I used to have a social life you know. Looking back through the last year or so of my social calendar you could be forgiven for thinking I have delusions of a socialite, but honestly, flick back a little further and you’d discover me out after dark for something other than emergency nappies and Calpol. OK, so you need to go back to before I had kids but still, there’d be gigs, pubs, and even a little culture.
I realise this is a common story for many a parent but what’s striking isn’t the dramatic reduction in social engagements, that is understandable, it’s the form in which these now rare occasions take.
Shortly before Janet was pregnant with Sonny we had a wonderful weekend in Madrid. Fast forward three years and we shared a weekend away in Manchester, the same city we live in. The location is incidental, we love Manchester, there’s still so much of it to explore and discover, but just take a moment to compare each weekend.
In Madrid, after spending the day wandering this great city we spend the evening drinking cocktails at the Mardi Gras.
In Manchester we drank just one cocktail while awaiting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games to show on a big screen in Spinningfields.
In Madrid we ate, drank, and danced into the early hours.
In Manchester we realised by 8pm that the ceremony wasn’t going to start until 9pm so decided to go back to the hotel to watch it there.
In Madrid we finished the night off with the locals, dipping doughnuts into hot chocolate.
In Manchester Janet was asleep before Belarus entered the stadium. The last flag I remember seeing was Kazakhstan.
You see, here is the fundamental difference. In Madrid sleep was a distraction, in Manchester it was the primary reason for getting away.
Back in the day (which I can now say without any sense of sarcasm) we were going to gigs on a weekly basis, often to see an unsigned support act more than the headliner.
Now the venue is as important as the band if we’re to be persuaded to leave the house. The last band we saw (excluding Rastamouse) were The Howling Bells play Manchester Cathedral. It was a stunning gig, but had it been four years previous it would have been at the Deaf Institute where we’d have stayed until they swept up around our feet.
As it was we arrived late, decided against having a drink (it was a school night after all), and by the encore we were sat(?) near the doors to beat the queues to the car park.
It gets worse. I have a confession to make. Those gigs that the Stones Roses played in Heaton Park. I lied. When I said I couldn’t get a ticket, I didn’t even try, I even turned down the offer of a free ticket! The thought of spending hours queuing to empty my bowels of the warm larger I’d spent hours queuing up to buy sent shivers down my spine. And besides, Masterchef was on!
The cinema used to be an impulsive decision. Now we have a babysitter booked before the film has even had its script commissioned. Such is the rarity of a trip to the Odeon that for the last film we saw we were in our seats half an hour before it started. Janet’s excitement got the better of her as she handed over a small fortune for some ice-cream while I took the opportunity to grab a quick power nap. Imagine my surprise when there wasn’t a break mid film so they could change the video reels!
We used to eat out often. When we tried to book a table recently the only time they had available was 9.45pm. We looked at each other and without a word being said decided to eat elsewhere. See, we both knew that by the time the main course had arrived we would’ve rather been back at home in bed. Sleeping.
Here’s the thing. We could and should go out more often. We have the babysitters available, and when we do it’s lovely to talk and laugh together without a toddler crawling across the table or poking a yoghurt spoon in his brothers ear.
But despite all the social life we lost when the kids came along I’d not swap it for the days out we now have as a family. Besides, I’m at an age where a night out should probably be spent playing Bingo anyway, and for that I don’t even need to leave the house, I can play bingo online!
Yes I’d love to go to more gigs, but seeing Mr Tumble entertain the kids comes with an early night thrown in for free.
It would be nice to see more films at the cinema but watching a box-set on the sofa means I can rewind the parts I missed when I ‘rested’ my eyes.
And an impromptu afternoon drinking in the pub would be a nice treat but spending it instead teaching the boys to ride their bikes in the park is not only more entertaining but also doesn’t involve a hangover that invariably takes three days to shift.
Anyway, if you need me I’ll be drinking Cocoa sat in front of my computer in my slippers, reading through the local gig guide and playing ‘recognise the band’.