The Adventure of Extreme Weather in Vienna

It is so hot in Vienna at the moment, I can hardly function. I have never experienced heat like it. The cold tap runs warm. Sleep is impossible. It’s unbearable to be inside. Outside is worse. According to BBC weather, tomorrow it’s going to be 39 degrees. I am dreading it. Afternoons are mostly spent in front of the television with our wonky wretched fan attempting to circulate cool air. Noah spends all afternoon naked, apart from his Mickey Mouse slippers. I spend most of the afternoon arguing with Noah when he insists on turning the fan off or dragging my friend the fan around after me from room to room.

As Austria is land locked and there are no beaches, it compensates by having outdoor swimming pools. There are lots of them and some of them are beautiful, right on the side of a mountain with miles and miles of countryside around. I have only ever been to one swimming complex, Stadionbad, which is in the Prater (click here to see what the Prater is and what else is there). There is a bus right behind our apartment building which takes us straight there. Stadionbad is the more chavvy outdoor pool but I don’t mind. I’m an Essex Girl. I shop at Lakeside and like it. Stadionbad is the Lakeside of swimming pools, everything you need on your doorstep.

Stadionbad costs 5 euros for the day. Noah is free. It has an Olympic sized swimming pool, which I have never been near. It has a shallow pool which has a wave machine once an hour. It has two water shoots. It has a big curve shaped pool with a shallow end and deep end and it has an ankle-deep kids pool. Surrounding these pools is lots and lots of grass, shaded by numerous trees. People bring their own sunbeds, chairs, umbrellas, tents, plastic tables and they are set up for the day. On Saturday my husband had to work all day. I couldn’t face the thought of the whole day indoors, so I decided to brave Stadionbad on my own with Noah.

Swimming pools really aren’t my thing. In fact, I hate them. I hate getting wet. I hate how your swimming costume bottom stays wet for the rest of the day, no matter how hot it is. And don’t get me started on public pools. I don’t mind proper swimming as there is a purpose and benefit to it, but larking around in a swimming pool is not my idea of fun. If I sound like a misery, when it comes to swimming, I absolutely am. Noah’s swimming education is my husband’s domain. He takes Noah to his swimming lesson every week during his lunch hour. So I was really taking one for the team when I told Noah I’d take him swimming on Saturday.

When I opened my eyes on Saturday morning, I’d changed my mind about swimming. Maybe we could go to the Prater instead? Maybe Noah could go on a few rides and go in the playground? Then Noah came running in and scrambled over me, settling his naked self in the middle of the bed. “Mummy, are we going swimming today?” he asked, bouncing up and down. “Yes,” I sighed, “We are.”

Before he left for work, my husband gave me a lecture. He told me Noah is capable of swimming on his own. I mustn’t hold on to him all of the time. I must let him jump in on his own. I must take him on the slide. I should encourage him to do his “rocket” and his “engine”. He only needs to wear two of the armband floats rather than three. “Maybe I’ll tell him the slide is shut?” I suggested hopefully. “Don’t be ridiculous,” my husband said, looking at me from underneath his lowered eyebrows.

The first challenge of the day was putting sun cream on my own back. I enlisted Noah’s help which resulted in so much sun cream going over my swimming costume that I had to change into a different one.

When we got to Stadionbad, I spread our picnic blanket out under a tree and we were ready for the pool. But wait…I had encouraged Noah to bring his scooter. I was worried about leaving it there for anyone to come along and take it. How could I live in Vienna without it? I draped our towels over it, trying to make it look like a chair rather than a scooter and hoped for the best.

All ready for the pool
All ready for the pool

We went in the big pool and it was cold. It was only ten thirty and the pool hadn’t warmed up yet, despite the heat. Noah clung to me. He refused to show me his rocket or his engine. He refused to jump in. He refused to swim. I was at a loss. My imagination stalled drastically. What do people do in swimming pools with their children? I tried Pop Goes the Weasel, which is all I remember from my own swimming experiences at three years old, but Noah wasn’t a fan.

