I'm sitting on the plane feeling quite smug. Packing went smoothly for us, I mean it was still done the night before but there was no rushing to buy clean baby clothes or underwear as I had actually remembered to do washing in advance. We were even the first to the airport, no panicked rushing and worrying that we would miss our flight this time. There was a plastic pocket filled with our passports, neatly folded boarding passes, car hire documents and our European Health Cards which I'd actually remembered to order for once. I was almost as if we were a normal family going on holiday.
The smugness and feeling of peace quickly wore off as I thought about how this would be our first flight to Valencia, as we normally fly to Barcelona to climb in Catalunya.
Shit the bed we're flying to Valencia.
I picture myself booking the car hire online after agonising what type of car to get, googling boot dimension to be sure that everything would fit and finding the best possible price for the car. IN BARCELONA. I had fucked up big... We arrive in Valencia late and I sheepishly admit to the rest of the group my rather large error. The three guys are fine, obviously an organised adult booked their car, but I felt like I had definitely screwed over Ruth who was traveling with us and her 1y/o Isla. I could tell that Ruth understood though. She understood how a brain that was so full of nappy changes, finding time to climb, small fingers trapped in drawers, banged heads and hungry cries, bath temperatures and "when was the last time I showered"'s, could easily book a car hire in the wrong bloody city. After an hour on hold and a sickening amount of money on the credit card we were eventually on our way in our new hire car.
The first day was a washout which in hindsight was a blessing as we arrived in the very early hours of the morning and of course Bub, having slept the entire way there thought it was the actual morning and refused to sleep. The next day everything was still wet but we found an almost dry 6C at sector Arrestradero that was safe to climb. I had previously completed this one while pregnant a couple years back so it was nice to get a quick, if slightly damp, repeat. Not much else was done, Ruth got agonisingly close, the babes were clambering round the boulders and we were just generally snacking and chatting, a perfect first day.
A few more 6's, a play on a damp prow and a rest day later and we were back at Arrestradero for probably my favourite days climbing of the trip. Ruth, on a mission quickly dispatched the 6C from the first day and all 6 of us made a team ascent of La Lagrima. Not the day where I did my hardest problems, but everyone was trying the same thing, heckling, spotting and taking turns baby wrangling. Basically all the things I love about bouldering that have nothing to do with the actual climbing. Plus seeing Ruth get caught hook, line and sinker into La Lagrima really made it, you could tell that doing that problem was the only thing on her mind, which made victory beers taste so much better.
I vaguely knew Ruth from climbing at the wall years ago but we just happened to bump back into each other at a parent toddler climbing class I ran as she was starting to get back into climbing after having Isla. I immediately knew we were going to be friends and invited her on the trip. She accepted pretty much straight away but that night messaged to back out after thinking about it some more, she would be traveling on her own without her partner who was working and had never taken Isla abroad before, it was all just a bit too overwhelming. I understood and didn't press it any further, instead inviting her to a local crag with Isla a couple days later. We headed out in typical style running late and only had a couple of hours to climb before dark, but Ruth got stuck into this route, falling off loads at the top, working the moves and figuring beta to almost get it clean. She came down and you could almost see fire in her eyes, that spark that finding a project ignites, pure determination and excitement. The girls were playing in a pen at the bottom of the crag and cogs were turning in Ruth brain. Sure enough that night I got a message that night saying she had booked her flights to Albarracin.
The next day the boys sensibly took a late start while we relentlessly tried to mantle in the midday heat, trying to keep the kiddos out of the sun. Bub's not too happy about it though, she's recently learnt to walk and it's a right pain in the arse. Gone are the days where she would just sleep peacefully most of the day, or sit contented with some toys. Nope, now it's all screeching and stomping... Everyone else arrived and we get stuck in to trying the classic Tech don Pepo 7A. I watch them try while recovering from my sunny mantling session and decide to get stuck in too. Suddenly with out trying I'm in flow mode, you know that state of climbing that people talk about in blogs and articles to make it sound like they actually climb well? Yeah that's me. For once my feet aren't popping, holds are getting hit perfectly, and my body is just where it needs to be. Okay the scrappy knee and thigh grazing top out maybe broke out of flow mode, but it still felt good. My first 7A flash! On a roll we move back to the previously damp 7B prow and after some sneaky heel beta, flow mode breaks out again and it feels like I just float to the top. First 7B in a session! (I'm not including the damp fondle a couple of days previous) Why can't I climb like this all the time?! I wish I could pin point what was different. Perhaps the exact right amount of pastry was eaten? That's probably it. Maybe I should include some more pastry into my diet back home? I didn't want to celebrate too much as the boys didn't get it and that always seems like a dick move, but inside I'm doing a great big happy dance. Okay maybe there was a bit of a happy dance on the outside too.
