I spoke too soon.
I may have had a bed to myself, but that only marginally improved the quantity and quality of sleep I obtained. There were two factors involved. Firstly, the hotel room was, as they so often are, far too hot and far too dry. This led to me succumbing to the one-glass-hangover, and waking feeling utterly, utterly wretched. Secondly, LittleBear woke at 5:30, instead of his more usual 6:45. In truth, "secondly" may also have been caused by "firstly", as I can't imagine he was much more comfortable than me, even without having consumed wine.
And thus it was that at 6:45 I was being regaled with statistics from the Guinness Book of Formula One Records with a pounding headache. Living the dream. Or perhaps the nightmare.
I managed to stave off actually emerging from my bed for another half hour or so, at which point I found ibuprofen and coffee, and introduced LittleBear to what probably still counts as the parenting highlight of the day - I'd remembered to bring his advent calendar with me, and remembered to put chocolates in the first two pockets at least. And because I wasn't up for any kind of battle, he had today's chocolate in bed. And in many respects, my parenting went downhill from there.
Breakfast sustained me with industrial quantities of coffee and fried foods, which layered on top of the ibuprofen nicely to render me more or less human. Though, sadly, not any less tired. LittleBear, meanwhile, chomped his way through two bowls of fruit, a massive doorstop of buttered toast, and a croissant. And I introduced him to Nutella on his croissant. The individual packets are relatively generous, and it only took about half a pot to comfortably daub every chunk of croissant. Which is how I came to allow LittleBear to eat the rest of the pot with a teaspoon. Like I said, my parenting was nose-diving.
Since the Natural History Museum doesn't open until 10, and our hotel was only a few minutes down the road, we returned to our room to play a few swift games of "Uno" before tackling the rest of the day. And I made the classic error or winning the first one, leading to a small (and under-slept) small boy lying on his front sobbing that he was never, ever, ever going to play, ever, ever, ever again. Nose-diving.
Despite such traumas, we still made it to the museum in time to queue up and be among the first to get in for the day, allowing us plenty of time and space in the all-important dinosaur galleries first. The route round seems to have changed in the last two years, which was when we came on our Big Day Out. Aside from the fact that, obviously, dinosaurs are awesome, there were two major things that struck me - firstly, it was very disappointing not to be able to walk along the elevated gantry, and it felt as though we actually saw far fewer skeletons; secondly, LittleBear remembered around which corner he would encounter the meteorite on a stand that he could touch, two years after he last saw it. I think I have spawned a freak.
The museum was as awesome as ever, though we did need to stop intermittently to curl up in a cuddle on a handy bench with a nanoo. There were several more parenting nadirs however...
... while playing with the demonstration of the difference between a horse's leg and an elephant's leg, and watching LittleBear bounce up and down with a metal post under his chin, I found myself saying, "If you knock your teeth out and there's blood everywhere, I won't be sympathetic and cuddle you!" The devastated tearful collapse then warranted some serious apologising and the assurance that I would always, always, always care if he was hurt, and always, always, always try and make it better.
I even managed to hold firm to my injunction that coming to London, and staying in a hotel, and eating in restaurants and going to the museum and the zoo were treats, and that I wasn't buying anything in the shop. I didn't manage to resist imprecations to visit the various museum shops (for they are many and scattered). And LittleBear and I both fell in love with a beautiful, soft, cuddly ray. And I assured him that it would go on his Christmas list, and that as long as we knew if was what he really, really wanted, there'd be a good chance he could have it. So every time we passed a shop, we popped in to cuddle a ray. And I knew that the museum has an online shop, and buying one would be easy. Oh foolish me. It does not exist in the online shop. It was been discontinued by the manufacturer. I have as good as promised my son something I cannot provide. I hadn't thought my parenting could go much further downhill today.
I have one possibility, and that is my friend who works in the museum, who if I beg and plead and cajole, might be imposed upon to cross the boundary from back-room to front-of-house and buy one on my behalf, before the world's supply of adorable cuddly blue-spotted rays dries up completely.
In the gaps between visiting shops to cuddle rays, we covered a lot of territory, though by the end we were resorting to the lift to descend from the mineral collection to the ground floor, before ascending into the From The Beginning Gallery. As we paused (again) to extract nanoo from my bag to have a sustaining cuddle on my lap, I suggested maybe we should head back to the hotel... "But we haven't been to the Human Body yet". So off we went... and I was relieved that LittleBear was already almost comatose, as I could lead him swiftly through the details of human reproduction and into senses and memory. There is rarely a day when I do feel like explaining about sperm and how they get where they're going. But there are some days when I am even less keen than other days. This was, in case you hadn't guessed, one of the latter.
After six hours, we did finally stumble back to our hotel. And I've probably made it sound as though I was mostly a splendid Mummy with one or two moments of vexation, but it feels a lot more as though I was a vexed Mummy with one or two moments of being almost human. And I'm finding myself genuinely (and perhaps disproportionately) worried and upset about failing to buy the coveted ray when I had a chance. BigBear arrived this evening, and his rather more robust view is to simply tell LittleBear that he can't have it. He's probably right. But he didn't see the utter adoration that LittleBear heaped upon this creature. And he didn't almost-promise that LittleBear could have one for Christmas.