Going for meals in restaurants used to be so pleasant. Mrs Canavan and I would dress in our posh clothes – jeans without the holes in for me, and for Mrs C the red dress from Tesco that used to look good on her 10 years ago before she put on weight around the hips – and we’d head out to feast on steak, drink wine, and generally have a very nice time.
Since the birth of our daughter Mary nine months ago, however, we’ve not dined out once. Until the weekend that is.
It was – and I think I’m being upbeat with this description – a disaster.
The waitress commented on how cute Mary was, to which I responded in hilarious fashion: ‘Yes, she takes after me’ – how she chortled as she showed us to our table. At the adjoining tables sat two couples having, until that moment, a very enjoyable evening.
I had Mary in my arms and as I sat, as if keen on making sure people noted her entrance, she nonchalantly swung out her left arm and sent both wine glasses, neatly set on the table, flying into the air and onto the floor, where they landed with remarkable force, sending shards of glass spraying every which way.
The couple to our right, in their late 60 and wearing the joyless look of two people who’ve been in a relationship for a very long time, audibly tutted while the man to our left bent to check his shoes hadn’t been harmed and then began to kick the broken bits back in our direction.
As I apologised profusely, the waiter ran over and, after staring at the approximately one million pieces of glass littering the floor, asked: 'Is there a problem?'
‘No, no, of course not, everything’s tickety-boo you cretin,' I wanted to say, but didn’t, and instead meekly uttered another apology.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I said to the couples around us in conciliatory tone, as the waiter cleared away the mess with a dustpan and brush. ‘We just can’t take her anywhere’.
'We didn’t take ours anywhere,' said the women in her 60s. 'We felt that if you go to a restaurant with a baby it spoils the experience for others.'
She couldn’t have made her point more forcefully had she punched me in the face while speaking.
At this point Mary, who I was still clutching to my chest in the manner of a police officer restraining a crazed armed criminal, suddenly made a loud grunting sound.
Then a terrible smell began to waft into the air, so much so that the man to our left grimaced and leaned forward to sniff at his smoked haddock risotto.
I grabbed the nursing bag and departed, leaving Mrs Canavan in the awkward position of having to make small talk with four people who detested us.
After walking up two flights of stairs to the toilets, then back down the same two flights of stairs after realising the baby-changing unit was in the disabled loos on the ground floor, I changed my daughter’s very full nappy, then decided I needed a wee myself.
With Mary dangling precariously on a small plastic shelf, I emptied my bladder with my body twisted – half-facing the toilet, half-facing my daughter – so I could leap the length of the room and grab her should she suddenly roll over and plummet towards the floor.
However, because I wasn’t properly concentrating on what I was doing, my trouser leg got a bit of a soaking. I then spent a further three minutes trying to dry my damp trousers under the hand-dryer, which wasn’t easy because I had to lean against the sink while holding Mary and waving my leg in the air in the general direction of the dryer.
Finally, sweat now dripping down my face – I was still wearing the woollen coat I’d arrived in – , I made it back to the table where Mrs Canavan was looking at me furiously.
I sat heavily.
Around four seconds later, Mary decided she wasn’t happy with the surroundings and began to scream and sob hysterically, at a volume that sounded much louder in public than it does at home.
The couple to our right looked at us with a disdain I’d not thought previously possible. Had they been holding a machine gun, I feel sure they’d have quite happily pulled the trigger. I didn’t dare look at the couple to our left.
‘There, there darling,’ said Mrs Canavan to Mary.
Mary responded by intensifying her screams, so much so that two men sat drinking at the bar some 35 yards away turned and glared in our direction.
‘Are you ready to order?’ said a waiter, suddenly appearing on the scene.
We hadn’t even looked at the menu. Hot, very bothered, and having whatever the opposite to ‘fun’ is, I said: 'Actually, do you mind if we don’t eat?'
Myself, Mrs Canavan, and our screaming, glass-smashing, nappy-filling daughter shuffled out of the restaurant in disgrace.
I didn’t look back but had I done I’m sure I would’ve seen the other diners – and probably the staff too – high-fiving, hugging, clinking glasses, and perhaps even setting off celebratory fireworks.
Our first family meal lasted 13 minutes. Things can only get better.