“I need a shower,” said DS1.
I stood there open-mouthed. Those were words I never thought I’d hear my son say.
Admittedly, we were on holiday. Different place, different rules, perhaps. And he was plastered in sand, and could probably foresee the merits of cleaning off the plethora of grains stuck to his body before lying down on his bed.
As for the bed, that was a whole different story.
We were staying in a studio apartment, with one double bed and a sofa-bed for DS1. But, on being shown where he was sleeping, he railed.
“That’s not a bed, it’s a sofa,” he stated, matter-of-factly.
“Well, it’s a sofa-bed, yes.”
“It’s not a bed, so I’m not sleeping on it,” he reiterated firmly, before plonking himself and his belongings on to the left side of the double bed – effectively consigning the wife to 10 nights sleeping on the sofa in one fell swoop.
A move reminiscent of that episode from The Young Ones when the motley collection of students moved into a new house and were arguing over who got which room. Getting nowhere, Vyvyan set light to the bed in the worst room and shouted: “Neal, your bed’s on fire”, sending the poor hippie into a panic as he tried to put the flames out, while the others grabbed the best beds.
We tried to reason with him. No dice. We tried making the sofa-bed into a den. But, no. It wasn’t a bed – therefore, he wasn’t sleeping on it.
“But, you slept on a chair-bed for six months in your own bedroom,” I challenged.
That was not the same thing, apparently.
We admitted defeat.
Why not insist that the little blighter take his designated sleeping furniture? I hear you mutter. Well, he’s autistic. Ten days of him being in meltdown and not sleeping does not equate to a relaxing holiday. You get to know when the child is not for turning.
And, before you accuse me of being unchivalrous, I was too long to sleep on the sofa.
The wife had the last laugh, though – not only did I end up sharing a bed with a small boy who kept nicking all the covers, but I also had to share it with an inflatable shark.
Having dictated the sleeping arrangements, DS1 set about creating a mess to make himself feel at home. Pretty soon, Match Attax and bits of paper were strewn all over the place.
Apparently, though, there was some sense of logical order to this chaos. On returning to the room on the first day, he discovered the cleaners had only gone and tidied up – piling his football cards into a bowl on the coffee table.
He was apoplectic.
“How dare they! They are the worst cleaners in the world. They are never cleaning our room again,” he tiraded, while busying himself making a ‘Do not disturb’ sign to hang on the door.
The following day a very confused cleaner approached us, holding DS1’s handwritten sign; her English not good enough to decipher his demand.
I explained that there was nothing wrong with her cleaning, it was just the boy wanted her to leave his Match Attax alone.
“But there is mess everywhere,” she gesticulated.
“Tell me about it.”
But this wasn’t sufficient for DS1.
“We need to translate [the sign] into Greek,” he demanded. We were in Greece, by the way. Hence, the need.
I refused. That was a touch too far. I appeased him, explaining that I’d spoken to the cleaner and she now knew not to touch his precious things.
The following afternoon, we opened the door with a degree of circumspection.
A smile broke out onto DS1’s concerned face. The Match Attax were still in a ‘mess’ on the table.
“They are the best cleaners in the world,” he delighted.
I let out a huge sigh of relief.
Eating out was, shall we say, challenging. Where we were staying had a restaurant, which, thankfully, was very good, because we had to eat there more times than we would have liked.
And we always had to sit to sit at the same table. Not one with a nice view of the sea, oh no, but the one furthest away from the beach, nearest the thoroughfare.
Fortunately, the Greeks serve chips with everything and do a decent range of meat, so at least finding something he would eat wasn’t an issue.
We even managed to coax him out to a couple of other tavernas in the village.
The first time didn’t quite go to plan, though. We ordered an assortment of dishes, which he tried and declared that he liked them all – ranking them in order of preference, obviously – although a few minutes later he decided that the “food was atrocious” and he was “never coming here again”.
We know not why.
The next night it was back to the hotel restaurant, where he developed a new trait of requiring the starter, main course and pudding all to be delivered at the same time – much to the utter disbelief of our waiter – and proceeded to mix and match calamari, souvlaki, chips and chocolate ice cream. I think he even dipped his chips in the ice cream at one point.
Still, it was novel for him to eat different foods items at the same time, rather than eating, for example, all the chips until they were finished, then moving on to the next item and so on.
The third night took a worrying turn on the eating-out front. There was a definite reluctance on DS1’s part to leave the room. Although, he nodded agreement when we suggested a time to go out, when the clock ticked round (or rather, when the digital numbers flipped over) to the appointed hour any acknowledgment of having agreed to go out for dinner went out the window (or rather, the sliding glass doors to the balcony – which, incidentally, he frequently locked when he wanted to be on his own in the room. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be an issue, but when you are sitting on the balcony at the time and need the loo urgently, rapidly becomes one).
So, anyway, going out for dinner.
“We haven’t got anything to eat in the room,” I said. “So, if you want dinner, we’ll need to go out.”
“No. Rejected,” he affirmed. To emphasise the point, he got into his pyjamas and snuggled under the covers – even though it was only 7 o’clock.
The eating-out conundrum was solved later in the week, however. A family we had got to know – who had two young boys that DS1 got on well with (in his own inimitable style) – introduced him to an arcade machine that distributed bouncy balls of varying designs to the mug, I mean child, who slotted €1 into it’s coin receptacle.
The arcade was opposite a tavern that these two boys – also with eating out issues – insisted on dining at every night. From then on, DS1 also insisted on eating there every night, in case we happened to bump into this other family.
This was a double-edged sword. We got to go out to dinner – but the food here was decidedly average and somewhat limited in its variety.
Still, it did give rise to a favourable exchange between father and son, as I handed him a bonus €1 coin to spend on a bouncy ball.
“Good Dad,” he praised.
“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” I joked.
“Probably,” he replied, with not a hint of jest on his part.
This was tempered on a separate evening, when we had to make a quick exit from a restaurant without leaving a tip due to a lack of cash.
“Run away,” I commented.
“Brave Sir Robin,” replied the wife, channelling her inner Monty Python.
“Why did Mum say ‘Brave Sir Robin?’” asked DS1.
I described the skit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in relation to the context of the wife’s comment. Not as easy as it sounds.
“Oh, so that would be like making a film about you, who’s skinny, always in a good mood and has good eyesight?” he enquired.
It appeared he understood the concept.