I have been to Menorca every year for the past 28 years. My grandparents bought a villa there and it now belongs to their four children, one of whom is my very own mother. When I was a child, before the airlines had thought up baggage allowances, my sister and I would pack suitcases full of toys. I have memories of our Barbies floating on a lilo (their cruise ship), of tea parties in the forest with our bunnies (I was never a teddy kind of girl and my sister did everything I did) and of us getting lost on “adventures” with my dad which sometimes ended up with us walking into strangers’ back gardens. When we were teenagers, we went through a stage of hibernating indoors watching Sky. In particular, Clarissa Explains it All, Saved By the Bell, Boy Meets World and countless other teenage American TV shows which I have now forgotten the names of. They really don’t make TV like they used to. When I did venture outside, it was to sit in the shade with my notebook and scribble one of my novels, my very own series called Kool Kidz. And, of course, I read and read and read. This was something that continued as I grew up. The very attraction of Menorca was that it was a holiday to do nothing but to read and to relax, to eat out and drink Sangria. When I started work, this was more precious than ever.
And then I had Noah. Holidays in Menorca, like everything else in my life, changed dramatically.
We first took Noah to Menorca when he was three months old. For the whole holiday, the longest period he slept in the cot was 40 minutes. Every 40 minutes he’d wake up screaming until, at somewhere around 3am, I’d give up and hold him for the rest of the night. In hindsight, I think he was cold. But back then, I was obsessed with cot death and overheating. He’d be put to bed in a vest with a thin sheet over him. We’d have the air con on. The boy was cold. We live and learn.
The next two years were spent chasing after Noah in a state of sleep deprivation. This year was no different.
The Buzz Lightyear Rucksack
To get to Menorca from Vienna, we had to change flights at Madrid. Unfortunately, there was a casualty at the airport: we left Noah’s rucksack there. Noah’s rucksack contained his sunglasses, his dragon, his lion Leo (favourite toy to take to bed), his Ben and Holly DVD, his Jake and the Neverland Pirates DVD and a brand new sweatshirt from GAP which I was particularly fond of. I have since made six or seven phone calls to Lost and Found at Madrid airport. The conversation goes something like this:
Me: Hello. Do you speak English?
Madrid: A little.
Me: I have lost a bag.
Me: I left a bag at the airport.
Me: No, a bag.
Madrid: What colour?
Me: Blue and red. It’s a Buzz Lightyear children’s rucksack. Nino.
Madrid: No. Call back after 8.
Explaining the situation to Noah was a bit easier:
Noah: Where’s my Leo?
Me: You know in Toy Story 2 when Woody gets taken and all the other toys go on an adventure to find him and rescue him?
Me: Well, the toys that were in your Buzz Lightyear bag are on an adventure and they’re trying to find their way back to you.
Noah: (Running out of the room) Nana! Nana! My toys are going on an adventure!
I am a bit cut up about the sweatshirt, but I think the real problem will come when Noah inevitably asks to watch Ben and Holly or Jake and the Pirates…
True to form, Noah didn’t sleep well. The villa has three bedrooms: one for my Mum and Dad, one for my sister and one for me, my husband and my Noah. None of us slept well. Noah now wears pyjamas and sleeps under a duvet so he slept for longer than 40 minutes at a time, but it was still hard work. He spent the first four nights waking up at 5 am. For the next five nights, he woke up for between 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. For the rest of the holiday, he was up and down, either waking up early or waking up in the night.
In the middle of one particular awful night, he was on the floor between our beds.
“Noah, get back in to bed!” You can imagine my tone.
“I’m just doing my press ups,” he replied.
He has an answer for everything. When he was asked why he didn’t sleep, he replied, “My back was hurting. The bed is uncomfortable.”
It was difficult to keep Noah entertained all day. He liked the pool, but there are only so many hours in the day you can spend in there. He liked the beach for about an hour. One day we went to a snack bar that has two little water shoots. He loved it. It cost 5 euros for 28 goes. We got there at 12 and Noah had his 28 goes, then we had lunch. After lunch, he wanted to go back on the slides. My husband took him up to the top whilst I positioned myself at the bottom with my phone ready to take a picture. As he got to the bottom, my timing was late and I missed the shot. I moved the camera over to try and get a shot of my husband who was on the next slide. I also missed that shot. As I was busy deleting the photos, my husband called, “He hasn’t got his armbands on!” Yes, to our extreme horror, Noah had gone down the water slide without his armbands on. When he ploughed head first into the water at the bottom, he resurfaced and swam to the side. And that’s all I have to say about that.
As Noah finds sleeping through the night such a challenge, his bedtime routine is very important. But this causes problems when we are on holiday. Most restaurants don’t open before 6 so we either have to find somewhere open at 5 or eat at lunchtime. It was so very very hot in Menorca this year that neither of those options were ideal. My husband is a great believer and enforcer of the routine. My mother likes to mention how when we were children, we had a strict bedtime at home but not when we were on holiday and thinks Noah should go to bed later. I hover in the middle. By 7 o’clock, the boy is finished. Staying up later would mean him being a nightmare. I certainly don’t go on holiday to stay indoors and cook and neither does my Mum, but finding somewhere to eat can become a bit of a chore. My family are in Menorca for four extra nights and they are now enjoying eating in their favourite restaurants in the evenings. They claim they miss us…
And so Menorca is not as relaxing as it used to be. So what? I still love it. I love the pine trees, the sound and the smell of them. I love the general stillness and the quiet of the island. I love the white villas with the red tiled rooves. I love how all the waiters are friendly and give Noah illegal lollypops. Most of all I love the memories. Menorca is part of my fabric and I know that it will be part of my Noah’s too.