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The travelling isn't over though. It turns out we are staying at the Arndale Travel Lodge, which, according to my map, is at least a Metroshuttle ride across town. (free though!) It turned out to be a Metroshuttle ride across town followed by half an hour walking along the side of the Arndale centre twice, being pointed in the wrong direction by helpful passers by twice and having to console four walking children and maintain their enthusiasm for the walk (the lucky youngest was falling asleep in the buggy by now - buggy troubles on the train were worth it!).
They all coped incredibly well, and were praised accordingly, when we finally found the hotel.
The hotel was fine. What more can you say about that chain? Although I did ask for extra sheets and an extra duvet and pillow, just in case. Every mother knows that if you don't have spares you are going to need them!
And so, the exciting morning arrived. Worn out from jumping on the beds the night before and not getting to sleep until nearly 9pm (bedtime is usually 7.00pm) they slept late and we had to get them to breakfast fairly quickly. We found our way to the Opera House (another long walk, confusing moment trying to locate the another supposedly obvious Metroshuttle stop and another Metroshuttle ride later) in plenty of time.
Booking tickets for the 10am morning showing was our best move of the entire trip. The circle was practically empty, allowing us more freedom of movement and better sight lines to the exits (with our 5 children to 2 mums ratio on this trip I had turned into Matthew Bourne!)
My youngest wanted to cuddle Peppa Pig. I had to explain that this was a show that we were going to watch; that Peppa would be on the stage and that we probably wouldn't be able to give her a cuddle today, but that we would blow her lots of kisses which I was sure she'd appreciate. Youngest duly placated.
Sweets were handed around just before curtain up. (Bought outside the venue and took inside. We are not made of money you know) And the show started.
I had been given advance warning that the show contained puppets, not adult-size characters, and I'm glad I had the warning. I think I'd have been a little disappointed otherwise. But it's done very well. The puppeteers interacting with the puppets very obviously, not trying to pretend they are anything other than puppets, but equally not pointing it out.
Frequent visits from Miss Rabbit at opportune times were met with glee and the children sat transfixed, which is all we could hope for.
I was actually beginning to relax until, after the interval (when she'd been to the toilet once already), the youngest pipes up:
"I need a wee wee, mummy!"
In a fraction of a second I'm calculating...... approximate time since the interval; approximate length of the second half factoring in the length of the first half; the current point in the story arc; an assumption as to how long the cast will need before the afternoon matinee for rest; to work out whether I'm better taking her now (missing a section) or wait and risk missing the end when she can't quite make it. I'm listening to the actors on stage whilst asking my daughter if she needs to go now, or if she can wait. She hesitantly says she can wait. But; with my nearly acquired spy-like skills I work out the approximate distance to the toilets, the time required, and listening to every word they are saying on stage I work out that they are all about to go on a balloon ride.... Great! They are bound to drag this bit out. And I don't think she can wait - she just doesn't want to miss anything.
Right. GO GO GO!
I hoist her up into my arms, trundle down the aisle (empty to the end - I said it worked out well going to an early showing didn't I), run up the stairs and tear across the area behind the seats to the archway leading out to the toilets. Luckily Manchester Opera House circle is perfectly designed for those with children. Right up until we went through that archway my daughter could still see the stage perfectly. And then we were through...
Down the corridor, turn the corner (careful not to swing around too hard and bump her head on the wall), five more steps, throw open the door to the toilets, up 4 steps, throw open the next door, run in, place daughter down on her feet stood in front of the toilet. A quick downwards swish, an upwards lift onto the seat, a grab of enough toilet paper, a pause (take a breathe), lift her off, wipe, upwards swish, hoist her back up, and fling open the door again. Retrace our steps, and step back through the archway less than 2 minutes later. Then return to a slow stroll, (so as to catch my breath before sitting back down and sounding like a dirty caller with all the heavy breathing). Back across the rear of the auditorium, down the stairs, into our aisle, sit back down, AND still remember to grab the small bottle of anti-bacterial hand wash that I keep in my bag at all times, to wipe her hands before they go back in the sweetie bag. (that shaved a good minute off our time outside the auditorium.)
And you know what... they still hadn't landed that balloon. She didn't miss a thing. Supermum!
The rest of the day was fun; mainly because we had achieved our aim of getting them to the show and therefore were feeling fairly smug. Another Metroshuttle to the station; which my eldest was happy to note was the purple line which we hadn't yet tried out, making a full set of all three. Who knew 'Metroshuttle bingo' would be so much fun. We had a picnic lunch from M&S, including pre-filled wine glasses for the train ride home. I told you I'd get that Rose at some point! And braved the train home.
The train ride home was even more stressful than the one there...and a final post to fill you in on the dodgy film watching antics of some train passengers and the appalling customer service from the catering team will follow soon to finish this set of posts about our half term adventure!
If you've picked up some tips from our adventure, or had a giggle, then my work here is done!
The first two instalments of our trip are here:
Tesco Express chooses bureaucratic nonsense over common sense
Taking children on the train: here's what you really need to consider
And part four is here:
Censorship? What should we censor for children?