Yesterday in a land far far away (Windsor) we arrived for a belated birthday trip to Legoland. This is one of my sons most favourite places and though theme parks all blur into a oneness for me and this particular one was heavily laden with triggers, I accepted that loins had to be girded, teeth needed gritting and the pain would be smiled through because it was simply what he wanted to do.

As the years have sneaked by the need for a Full On Party has waned. so although I still do party bags even if there’s only two children (because I can’t resist them and spend way too long in Hawkins Bazar getting just the right combination of tat, fun, usefulness, interest and sugar,) I no longer need to book rooms/entertainers/hire bouncy castles or get all the matching partyware together. Of course I secretly enjoyed getting stressed over the correct amount of sandwich/crisps/ to sugar/nonsense ratio and always did it because I loved it not because it was expected.

Whats not to love? Yes there was loads to do, but at the end of the day a room full of tired fractious but happy e-numbered up toddlers was so much fun, and then there was the journey home with rustling and laughing on the back seat as they unearthed and compared their party bag treasures. Gradually the parties got smaller, then evolved into a select band for a focussed “activity”; we did quad bikes and Scaletrix. I know who enjoyed the slot cars more than the kids. My husband would have gone there every time, and often reminded me (after its huge success, despite my misgivings) that it had been his idea. True.

So last year we just took one friend to Legoland. They had a fantastic time while my husband found somewhere to sit and read and I wandered around on wasp patrol (bad year for wasps back then and I’m with two boys both with different allergies and 4 epipens between them…oh and a small bottle of vinegar just to be on the safe side.)

It was a good day, and one month later we’d be off on our big family holiday. This time last year we were heaving and hurling our way through the Bay of Biscay, worried about potential redundancy in the near future and all the little things that stress you out in day-to-day life….but we didn’t see this coming – well you wouldn’t would you? This was not in our long-term plan, this hadn’t been factored in, discussed thoroughly or catered for. This was not on a spreadsheet – anywhere.

So yesterday my fantastic friend drove us over there and with dodgy weather and approaching end of season we hoped for a quiet-ish time. I knew it would be yet another hard day for me and the elephants (although they got in for free because no-one could see them.) So I was as prepared as I could be like the proverbial boy scout. Appropriately so, as by accident we’d picked the one day when all of Hampshire Cubs descended en masse. You couldn’t move for small whipped up herds of children and woggles as far as the eye could see. All being ushered around by amazingly jolly robust types who had clearly missed their calling and should have been in the Army.

Don’t get me wrong – I love children, especially the little ones but the gift shop resembled some cross between The Smurfs and Full Metal Jacket. Trying to navigate around excited hoards of them while struggling with triggers and memories coming at me in rapid fire, conscious of the time because there was one more ride that we just HAD to do. I clung on to my sanity but it was a very close thing.

Earlier in the day while waiting for them to return from the rollercoaster and doing a competent and efficient job of Stands With Bags (my Red Indian name) I was taken with the dream like quality of everything. He wasnt on the bench reading, maybe he’d gone to find the toilet? I stood outside this mocked up fairytale castle feeling like the trapped Princess. If the oversized Lego dragon that I stood beneath had turned its large plastic Danish head towards me and muttered through smokey breath “Non of this is happening, you know?” I would have smiled wistfully in acknowledgement – that would have all seemed perfectly reasonable.

While stood there monitoring my anxiety levels and wondering whether or not I really existed I was whisked away to the start of our adventure.

14 years ago we moved from his one bedroomed cave full of associations, battle scars and conquests to our own home. Big enough for two, and maybe one day more. I remembered the drive up the motorway, with the huge fig plant on my lap and hope stuffed in the boot along with all the others bits and bobs that were too precious for the van. This was the start. And the unravelling when we got there, unable to move in because the previous owner had just started to pack the kitchen….and would be “some time”. Followed by the innumerable trips up and down the main road to the solicitor, to query, then complain and eventually slay in a style that only my husband could do. It was the same solicitors who closed the circle when I hauled what remained of myself over there for probate a few months ago, and while I tried desperately to hold the pen I could still see and hear us in the other room, in the other universe back in Chapter One.

Eventually the storm clouds parted and the woman left the kitchen (she had barricaded herself in at one point,) But she wasnt happy, she wasnt happy at all and came at him, all guns blazing, fist waiving and threats. I remember it so clearly, although she was all hot air, I placed myself between him and her and said “You’ll have to get through me first!” Quite funny really as I was smaller than her, (but then I’m smaller than most people 🙂 and these were the days before the punchball.) She could probably have swatted me away with flick of her finger but that didn’t matter, it was The Principle…this was my fiance – you threaten him, you threaten me.

Of course it blew over, we moved in and created a life. And since then there have been innumerable times when he’d stood in front of me and I’ve lost count of the number of dragons he slayed. The problem with this new chapter is that now I have to slay my own dragons. I am both the Princess and the Knight. At the moment my fencing skills are more confined to creosote but I’m learning. At first I couldn’t even lift the sword and though sometimes I still want to fall on it, I am adapting to its weight. I have to. Plus I have the young Prince to take care of, without him the Kingdom will surely perish.

So I sit here spinning and sobbing in my tower with the daily challenge of trying to construct a suit of armour over a big beautiful sparkly Princess gown. Getting dressed is hard, mounting my trusty steed is harder and going to the toilet is a military operation. (I’m not even sure Princesses use the toilet – but you get the picture?).

My life has become a Quest, another day another battle.

So I play both parts now: sequins and silk over kick-ass DMs. Glass slippers wouldn’t hold out in this rugged terrain anyway, it needs something much tougher. I quite like that creation however, because I am neither just one or the other, I relate to both. I am broken, and vulnerable but I will not be messed with. I have a job to do, a Prince to raise and a Kingdom to defend.

Sword and shield in hand, protecting.

Get through me first.

(and how do I live ever afterwards? ….who knows)