Lo, what fresh hell is this?
We got caught feeling hungry whilst out of the house with Rory again. Schoolboy error. Hence, on Saturday we ended up in a Frankie & Benny's restaurant somewhere in the sprawling metropolis of concrete and drizzle that is Stoke on Trent.
Rory was in a particularly demonic mood which felt quite in keeping with the restaurant, which was decorated for Halloween. Yes, nothing says 'child friendly' like a load of carved pumpkins stuffed with precariously placed candles in easy poking reach. And now I come to think of it, nothing quite says 'quality dining' like a huge polystyrene skull looming over your table. There were children everywhere, at least half of them better behaved than ours, but all of them yelling at the top of their voices and drinking far too much Coke for my liking. Rat pack music blared above it all and despite Bobby Darin's insistence, I predicted that this was unlikely to be my Magic Moment.
Our waitress was wearing purple contact lenses with slits for pupils, which made her look like Voldemort with cataracts. Despite this, she was fairly perky and cheerily handed Rory an activity book (aimed at a more sophisticated audience than a 2 year old) and a pencil (sharp, pointy, nearly got shoved in my eye and Richard's nostril over the course of the meal). We ordered various fat-making portions of steak and burger type things, including a burger and chips with salad dressing for Rory from the children's menu. He was overjoyed at this and attacked it with gusto, although most of his gusto was directed at sucking tomato ketchup off of the chips and then posting their soggy potato carcasses down the side of the seats. At no point did he touch his salad dressing. I inhaled my burger and congratulated myself on sitting Rory next to Richard, meaning that I was out of the line of fire of most of the hurtled cutlery.
Lots of things got thrown on the floor in a rage: The activity book and pencil, every napkin in the vicinity, various knives, his entire body. The couple dining next to us stopped finding him cute after the first 10 minutes. I sympathise with them. I also stopped finding him cute after the first 10 minutes (of his life). Despite all of this, I couldn't fault the staff (even the waitress with the Voldemort eyes) and they were polite throughout and obviously used to dealing with hyperactive children, and chatted to him as they cleared the plates.
We skipped dessert. I briefly longed for the days when I could eat a brownie/ice-cream/chocolate sauce stacked thing without gaining any weight whatsoever, then briefly considered having it anyway as a sort of trauma therapy, then realised that the best course of action would be to exit swiftly as my son had just stuffed a napkin into the gaping mouth of a pumpkin and it was in danger of going up in flames.
Matt Monro sang the opening lines of 'Born Free' as we beat a hasty retreat. I couldn't help thinking that 'Born Feral' might have been more appropriate here.