The Reuben Factor.jpg

The Reuben Factor

By Sheila Mulvenney [email protected]

British resident Sheila Mulvenney owns a home in the Algarve. She and her partner Dave spent a lovely Easter break in the region and were due to fly back to the UK on April 15. They were caught up in the Icelandic volcanic ash problems that crippled European airspace for several weeks. She has since been back in the region for a trouble-free summer break.

We arrived back in the Algarve at the end of July to enjoy another summer holiday here with a variety of friends and family joining us at different times.

We enjoyed anticipating things we might do, books to read, restaurants to visit, relaxing times on the beach and by our pool.

The next day, however Reuben arrived, with our good friends his parents and his two sisters. Aged two years, Reuben had the finely tuned demolition skills of a small earthquake, but a face that made everyone believe he was an angel, blonde curls, a rosebud mouth and a cute rounded tummy.

Truly Reubenesque as he made his way around the pool, resplendent in his sister’s (a cause of huge controversy) inflatable Barbie ring. As a mother and grandmother I had clearly forgotten how much intensive supervision small children need.

At our home he had learned, within minutes, how to open the fridge and every milk, juice, water or other carton in it, and would, at random intervals, conduct ‘scientific’ experiments about the properties of liquids on our kitchen floor.

Any method of containment, car seat, travel cot, high chair, would be greeted with prolonged plaintive cries of “My Out” which would get louder and reach an ear shattering crescendo should containment continue, it was therefore just a question time before someone “caved” and got him out.

The natural inquisitiveness of two-year olds was obviously something I had forgotten too. He had to poke a finger into every hole he found, sockets, mouths, he was fairly indiscriminate and he had no sense of danger whatsoever so would leap with reckless abandon into the pool fairly constantly so we had to enlist a voluntary ‘baywatch’ lifeguard scheme, red swimsuits NOT compulsory.

But of course the only time he didn’t want to be in the pool was when we were all wanting to be in the pool and therefore wanted him in with us where we could watch him. But no, he knew that was a time he could explore and investigate all sorts of interesting items.

Such was his cunning that he would wait till we were all engrossed in a game or conversation and then with the discretion of a spy he would venture forth in search of nail varnish or pens to decorate some plain surface, or containers full of anything from paperclips to cotton pads to empty somewhere.

I don’t even know why we have such things in our house and I certainly don’t remember buying them. Once he found the house keys and carefully hid them, totally without malice, in a small shrub. Gosh, we all enjoyed that game of find the keys just as we were hoping to head off for a meal at a restaurant.

But it was probably on the beach that he caused most chaos. One particular day when the tide was right in and folk were all fairly squashed onto the sand he invented a particularly good game of running (he happened to be naked but that simply adds to the visual image not the plot) into the sea then back to us.

But of course as a small child he did not observe an inch of beach etiquette and would delight in stamping over other peoples towels then stopping to admire the wonderful footprints he left, then repeating the process stopping only to add variety by actually falling wet and sandy onto unsuspecting sun bathers.

We tried to stop him, really we did, but then the noise of the waves was drowned out by his piercing screams. So we beat a hasty retreat, and pretended he was not with us at all.

So, not a book was read, there were few uninterrupted meals or conversations and we have ever since been finding random items in strange places and still searching for others we are sure we used to have but strangely can’t locate any more.

But it was great and we didn’t need reminding how wonderful small children are but I must confess to renewed amazement that, given the hazards the world contains, so many reach adulthood relatively unscathed.

Next year our first grandchild, who will be just over one, will be holidaying with us. Bring it on!