Young kids make you feel like you’re under house arrest. But instead of armed guards or electronic tags to keep you in place, you’ve got a feeding regime stricter than the Khmer Rouge and the energy levels of a diabetic sloth that’s cutting out caffeine for Lent.
We hadn’t been out together for AGES - the last time we did a proper date night Leicester City were shit and Rolf Harris was a national treasure. It had been a while.
So we get dressed up in the only stain-free clothes we have. The excitement in the taxi is unbearable. I feel like I'm on the way to a mad night out in my early twenties. Anything could happen tonight.
As long as we're home for 10.30pm, don’t get too drunk, and the boys settle okay for grandma, absolutely anything could happen.
We book a restaurant – the place we went on our first date all those years ago. Back then we gazed into each other’s eyes and talked about our plans for the future. This time we complain that the wine is making us tired and I pick a speck of shit out of my fingernails with a cocktail stick.
We polish off the booze in record time, more through hysteria than any actual enjoyment. (I drank more when I was fifteen than I have since the boys were born so my alcohol tolerance has dropped lower than a skateboarder’s jeans.) I begin slurring my words and feel unjustly proud of hiding this by choosing syllables that require less effort.
As we pay the bill and trudge across to the theatre I secretly wish we could just fuck off home to bed.
Not for anything dirty, mind. Just a lovely sleep. (Although as a new parent, I view sleep in the same way that I used to view sex – I’m often thinking about it, I don’t get as much as I’d like and I’d happily do it on a bus.)
We head straight to the theatre bar before the show, neck another glass of wine and rather optimistically order more for the interval.
We take our seats. The show starts. My wife’s head is on my shoulder. That’s nice, I think. Quality time, together. Ten minutes later she hasn’t moved and is now starting to slump.
She’s only bloody fallen asleep I think incredulously, as I rest the side of my head on the top of hers.
Next thing I know, the house lights are on and everyone around us has either gone or is getting up. Instinctively I start applauding, quickly realizing that I’m at least a minute late to show any appreciation for the performance I just snored through. My misplaced clap-solo wakes my wife up suddenly and she looks confused and slightly panicked, like someone who’s just sent a text to the wrong person.
We get to our feet at the second attempt and make our way towards the exit. We’re not sure if the show has finished or it’s just the interval. I mutter something about not understanding the plot but say it far too loud and become aware that people are now staring at me. Somehow there’s a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
We deduce that it must be the interval as people are going back to the bar. We have a decision to make.
When we were a new couple we went to Stratford upon Avon to go and see King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Without wishing to come across as a philistine, it was the biggest pile of shite I have ever seen. The interval came after an epic one hour and forty five minutes on that occasion – the halfway point of the play.
Afterwards we both admitted we had wanted to leave during the interval but didn’t want to appear uncouth in front of our brand new flame. There is no such ceremony here, just a bullet quick,
‘Let’s get off?’
We have another little snooze in the back of the taxi and arrive home feeling refreshed and invigorated by our mad night out.
It is 9.35pm.