We take a rest day but Ruth and Johnny were leaving that evening and after getting painfully close to Tech Don Peppo they wanted to give it one last bash. Johnny hasn't been climbing for long at all but was totally keeping pace with all of us who have been at it for years, it was great to watch. He climbs without any inhibition, he's obviously not had feet pop at a crucial moment so trusts them without thought, throws for things without hesitation or question. It definitely works in his favour and makes me wonder if I could climb that freely. Ruth is trying so hard her fingertips are covered in blood blisters that look like big blueberries, but she tapes them up and tries again. Her quiet tenacity inspires me. Sadly they both go home empty handed.
We get one more good day before the weather turns. I manage to scrape my way up another 7B, El Plus del Autobos Sit, in a just few tries. This one was definitely not climbed with that same flow feeling, more just try hard, grit. and skyward elbows. Holds were caught badly, feet were in the wrong place and there was a lot of gurning, which might have made hauling my pastry filled ass over the top even more satisfying. We meet a German family with a little girl a few months older than Bub, her baddass pregnant Mum is projecting a 7A with the bump of baby no.2 in tow and reassures me that any pebbles that the kids swallow while exploring just get passed out the other side. Total family goals. The weather went downhill from here with freezing winds, rain and snow. Calum and I got into an argument about who was getting to do more climbing vs babysitting. Climbing is an inherently selfish sport, trying to share it between 2 people in a relationship can be hard at times, but then adding a third demanding person that doesn't listen to reason (and I'm not talking about Calum!) just takes it to a whole new level.
And so the next disaster begins. We're the last ones leaving the accommodation so I want to make sure the place is spotless as it's under my AirBnB. Liusaidh is screaming in her car seat as we rush around tidying and sweeping, scrubbing exploded fanta from the freezer and cleaning pots with mouldy curry and half eaten omelette (cheers for that guys), while cursing those that had left earlier. She was crying deep throaty cries that made my heart break, the ones that leave your baby red and sweaty, but we couldn't arrive ridiculously late in Valencia so we have to push on. My head felt like it was going to explode but eventually we were done and I was soothing my baby.
We arrive at the Valencia AirBnB shaken and on edge after an extremely near miss car crash. All I can think about is being home. Late dinner, organise passports and sleep, ready for our 4.30am start tomorrow. I turn to Calum a sinking feeling in my stomach.
"Did you pack the passports?"
His face dropped and I instantly knew the reply.
We're emotionally drained. New flights, new car hire and new accommodation for the next two days are booked, leaving us financially drained also. The final kick in the teeth being that our original car still had to be handed in at 5am the next morning in preparation for our would have been flight, so not even a lie in to regain some energy and moral. Of course our 4.00am alarm doesn't go off. Luckily Bub wakes us up at 4.30am, the only time I've been grateful to her her crying in the early hours of the morning. Tensions are running high at car hire drop off, there's been a disaster with Calum's phone too, and of course we get into a huge argument about who's fault everything is. The car hire in the wrong city was clearly me, but I sure as hell was not taking sole responsibility for the rest of this shit show. In reality we're both just exhausted and angry at life, but I guess it was easier to be angry at each other at the time. To top it off it rains for the next two days, not even the sliver lining of an extra two days climbing to nourish our depleted souls.
What an unlucky trip.
But it wasn't really unlucky was it? These things could have and should have been avoided. I bet a 35 year old proper Mum would have skipped climbing the day before to make sure everything was packed well in advance, she would have skipped going out for 'one last Spanish breakfast' and instead made sure that everything was nice and clean early and that all important documents were properly organised. She sure as hell would have booked the car hire in the right city.
It makes me worried for the future.
How the hell am I going to get her to school on time in a clean uniform if I can't even remember the passports? Is it because I fell pregnant with her at 20, and that all young adults are like this, or am I just bound for a life of disorganisation. Because god I try. I try to organise meals for the week, try to budget, try to get places on time, try to remember to organise a baby sitter while I work, try to remember to take some time to myself. I don't mean to be so disorganised but my brain feels so scattered, that the things I need to remember just fall out the sides without me noticing.
Something has to change for sure, because I don't want to go through something like that again, nor can I afford to...
So, it sounds small, but nearly every day this week Calum and I have tidied the living room and kitchen before bed. So when we wake up it's not another thing added to our minds that inevitably pushes something else important out. Tidy house tidy mind? Okay maybe tidy is exaggerating a little. Less chaotic house less chaotic mind? Baby steps you know.