Updated: May 2, 2019
‘OH MUMMY!’, his beautiful face lit up with excitement. Ear defenders on, eyes shut, leaning towards me and throwing his arms around my neck, ‘ IT’S YOUR SONG!’
It was January 2018. On December the 31st I had stolen into bed early in order to avoid the midnight celebrations, desperate to see the back of an absolute shocker of a year. A crisis had enveloped my youngest and she had needed everything I could give her for months. My boy had simply got on with it. We had discovered by chance that one of our favourite bands was coming to the UK so I bought tickets for the boy and me so that we could do something fun together. He was 11 and passionate about music, so bugger the fact that it was a school night, we went.
The whole expedition had to be planned well in advance. Pictures of the venue shown, the route mapped out, the smallest of us was deposited for an hour or two with a friend that could handle difficulty should it arise. The husband was ordered back early from work. A bit of snacking food was squeezed into my bag - for once I wouldn’t have to take his whole supper with him as he’d just started eating chicken nuggets, absolutely the only cooked food we could order from anywhere.
We were terribly early. It is a very long time since I lived in London and I had forgotten how quickly you can move about despite the number of people. He handled the long escalators, the buskers, the crashing noises and movement of the underground trains, the flickering lights and the press of other people. We emerged at the venue in the dark and rain, euphoric but wondering how on earth we could kill time. We needn’t have worried. There was no McDonald's in sight. It must be the only place in London where you just can’t see one. He’d already finished most of his snacks so we drifted up and down the surrounding roads trying to find somewhere that might be able to present him with a simply cooked chicken breast; no sauce, no garnish, no flavouring, absolutely no ‘contaminants’. On the second rainy circuit we stumbled across a grill which served kebabs and they were happy to cook something plain. My boy was euphoric and wolfed it down despite the unfamiliar cutlery. My plate had enough on it to feed three people so I managed to string it out and we were at our table for about an hour.
He was excited to get into the venue. Under 16s needed to be seated so we made our way upstairs to the balcony. He was twitched but animated, full of questions and constantly checking for his ear defenders. He spoke loudly about his fear of having to sit next to people that he didn’t know. I wished I had brought some top trumps for us to play with.
The theatre gradually filled up while the support act were on. He liked them and concentrated hard, impatient for our band. It was 9.30pm before they took the stage, well past his bedtime but they burst on with enough energy to revive him. I’ve never really thought about how loud gigs are before but it’s a different situation altogether when you take a child with you. His jaw dropped open, he simply couldn’t take it in. Immediately I knew I had screwed up. The lighting had never crossed my mind. He needed sunglasses and I had nothing with me. What a fool. My child who spent years creeping around in the shadows during the summer, intensely affected by the light, had been brought to the equivalent of an indoor firework show with no protection. Bollocks.
But he handled it. He’s growing up and he handled it. He shut his eyes and put his hand up as a shield and he just coped. He could not wipe the smile off his face. Every time one of our favourite songs came on he looked as though he was going to burst. ‘Oh Mummy, I can’t believe it!’, ‘Can you hear it?’ ‘It’s AMAZING’, grabbing my hands, hugging my shoulders, leaning forward in his seat.
It was 45 minutes before he crashed. I looked around to see that he had slumped back into his chair, an exhausted, over-stimulated 11 year old child who had braved an assault on his senses to try something new. It was time to go. ‘Sweetheart, have you had enough? We’ve heard lots of it, it’s been amazing but I think you are ready to go. It’s OK to go now’. He was relieved. Down the stairs and out into the rainy January night. Back on the crashing tube train and back to the north-bound station. There was a slightly hairy moment when a personal safety announcement was broadcast while he was alone in the men’s toilets - he knew he was alone so thought that someone must be able to see him in there. He ran out embarrassed and frightened.
My boy crept into his bed at half past midnight and sauntered into school the next morning an hour late and approximately one foot taller. 'I'm sorry I am late, I went to a rock concert in London last night'.
No limits. Truly. No limits.