Long haul

We we have landed in LA and are delighted to be here. I am sure you're all agog to find out how the flight went, I'm sure it's kept you awake. it certainly kept us awake. It was not the smoothest of journeys, to be honest, and I think my kids (and husband) handled it like fucking heroes.

The day started at 5:00a.m. to get to a flight at 10:00a.m. I need to get to the airport early for every flight. I am not sure why this is. It's not like I'm unfamiliar with air travel. I grew up at Heathrow, pretty much. Both my parents worked there and I have been flying since I was 6 months old. I had two international holidays a year since I was born until I went to university. Hell, I went to Mauritius when I was two - there is a kick ass photo of me riding a giant turtle but I have no recollection of the holiday whatsoever. The family anecdote is that mum insisted on waking me up on the flight to look at Kilimanjaro as we flew over it.*  She truly was made of different stuff than I. The idea of waking a sleeping two year old on a long haul flight... I would rather stick my hand into the mouth of a tiger. 

If you were on that flight we me, I apologise.

If you were on that flight we me, I apologise.

The reason we could afford such wonderful experiences was that we are part of the Irish diaspora so we have family dotted all over the world to go and stay with and because of three magic words: stand by tickets. Every holiday I went on as a child meant getting dressed in my Sunday best to go to the airport, never knowing if I would be lording it up in first class or going home sobbing into a snotty tissue because there was no room on the plane that day. I thought everyone got champagne from age 14 when they got on a flight. I didn't know it was because we were part of the mile high mafia. I have sat in jump seats next to the cabin crew (I don't think they let you do this anymore). The most memorable experience was when we had to absolutely positively make a connection in Switzerland at the height of summer or we would miss a sizeable chunk of our holiday and my dad and I sat in the cockpit behind the pilot and watched the Geneva Jet erupt?... spurt?... ejaculate?... well, we we watched it do whatever it does, sitting behind the pilot as he landed the plane. It was pretty special.  

I've even worked for Aer Lingus at Heathrow myself: so i've watched people miss flights, lose luggage and get stuck in horrendous delays. I would just like to point out that when this happens, no one is doing it to spite you. Contrary to some people's attitude, airline staff do not delight in delaying planes, they do not want to watch your grumpy disgruntled faces for hours on end, they do not gain strength from the sound of your children crying. They would much rather send you on your way with a smile and get back to the serious business of shopping and drinking at weird times of the day.  I have watched an airport work from the inside. I loved it and I still miss the buzz of it, though I know it's not like it used to be for staff or passengers now. 

However, now I am part of the ordinary seething mass of humanity, this insider knowledge counts for nothing. Even though I spent my childhood sauntering on to planes at the last possible second, as an adult if I am not in the airport with at least 3 hours to spare before my flight I can feel my jaw clench and the tendons in my neck begin to twang. I think it's due to my primary motivator - I don't want to be the dick who delayed the plane.  I am very lucky to have a patient and understanding husband.

After yesterday I now know that my need to spend additional time in an airport before a long haul flight will make a long day much longer but at least I was calm chilled-out mummy at that point. We pootled around the airport, had a lovely breakfast and, with plenty of time to spare, wandered up to the plane. Which broke. The bastard plane broke. We were sent off with coupons to forage for food and then had to rush back, scalding coffee still swishing about in our mouths as the plane was fixed earlier than planned. Not everyone heard the announcement. We had to sit on the plane waiting for 2 people who don't have the sense to listen to the tannoy. Bastards. Bastardy bastards.

So we pushed off 4 hours late. At this point the kids were still up for the adventure and being sweet and helpful, with only occasional lapses into fits of irritating giddiness. I only envisioned them being munched up by an escalator once, which is pretty good going really. British Airways are brilliant with kids and looked after ours really well. The TV options kept them quiet for ages, letting a 6 year old was 12 rated films kept him on best behaviour, though I did draw the line when the 3 year old wanted to watch Trainwreck whilst sitting on my lap. 

I only pulled the mask off and revealed the bitch-mother within once. I had given my son an instruction to not piss about with the retractable remote control which he ignored and let it snap back, spilling a full plastic cup of apple juice over his bag of shiny new in-flight entertainments and the bag with all our electrical goods in it. This was less than one hour into the flight. The stress of sorting it out and because I needed to lock that shit down, so he would not ignore another instruction from me for the rest of the flight meant I really let rip - full, in-his-face, spit-flecked, eye-swivelling fury. YOU. WILL. DO. AS. YOU. ARE TOLD. It worked, he was brilliant for the duration. I know the twenty-somethings all around me were judging me harshly but fuck them, what do they know? They ploughed into the booze and slept beautifully. I hope their post-flight hangovers kill them. 

The only other wobble started at about hour 8 when the little one really really needed to sleep but just couldn't. She has always been a brilliant sleeper and so when she needs to sleep and can't it hurts my heart. When I can't help her sleep it makes me want to cry. She wasn't naughty, or loud or difficult, she was just tired and sad. Once again it was BA Entertainment to the rescue. They had audiobooks of fairy tales available so my little Goldilocks went to sleep dreaming of the three bears. 

Waking her up was pretty hairy too. She had been contorted into the shape of a pretzel and sleeping deeply in the way that only a three year old can, when the plane landed and it woke her up. Her rage and confusion left my bitch-mother performance in the dust. She shrieked out a C8 at least three times and just started yelling 'No, noooo' at random intervals. When her brother, who was genuinely upset by her distress, tried to give her a hug to comfort her she punched him full in the face. What's the statute of limitations for discipling a 3 year old? I couldn't do it then, there was no way of getting through that level of distress to tell her off and i think it's just water under the bridge now.  All she wanted was a cuddle from me, but the bastard seatbelt light was on and I couldn't reach her. In the end her big brother sorted it, distracting her by pointing at planes and asking her what colours they were. He is often a much better parent than I am. 

I was so proud of my kids. They handled what was quite a tricky experience with grace and calm. When an 11 hour flight turns into a 16 hour ordeal you feel every extra minute of it. It helps that we had armfuls of snacks, books and a dazzling array of in-flight entertainment to carve up the time into manageable chunks. I think it also helps that they have two parents who will constantly point out just how bloody lucky they are to have these opportunities and that we should take nothing for granted, even long haul flights. We are so excited to be here. Let's go exploring. 



*She wasn't just an avid geography fanatic; she had grown up in the shadow of the mountain and so it had great emotional significance for her.