“Romantic” city break

Over the last four years, N and I have been a bit hit and miss about spending time together as a couple. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that having kids makes it difficult. But, when I saw that my favourite author was holding a book signing and Q&A in Manchester, N suggested that we book tickets and make a romantic break of it.

You know how this is going to go, don’t you? Because this is me, and this blog is basically just a comprehensive list of my failures and/or disasters.

So, the first thing was that N was just getting over a rotten cold and I was just starting with it. Which led to me driving up the M62 with a raging fever, a runny nose and a horrible sore throat. N slept for some of the journey, so I was also fucking bored and kept incrementally turning the volume up on the car stereo to try and wake him up.

sleeping husband

In 7 years, he has never stayed awake for a whole car journey

Then we got into the city centre and the GPS confidently directed me to a dingy back-alley, whereupon it jubilantly announced, “you have reached your destination on the left”. Unless I’m sleeping in a Biffa bin for the next two nights, you’ve lost your fucking mind. Obviously this was wrong, so N calmly loaded up Google Maps and we were redirected to our actual destination, a car park where we could dump The Smurf for the next two days without having to worry about it.

Of course, now we are those people navigating an unfamiliar city with a phone giving us directions. We are those people having an argument about the fact that the Google Maps app keeps crashing and why the fuck didn’t we just bring an actual map. We are those people arriving crossly at our hotel with sore feet and the dire need for five minutes of peace from each other. Which is difficult when you have to share one room.

Anyway. We checked into the hotel – “your room number is 237, dial 0 for reception, etc, etc” – and headed for the lifts. As we got into the lift I didn’t really think much of our room number. I expected that there would probably be about 50 rooms on each floor. Then we got to the second floor and we got out of the lift and there was a sign on the wall. “Rooms 203 to 237” with an arrow pointing around the corner. And I got that kind of creeping sense of dread that you sometimes get when you realise that your room is the last one at the end of the corridor. Like the cleaners might finish the penultimate room, turn to room 237 and think nah, fuck it and not bother changing the sheets. We trudged up the corridor, and as we trudged we dropped off the wifi. It was like entering the Dark Zone.

long corridor

The long walk to our room in the hotel sticks

The bathroom in the room was less of a bathroom and more of a sanitation capsule. The shower didn’t connect properly to the wall, so water sprayed out of the botched plumbing in all directions. There was only the memory of a nightstand on my side of the bed, which is to say that there were still screw holes in the wall where it had once been. And the bed. My God, THE BED. The bed was a rock hard contraption made not even the least bit softer by a rock hard mattress topper. The pillows may actually have been stuffed with gravel. How we laughed, and how I died a little inside at the thought of how little sleep I might actually get.

I let N book the hotel because he likes doing that kind of thing and I find it unbearably boring. I vaguely recall him offering me the choice between a four star hotel with a spa and a two star hotel without one and that was kind of the whole conversation we had about it. Back in 2009, we went to Sheffield for a weekend break and stayed in a hotel with a spa, which we only actually used in the end because we felt like we should. So this time I vetoed the spa hotel. I mean, it was also a whole lot more expensive than where we ended up, but I’m fairly certain there was probably a middle ground Premier Inn option.

At about 5am the next morning, after a turbulent night trying to find a comfortable position on the rock hard mattress topper, I was woken from one of my brief periods of sleep by a lot of noise from somewhere near the door. My knackered and befuddled brain eventually managed to organise itself enough to understand that this was the sound of water hitting carpet, at which point I muttered “you have got to be fucking kidding me” and got out of bed(rock) to investigate. I found wet carpet and prayed that I wasn’t being dripped on by waste water from a flushed toilet, then went back to bed to half-heartedly search Late Rooms for a viable alternative to Chinese water torture.

Flu Buster

This “Flu Buster” got me through the morning

It’s worth pointing out here that I was still sick – and getting sicker – with the awful cold, which was quickly turning into a chest infection, so on Monday morning I was GRUMPY. N and I went separate ways in Primark so we could shop without annoying each other, but I hate shopping. Really hate it. I just can’t be bothered with it at all. So I bought a few t-shirts for myself and spent a whole lot more on the boys and then I tried to call N. But he was on the basement floor and had no signal, so I then spent a whole hour looking for him. And he eventually rocked up like, “Why do you look so pissed off?” Seriously.

manchester rain

Watching the rain from Primark

We took a nap later before the book signing and then it was a monumental effort to get back up and drag N up and walk the ten minutes to the library. But it was worth it, because this particular author is my hero and it was a really unique experience. Of course, N really didn’t want to hang around for the signing afterwards – having spent the best part of an hour and a half surrounded by women, most of them more than a decade younger than us -, so he headed off to the pub while I chatted with a lovely girl, Ellie, who I met on Instagram before the signing. We exchanged numbers after the signing, so I hope we’ll keep in touch for book discussions in the future.

Meeting Maggie Steifvater

Talking Gansey with Maggie Steifvater

So, I should probably mention this whole aspect of a “romantic city break”, which is the pressure to have sex. I’ve already posted about sex between N and I, so I don’t really need to go into any unnecessary detail here, but the thing about being away is that none of the usual restrictions apply. There aren’t likely to be any disruptions (unless the beleaguered air con unit fell off the wall right in the middle of things) and being tired usually wouldn’t be the same kind of issue. Except that it was, because I was fucking exhausted and really, really sick. So N kind of hopefully mentioned sex on Monday morning and I coughed a lot and it pretty much wasn’t brought up again after that.

I mean, this all sounds like a total nightmare of a romantic break, but what I came away from it with is this: N is still my best friend. He’s still the person I most enjoy spending my time with. And, on top of that, I realised how lucky we really are. We have a good marriage and we have two beautiful children and we are so, so fortunate.

I also really missed the kids and was super happy to see them when we got home, even though F was mad at me for leaving him and didn’t want anything at all to do with me for a good hour after he got up from his nap. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how wonderful my boys are when they’re wearing me out and driving me crazy. But they are wonderful, and they fill my heart right up.

I’m happy.

Thanks for another great adventure, hubs. We fucked it up in our own specific way and I had a lot of fun.

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