The time we tried a date night without a babysitter

Last week Kay and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary. How she has put up with being married to me for half a decade (and together for 13 years) I’ll never know, but she has and I’m grateful for her persistence every day.

We decided not to really celebrate it on the actual day because it was a weekday and I have no annual leave left, plus by the time I get home from work and we get Albie to bed, we often resemble the two zombies that Michonne drags around with her at the start of Walking Dead.

Michonne taking Kay and I for a walk

So instead we decided that we’d wait until the weekend and pop down to the local Italian, Il Palazzo on Southchurch Road. A sound plan that would mean that we’d at least have enough energy to enjoy the meal without falling asleep in our bolognese sauce.

Where our plan came a cropper though was our bright idea to take Albie with us. You see, while Albie is still not the world’s best sleeper – he still wakes between midnight and 2am for a bottle and has recently taken to getting up at 4.30am to start his day – he’s pretty good at the first part. After his bedtime bottle he will generally sleep for a solid five to six hours without stirring.

So why wouldn’t it be fine to take him with us? Give him his bottle, let him fall asleep, put him in his pram and stroll down the road, smug-faced, into the restaurant to enjoy a disruption free, three course meal and bottle of Montepulciano?


As soon as I put him down in his pram instead of his cot his eyes pinged open, as wide as two china plates. ‘Don’t worry’ I said, optimistically, to Kay, ‘he’ll fall asleep on the walk to the restaurant.’


Not only did he not fall asleep on the way, he woke up even more. Turns out the combination of a balmy, bright and bustling Saturday night in Southend-on-Sea is not conducive to a sleeping child. ‘Don’t worry’, I said to my increasing anxious wife – who was mainly stressed that we’d ruin everyone else’s night as soon as he, inevitably, started screaming – ‘it’ll be fine, the hubbub of the restaurant will make him fall asleep’.


The hubbub of the restaurant only made him want to get out of his pram so that he could grin at everyone and practise his new found talent for waving. We were at least consoled when the other diners around us reciprocated his gesture – when we walked in it seemed like everyone was staring at us: ‘urgh, what kind of awful parents bring a 10 month-old to a nice restaurant on a Saturday night?’ Turns out they were mostly just distracted by Albie’s cuteness.

Despite both thinking it would probably be best to admit defeat and go home via the chippy, we ordered a couple of large glasses of Monty because ‘when in Rome’, but also because to turn around and leave after all that fuss was far too cringy. When the waiter returned to take our order we explained that we’d just pay for the wine and go because we were scared of disrupting everyone else’s meal if Albie didn’t go to sleep.

“Take as long as you need sir, an hour, two hours, he’ll go to sleep soon.”


But also, wow. I know he was probably trying to stop £80 from walking out the door, but his understanding suddenly made us feel slightly more at ease. Nevertheless we paid for the wine and went to leave, telling him that whilst we were very grateful for the offer, we just didn’t want to disrupt the couples who were enjoying a romantic meal before the new naive family rocked up.

“How about we set you up a table outside sir? You can enjoy your meal al fresco without worrying about everyone else. And maybe the fresh air will send him to sleep.”


But also, wow. Suddenly our moods changed, the fear of ruining everyone else’s night was alleviated. What wonderful people. So we ended up enjoying a lovely meal – and quite a bit more wine – outside on a warm night in Southchurch, with Albie on our laps. It might not have been the romantic occasion we’d envisioned in our heads but it turned out to be a lovely family occasion, and we learnt that Albie is quite partial to a nibble of Hawaiian pizza.

Of course he fell asleep as soon as we left the restaurant and, apart from a feed at 3am, he slept until almost seven in the morning – a new record.

So thank you to all the team at Il Palazzo for allowing us to celebrate five years of married bliss. We’ll be back for our next big celebration, but perhaps we’ll book a babysitter next time.

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