And what a friendly bunch. The twins are welcomed with open African arms, wherever we go and the Senegalese can’t seem to get enough of them.
Les petites jumelles sont mignonnes!
A vast contrast from the ‘are you kidding me’ reaction we seem to get in most London eateries, before being buried away in the deepest darkest corner of the restaurant – normally next to the loos or an open kitchen.
After a lovely few hours of exploring this little treasure pot of an island, we boarded the pirogue with two weary dollies, and were expertly steered back to Dakar’s shores.
So how did we fare?
Well, all in all, it was a fabulous day out, warm hospitality, delicious food and a stunning setting. But we have also learned a useful parenting lesson; get up and get out early. If you’re going to traipse around in a hot climate with two little tiddlers, make sure you set sail when they are at their most energised and not in the blazing sunshine, when they know they should be napping.
Tomorrow, we plan to go for another family outing and aim to be out the door for 9am.
I better go and pack those nappy bags!