Horror family holidays

After being sleepless in Ras Al Khaimah <em>Time Out</em>'s supermum thinks she may have given birth to the next Pavarotti

I don’t know why I thought a family weekend away would be a good idea. I was sure it would be okay. We’d have a picnic, the boy would be a delight and strangers would stop and remark on my obviously epic parenting skills.

But, like a regrettable flirtation with home perms and a brief fascination with becoming a forensic detective, I can see now that I was deluding myself. This self analysis is an important part of becoming a better parent. I should know; I’ve been to the brink, I’ve stared my demons in the face: I’ve spent a sleepless weekend in Ras Al Khaimah.

You might read that and suggest that I brought the troubles on myself. When it comes to luxury breaks, Mauritius or the Maldives might be more obvious. Perhaps even a stay at one of Dubai’s swankier hotels. But hey, there’s a credit crunch, and with only one weekend to spare I happily headed out to discover a new emirate.

Let me say right now that I strongly recommend that you do the same. Ras Al Khaimah itself is a rare type of pleasure: wide, open spaces, quirky backstreets and a pleasingly tidy corniche, all overlooked by huge, beautiful mountains.

I get the impression that this is what Dubai might have been like 20 years ago, and you should try it, but the strongest piece of advice I can give if you do decide to hit Emirates Road and head north is don’t take my son. Because he hates it there.

Maybe he prefers the pace of city life, maybe he is more of a homebody than I realised, or maybe he is just a devil child. But he was so vocal about his dislike of the place I don’t think we’ll be allowed back again, and my husband hasn’t spoken for a week.

Like all of the most powerful storms, Hurricane Sam was preceded by an eerie calm. We had a fruit cocktail on the breezy veranda and we splashed around in a swimming pool. While nobody went as far as to stop and tell me what a great job I was doing, I didn’t get that nagging feeling that the ‘Mummy Police’ were about to swoop in and give me a written warning, either. All in all it was looking to be one of my finer ideas.

And then came bedtime, and with it a meltdown the likes of which our previously happy-go-lucky family had never seen before. A bedtime so awful that we’ve given it a special name: the RAK attack.

If I hadn’t been so scarred by the experience I might be able to take some parental pride in the boy’s ability. He has stamina, he has commitment and he has a great set of lungs on him. At one point, at around 3.45am, he took on a striking similarity to the opera singer Pavarotti in the way he pitched his voice and bellowed out his song of sadness. This is rather fitting, as Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ translates as ‘None Shall Sleep Tonight’, and that is exactly what happened.I feel genuinely sorry for the holidaymakers attempting to kip in the room next door. Or in the same hotel, for that matter.

We must have dropped off at some point because I remember waking up a few times. Somewhere between our moonlit stroll around the gardens and my husband’s attempts to prepare a makeshift bed in the wardrobe, all three of us had about 45 minutes of oh-so- unsteady shuteye.

Exhausted, ashamed, but, above all else, hungry, we were forced to run the gauntlet of the buffet breakfast the next morning.

Hotel guests always have a slightly zombie-like gait in the morning and Ras Al Khamiah probably inspires a certain amount of grogginess, but everybody at that buffet seemed extra lethargic. And how did the boy deal with the chaos he unwittingly caused? He turned his toothy grin on us all and giggled, of course. He nibbled some melon, he laughed at waiters and he charmed the lady sitting next to us. ‘Isn’t he a good little boy,’ she cooed, oblivious to the fact that he was the hotel’s tormentor.

‘Between you and me,’ she confided in a whisper, ‘I think another family had some bother in the night. Somebody’s poor little thing was crying all night long. Not like this young champion.’

I wish I could tell you I owned up. I wish I could tell you that I did the right thing. But I am ashamed to say I didn’t. I’m a mum, not a saint. Pointing out an entirely innocent family, I whispered conspiratorially that I’d heard it was them, quickly walked away with the real culprit and stuffed more melon in his mouth before he blew my cover.

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