So we went on the slide. I don’t know if it’s because I have such a flat bottom (I am the direct opposite of Kim Kardashian. She got my share of bottom muscle/flesh, I’m sure of it. No one has a bum that big), but I always find these slides uncomfortable. My sitting bones bomp uncomfortably over each join in the plastic (i.e. every metre). Although Noah is a big fan of the slide, he is not a fan of the steps leading up to the slide, which have soggy bits of grass all over them. He is not a fan of the black rubber mat you stand on whilst getting on the slide. He is not a fan of the water that rushes out of the top of the slide. But still, we went on the slide five times. It was then 11.30 and I could claim it was lunchtime. And my bum was bruised.

A small roll for lunch
A small roll for lunch

After lunch, I wondered what we could do next. Noah made a half-hearted attempt to play in the little playground (two swings, some springy chicken things, a roundabout and a sandpit) but it was too hot and he ended up sitting on the grass gazing at the other children, chewing the ears on his toy lion. I took him to the shop so he could choose himself a swimming pool toy to keep him occupied. He’d seen a boy with one of those long thin float tube things and coveted it, but he didn’t choose that, he chose a water gun. We went to the kids’ pool and he played with the gun happily for ten minutes, taking great delight in squirting me. But then he threw the gun down and sat on the side watching it drift away, elbows on his knees and his chubby fist pressed into his chubby cheek.

What else was there to do? We got an ice cream and went back to pack up our stuff. Noah laid on the picnic rug sleepily and refused to move. I felt his pain. There was nothing I wanted to do more than lie down on that rug and have an afternoon siesta. But if he sleeps at lunch, he is up till nine and I love the boy dearly but I don’t need his company till nine o’clock at night. So I picked up the rug and rolled him off. Then I put him on the scooter, which no one had stolen, attached the scoot n pull and dragged him home.

The moral of this story is, always leave the swimming to my husband. I am much better as a fond observer.

My Noah and I are looking forward to Thursday when it’s going to drop to a chilly 26 degrees.

A much needed new bit of tat
A much needed new bit of tat

The Twinkle Diaries

Adventures at Our Park

We live on a road that runs around a park. It is Our Park. We love our park. It has two unsightly flak towers on either side of it, but luckily, the view from our window is through the middle of them. You get used to them. To Noah, they are a sign of being home.

A bit of PR for Vienna's parks in the run up to Eurovision
A bit of PR for Vienna’s parks in the run up to Eurovision

The flak tower is hardly noticeable
The flak tower is hardly noticeable
Over the past 16 months, the park has been ideal for picnics, scooter races, playing in the snow, bike practise and cheap ice lollies from the café (90 cents for a Twister!). It gets us out of the house. It is a place where Noah can’t cause too much trouble, try as he might. It is beautifully kept with flower beds and sprinklers and gardeners in green uniforms. On trips home, I miss the park on our doorstep.

And then there’s the playground. I am not exaggerating when I say that the playground has saved my life. Noah and I have been to that playground in -9 degrees blizzards and 40 degrees heat.

However…as with everything involving a three year old, our park has its challenges.


Challenge 1 – Buzz

When we go to the park, Noah switches to his alter ego, Buzz. Buzz is a naughtier version of Noah. Who snapped the new flag off Noah’s new bike? Buzz. Who left a pile of shoes, socks, coat and hat in the middle of the hall? It was Buzz. Who threw a plate of food on the floor because he didn’t want it? Buzz, of course.

At the park, Noah keeps up a steady stream of conversation with Buzz. If I accidentally call my son by his given name, the name that came to me in a dream when I was pregnant, I get an angry response: “I’m not Noah, I’m Buzz!”

Where is my Noah, then?

Buzz speaks to other children, not as a peer, but as a superior being, an intergalactic space ranger. Sometimes, his authoritative tones make smaller children cry, especially when coupled with Buzz snatching his spade back from someone who has borrowed it.

Austrian children don’t tend to talk to themselves at the park.


Challenge 2 – Sandpit Wars

Noah has a range of sandpit toys. As well as the bog standard bucket and spade, he has a digger, a dump truck, a watering can, ice cream cones and scoop, a brick mould and trowel as well as an array of those shape things you fill with sand and then tip upside down. Other children covet Noah’s sand toys. Neither Noah nor Buzz like other children touching their things. Oh no.

