Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: 'I'm woken to the sound of the child sobbing gently on to a pillow of empty wrappers'

A mother's weekly dispatch from the pre-school frontline

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The Independent Online

We're going to Latitude! Our first family festival, minus the baby who is staying with his grandmother for the weekend. We arrive on site at 2.45pm after a night on a makeshift bed in my mum's cellar surrounded by table-legs and crates of wine.

But we've made it and the sun is shining. I am focusing on the sound of a middle-aged man practising poi and whistling The Levellers, to block out the child who is screaming from her perch on my husband's shoulders: "Why do I always have to carry EVERYTHINGGGG?".

"I love festivals," I sigh as we collect our tickets, surveying the roster of Cuban ballet and obscure poets. "Last time we went to a festival you spent the whole time crying," my husband replies. "Yes, but I'm not pregnant this time," I point out, un-riled, as we bat our way across the family camping field until we find a spot on which to address the tent, last erected in something of a stupor at 5am in 2006.

Noticing a woman cooking crepes on an Aga-like contraption across the field, the three-year-old asks, "Where's our kitchen?". I smile, knowingly: "Darling, we don't need a stove. We've got a sleeping bag and two boxes of Trackers! Besides, your great-grandfather travelled the Saudi desert for 20 years with nothing but a camel."

At 1.45am, in the middle of a brutal storm, rain pouring in from every imaginable direction, I am woken through the fog of sleeping pills to the sound of the child sobbing gently on to a pillow of empty wrappers. "It's OK, darling," I dribble. "Have another Tracker bar."