Before I had kids, a night off wasn't such a big deal. A night off from WHAT exactly? Wild nights out in Soho? Mega box set weekend binges that started at 1pm (normal pre-kid weekend waking time) and finished 24hrs later? Leisurely boozy barbeques down the pub? Now, AC (After Children), I kind of hate my pre-kid self, and a typical night includes:
- repeatedly reassuring the 4yo that when he goes to sleep he will "still be in real life"
- explaining at length why it's not OK to play Ninjago on the iPad one's entire waking life
- Biff and Kipper (someone please shoot me)
So when Marks & Spencer asked if I wanted to come for a sleepover at one of my very favourite London boutique hotels, Artist Residence, to test drive their luxurious new bedding range, drink all the drinks and have a delicious dinner and brat-free breakfast, I was all like YES THANK YOU PLEASE MY BAG IS PACKED AND I'M ON MY WAY RIGHT NOW. Except then I remembered that the good old Pink House Husband was not going to be at home that night. Hell, he wasn't even going to be in the right CONTINENT. He was going to be in the USA saving the world by helping companies be more sustainable. So SELFISH.
But lack of husband wasn't going to stand in the way of an escape of this calibre. No siree. I decided to call in reinforcements and send for...The Pink House Granny! I knew which button to press to get her to to agree to jump on a train from Edinburgh too - and ironically that button was the very thing I was trying to escape...
"Oh, the kids just miss you SO MUCH," I sighed to my long-suffering mum (all the members of my family seems to be long-suffering - so odd...). "The Pink House Husband is far away saving the world and I'm busy making homemade soup* so I just don't have time to read them Wholesome Books like the ones you used to read to me and they're spending too much time on that AWFUL iPad..."
"I'll get the midday train," came the abrupt reply.
Now, if I were you, I'd be reluctant to read a blow-by-blow account of how I spent a blissful, boozy night away from head-locks, homework-based whining and Paw Patrol. I mean, what's in it for you, right? Well, how about I promise to try and be entertaining, while providing practical tips on how you can have a similar experience? Deal? Ok then, here we go...my step-by-step instructions on How To Escape The Kids in Style:
*a blatant lie
Step 1: Deploy grandparent as overnight babysitter
Or any other family member or friend/acquaintance/random off the street will do. Use underhand methods if necessary (see above). You could even lure them into staying at your home by promising them fresh M&S bedsheets on the spare bed. Just a thought...
Step 2: Check in to the Artist Residence
All the rooms in Artist Residence are gorgeous, but I do have a soft spot for the Loft Room (room 7) which I stayed in on this occasion. Being right at the top of the townhouse means it's quieter and more excluded, and the room, with its reclaimed timber open-plan bathroom, is just so charming. For the full wow-factor try the Grand Suite (room 1). And don't be tempted to take anyone with you; you want that hotel room ALL TO YOURSELF.
Step 3: Have a power nap
I find most hotel beds to be pretty inviting, but when your bed has been specially made up with Marks & Spencer's brand new Iris Spotted Dobby bedding set, 400 thread count sateen pillowcases and a pure Egyptian cotton sheet, there's no way you're not diving under the covers, even if it IS 6pm. And there's nothing like an afternoon nap to make you believe, for 30 wondrous minutes, that you're not responsible for keeping small humans alive. Until your phone rings and your mother wakes you with the breaking news that "I'm just making frankfurters for dinner".
My top tip? Turn your phone off.
Step 4: Learn about sleep
OK, the notion of learning anything might not feature on your list of things I'd do on a fantasy night off, but I assure you, This is a good one. Because surely the more you learn about sleep on your night off, the more likely you are to sleep better on the nights you are on?
True, when he shared his tips on how to get a great night's sleep in his pre-dinner talk, sleep guru Max Kirsten didn't mention boarding school as the very BEST way to enjoy uninterrupted slumber, but he had some other useful/interesting pieces of info:
- When you sleep your brain shrinks a little bit, opening up space to help it be 'washed' with fluid that sort of cleans it. Or something. OK, this info won't help you sleep, but it DOES explain why you feel all foggy if you wake too soon - you're brain's still in mid-clean; it's like waking up in a carwash
- Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours, so if you're planning to go to bed at about midnight, you should have your last cup of coffee of the day by about midday, so it doesn't affect your sleep
- Buy an alarm clock - don't use your phone, as having your phone close to hand stops your brain from shutting down properly
- Switch your phone's Night Shift setting on (find it in Settings/Display & Brightness on an iPhone) and set it so it's on from an hour or two before you go to bed, until you wake up. This setting removes the blue light from your phone which plays a large part in the screen being such a stimulant/sleep thief
- Don't drink alcohol. Obviously I ignored this one completely
Step 5: Eat beetroot
Then it was time to eat. But wait just a minute - what's this? A menu by Amelia Freer especially designed to help you sleep! Among these fall-asleep foods are: beetroot, haddock, Morello cherry, olive oil and milk (maybe make a smoothie?). And it all tasted amazing, and not just because I didn't make it.
Step 6: Have an early midnight feast
I didn't go to boarding school so the rest of my life is dedicated to making it up to myself with midnight feasts wherever - and whenever - I can find them. The Artist Residence has a mini-bar confectionery range to rival the very best, and my lovely M&S bedding made for the perfect setting. Sorry Amelia Freer: I know I'm supposed to be aiming for 'minimal refined sugar', but sod sleep - chocolate's more important.
Step 7: Dive into the bath of dreams
A bubble bath before bed? Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about. And might I take this opportunity to big up a) Bramley bath products - look how PRETTY they are and they smell amazing too, and b) This Works' Deep Sleep shower gel, which the kind people at M&S left in my room and really did make me feel all drifty and sleepy. Or would have done, had I not eaten my body weight in sugar at 11pm.
Step 8: Sleeeeeeeep
But it's always good to watch TV for an hour or three first, on your fantasy sleepover, I find. Make the most of the absence of Peppa Pig.
Step 9: Have breakfast in bed
I've never been very good at subterfuge so I have to confess I didn't actually have breakfast in bed. I just wrote it here because it sounds like the kind of thing one should do when ditching the kids for a night off. I COULD have had breakfast in bed. I think all the other bloggers staying on the sleep retreat did. But I didn't. Why? Because, erm, I couldn't work out how to dial room service #numpty.
But actually, I totally won at breakfast because a) I had the most excellent avocado/poached egg/sourdough/chorizo combo, b) the Artist Residence's Cambridge Street Kitchen is a lovely place to hang out (though it does fuel my I-need-a-Harland-Miller-print desire, which, if fulfilled, would be disastrous for my bank balance/business/marriage, given that the print I love best just went for £62,500 at Sotheby's), c) I got to have Adult Conversation with the lovely Sophie and Jess from M&S and tell them how well I slept.
And that, my friends, is how to escape the kids for a night in real style. Same time same place next week, M&S?
This post was sponsored by Marks & Spencer, but as always, all opinions are my own. If I don't like something, I won't write about it. If you're a brand looking to work with The Pink House, please contact The WaR Agency at email@example.com
(Photos by Sam Mellish)