At first, I didn’t mind either. Then the sand toys started to disappear. I’d have to keep track of who had Noah’s bucket as well as keep track of what Noah and Buzz were up to hanging upside down off the slide. His spade and shape things were buried by bigger children and I had to dig up the entire sandpit with a rake before I managed to excavate them. Now I’m not so generous with Noah’s sand toys, especially if the park is busy.

Sandpit wars don’t just involve the children. Sometimes parents get involved. Other parents (who haven’t brought any sand toys with them) have, on occasion, informed Noah (and me) that it is okay for their child to play with Noah’s toys. If they speak German, I blank them, though I hear what they are saying loud and clear. Usually, they’ve heard me speaking English to Noah, or overheard Noah’s and Buzz’s conversation, so they speak English. They have that skill.


Challenge 3 – The Big Swing

Our park has one of those big woven swing things that fits about four children inside. I don’t know the official name for it, but we refer to it as “the big swing”. The big swing is Noah’s current favourite thing in the playground. The big swing is a popular feature: it’s never empty. Wherever Noah is playing, he always has one eye on the big swing. As soon as he notices it is free, he makes a run for it, yelling at me over his shoulder to hurry up. Unfortunately, Noah’s legs do not always carry him fast enough. The big swing is popular with big kids and big kids get there first. Then all hell breaks loose with Noah sobbing at the side of the swing whilst the bigger kids blithely jump aboard for a twenty minute swinging session.

Since moving to a foreign country where I speak little of the language, I have developed into a bit of a wimp. One day, Noah was waiting patiently by the big swing. There were four children sitting in it of ages from about eight to twelve. Two of them were eating ham semmels (rolls for those of you who don’t speak the lingo) and two of them were eating ice lollies. Noah waited, and he waited. They could see he was waiting. I went to stand beside him and glared at them.

“Mummy, are they getting off soon?” Noah enquired.

“I’m sure they will get off and give you a go,” I said loudly.

Except they didn’t. Twenty minutes passed with Noah waiting by the swing. Rolls were finished. When roll wrappers were taken to parents sitting ten metres away chatting, one child stayed behind to guard the swing, and to make sure the desperate three year old who had been patiently waiting to have a go, couldn’t claim his turn.

I glared at the parents. I glared at the children.

And yet. I said nothing. What a wimp. Why didn’t I politely ask if he could have a go? Twelve year olds learn English in school. They watch American films and speak English in an American accent. But I said nothing. And I have felt guilty about it ever since.

Instead, I coaxed Noah home with the promise of two jaffa cakes.


Challenge Four – The Tree House

It isn’t really a tree house because it isn’t in a tree, but I can’t think of another term to use to describe it. There is a wooden house about six feet off the ground. You can get to the house by climbing a rope ladder or walking up these wooden posts with foot rests. You can get down the same way, or there is a fireman’s pole to use.

Noah is far too young for this. He can climb up the rope ladder but getting down is a different matter: it is too daunting when he is six feet off the ground. Last year when he managed to get up there, he dropped down into my arms from the opening where the pole is, but he no longer has a two year old’s fearlessness.

I usually make sure he steers clear of this contraption, but I have always been inclined to slip into a daydream. Whilst Noah is on the slide, my mind sometimes starts to drift. I am called back to reality when I hear my son’s voice screaming at me from the other side of the playground. He has got into the not-treehouse and he can’t get down. I try in vain for ten minutes to coax him down the rope ladder. But no. There is only one way Noah is getting down from that not-tree house and that’s if I go up and get him. I kick my flip-flops off and climb the ladder. He throws himself at me and I grip on for both of our lives, rope burns cutting into the soles of my feet. I try to get him to put his weight on the rope but he’s having none of it and clings tighter around my neck. Inevitably, this results in me losing my footing and my leg falling through the hole in the rope ladder. I then have to perform a back bend worthy of an acrobat to slide Noah off the ladder onto the floor so he lands on his feet. The whole process is extremely undignified.

Next time, my Noah, I promise I will get those big kids off the big swing so you can have a go.

Noah and/or Buzz in the sandpit
Noah and/or Buzz in the sandpit