IIn which our reluctant hero stars in the second exciting instalment of the alternative “Airplane” franchise.
Monday, 12th June. Sometime after lunch.
The car was packed, the little people strapped in and the twenty sixth essential “are the passports in?” checks were complete. There was no backing out. We were off. Off on holiday no less. To that Spain with its omelettes and crazy Catalan waiters. Or is that Torquay?
Stage one comprised of a largely stress free drive to the airport, asides from Google Maps’ passive aggressive attempt to circumvent my plan to use the M6 toll road. They say that life is a learning journey, and my learning during this part of the journey was that if you shout “OK GOOGLE. USE THE M6 TOLL!” loudly at your phone, it stops thinking that it knows best and lets you go where you want to. Who knew?
It turns out that using the toll road was pointless as the boy fell asleep twenty minutes from the airport. This meant slowing down to a speed that could be described as “M6 just before rush hour” to ensure a reasonable nap. It turns out that I should have listened to Google. Who knew?
Our pre-booked secure parking turned out to be a desolate wasteland occupied by hoards of hungover, or more likely still stoned, millennials trying to get home after the monsters-of-dad-rock that is the Download festival. Put those guitars down, you’re nearly sixty for crying out loud. And what’s with the tattoos, grandad? Call that music? Bah.
Carpark number two premiered the first number one issue of the trip, with the boy in a cross-legged meltdown as we wouldn’t allow him to wet his trousers. I bet the vagrants in carpark one would have gone on the floor, but the boy? Not a chance. Aren’t we just the worst parents?
Apparently yes, as the meltdown continued well into check in. Two toilet trips, a falling out with dad and empty bladder courtesy of mum later, we were back on track. The I-Spy airport book turned out to be a splendid idea, keeping everyone busy as I stood in a queue. It’s what Blighty does best.
Somehow the luggage had gained five kilos in transit to the airport. Ryanair being Ryanair, the lady at check-in naturally wanted to charge us for this. I’m sure that they will at some point attempt to charge for cabin air too. Anyway, the charge was waived as soon as we asked for one of the bags back to take on as hand luggage. Apparently this is “too difficult” for an airline. Ireland nil, Wolverhampton one.
It turns out that negotiating the body scanning and security sweep is far harder with four people than with two people and two people in progress. Our four year old was searched, although not arrested. Quite what they thought she was concealing in her size eight sandals is anyone’s guess.
Safely through, we remortgaged the house to pay for the kids’ Burger King which, as always, they didn’t eat. If that wasn’t annoying enough, the “restaurant” was located next to the world’s most overexcited softplay. I’m sure that airports used to be less fraught in the olden days.
Food now cold (I bagged it up so that it could be not eaten on the plane later) our flight was called, so we headed to the gate. There are smells that evoke all sorts of memories. Coffee and fresh bread for example, or the scent of the first rain after long, muggy summer days. Another is the Ryanair gate queue, with its unmistakable smell of booze, fags, cheap perfume and diesel. Beautiful.
We were nearly late boarding due to a number two scare in the queue that thankfully turned out to be a false alarm. On the plane, we encountered the usual rear-seat-front-boarder fighting the tide to get to row zillion. Don’t worry love, the hundred or so of us who read the instructions will all move, eh?
We ended up with six seats between us at the end of the musical chairs that is the five minutes before take off on a budget airline. The girls side and boys side arrangement worked quite well as both children got a window seat, thus preventing a row. Hoorah! Naturally, the boys side was the best.
Our children’s reactions to take off on their first flight were quite different. Our eldest was very excited by the whole whoosh and up, whereas our youngest took a more considered approach to the weird metal bird going up, up and away, only breaking his silence with “can I have my tablet now please?” when safely up.
We apparently had lots of “busy bags” packed for the flight. They were presumably the contents of the heavy, awkwardly sized bags that kept toppling the buggy over in the departure lounge. For those, like me, unaware of concept, “busy bags” are essentially zippable food bags filled with individually packaged activities (Lego, dolls, cars, pens and paper, voodoo, etc.) to be dished out at various points of the journey to prevent boredom.
Credit where it’s due, they were a brilliant idea and our eldest was all over hers. Seeing as the boy had asked for his tablet, I deployed strategy number two of the Lazy Parenting Manual 2017 and gave him his £35 Amazon miracle while I ordered the world’s smallest and simultaneously most expensive bottle of wine.
Fortunately, the kids don’t like me so I soon ended up in a bank of three seats of my own, only glancing up from my book and wine to pick up cars or Duplo discarded from the boy’s now operational busy bag every few seconds.
Amazingly, there were no toilet disasters on board. Both children were as surprised by the noise of the flush as I was by the little one not sucked out of the cubicle.
Back in our seats, the boy wanted to go down the big yellow slide off the evacuation procedures picture that had been teasing him for a couple of hours. I explained to him that it would be better to save sliding for the playground. Teddy and his tablet would probably end up getting very wet if we used it over the sea.
We landed with a bounce, on tarmac rather than into the Balearic sea which was nice. Apparently the pilot did very well and he got a round of applause. I would give him six out of ten, possibly five for forgetting to do the Ryanair trumpet fanfare. Amateur.
As EU citizens, we joined the EU Citizens queue for passport checks. This proved to be the correct decision, the queue shortening as each person left the line to join the special queue for those who voted Brexit.
The border police lady raised an eyebrow at us travelling with a small blonde girl, disguised in a straw sunhat and huge My Little Pony sunglasses, called Madeline. We were eventually let through and she turned out to be a demon at bag spotting and grabbing on the carousel. With a bit of help from dad, we were out in minutes.
The transfer and check-in were smooth enough. It took about an hour and a half to get the over-exhausted little people to sleep at round about 1am. Getting up time would be in less than six hours, but I didn’t know that then. If I had, I would have packed whisky.
It’s Wednesday afternoon as I scribble this out and a nice time is being had by all. Yes, really. Was the travel as bad as I feared in last week’s post? No. Will it be during the 10pm reversal next Monday? Probably.