The skies were grey. The air was damp. A long afternoon indoors loomed ahead, just like yesterday. Where can I take Noah after kindergarten, I wondered? Where can we go that only requires one mode of public transport and doesn’t take too long? Ah, I know, Noah and I can go and check out the Eurovision Village at the Rathaus! This year, Eurovision has come to Vienna.
I haven’t watched Eurovision for years. I hadn’t even heard this year’s UK entry until I went to the Embassy party on Monday, where they hosted a reception which the contestants performed at. And yet, I can only think of Eurovision with fond memories. It conjures up the image of me and my sister as children, sitting in front of the TV with notepads and pencils, allowed to stay up late. We graded each contestant on their outfits or how pretty they were, paying no attention whatsoever to their musical abilities.
The adventure started as soon as I picked Noah up from kindergarten: Noah didn’t want to go to “Roorobishon”, he wanted to scoot home with his friend who lives a few doors down from us. The howling, the tears and the scooter sitting started immediately as we stood on the street corner, getting in everyone’s way. “I want to go home!” he wailed. “I want to go home!”
I produced a chocolate mini egg from my bag. He accepted it, put it in his mouth and continued to bawl his eyes out, causing a dribbly chocolate mess all down his coat. I crouched down to his level, tried to reason with him, to tell him how much fun it would be. Apart from a momentary pause where he reached out to stroke my arm, noticing for the first time the glitter on my sweatshirt which has a sparkly silver thread, Noah’s rage continued to build.
I took a step back and observed him thoughtfully. He wanted to go home. With or without reason, the child was upset. Should I abandon the idea of the Eurovision village?
I pictured us getting home and putting the Spot DVD on (Noah’s current favourite). Now, I am very tolerant of children’s television characters. Unlike my husband, I have never wanted to take out a contract on Mr Tumble. Like Noah, I also like getting up and grooving to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme tune. I’m also quite proud of having memorised the whole script of Toy Story by now. But Spot…Spot books are great, but the DVD is an exact replica of the books with an annoying voice over (sorry Jane Horrocks!). Spot has nothing to offer me.
No, I would not face another afternoon of Spot. We were going to the Eurovision Village and that was all there was to it.
“Okay,” I said to Noah, “You go home, and I’ll go to the Eurovision Village.” And I walked off. Of course, he hurried after me screaming, and in this fashion we managed the ten minute walk to the tram stop.
I had no idea what the Eurovision Village would consist of. There was a big stage set up in front of the Rathaus and in front of that were two rows of stalls representing some of the countries taking part. There were also some food stalls and long benches set up where people could eat and drink. In a few hours, the place would be buzzing. But right now, there seemed to be live music playing from behind the stage, and only a few people milling about.
We went to the GB stall to say hello. Noah spotted people carrying aeroplane balloons along the row of stalls opposite. I scanned around to see if I could detect the source of these balloons. We walked up and down, trying to locate the balloon givers. Noah felt it necessary to repeat his request for a balloon approximately every eight seconds. All I found were a group of three teenagers, each with their own deflated balloon, speaking in helium-high voices. I gave them my best teacher look – it’s good to keep practising. I’ll need it again some day.
At last, I found two air hostesses (sorry, flight attendants) from Austrian Airlines, and surmised they might know where the aeroplane balloons were coming from. To my relief, Noah was handed a balloon. And just like that, he was a different child, a happy child, a child who was right where he wanted to be.
Suddenly, a wave of fear swept over me. Balloons are precious things. Keeping them safe from the danger of floating off is not a job to be taken lightly. I wrapped and knotted the ribbon around Noah’s wrist and we started our journey home with me acting as the balloon’s bodyguard.
We got back on the tram and managed to get a seat. I allowed myself to relax and gazed out of the window. It was a full five minutes before I realised the small person next to me was very still and very quiet. I peered around the balloon at his face.
Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no.
I could not carry him, the scooter and the balloon home from the tram stop. There was just no way.
“Noah!” I nudged him. “Noah! Don’t go to sleep!”
“But I’m tired,” he said sleepily.
“Stay awake! Stay awake and when we get in, you can have the biggest chocolate in the world.” Of course, I had no intention of giving him the biggest chocolate in the world. I’ve had kilogram bars of chocolate in my possession in the past and I would never let such a thing through my front door these days. But I’d have said anything to keep him awake.
Miraculously, he did stay awake. We got home at 1.30pm, with only four hours stretching ahead of us until my husband got in, instead of five.
“What do you want to do?” I asked Noah.
“Watch Spot,” he said, running into the front room. “And don’t forget the biggest choc choc you said about before,” he called over his shoulder.
Your wish, my Noah, is my command. Here’s a Kinder Surprise.