As you get older, it seems you spend relatively large parts of your life revisiting various parts of your past. This summer we are visiting relatives in the Caribbean for the first time in 28 years.
The kids have not been on a plane since only son turned two. They have never been on a plane to anywhere other than Spain. My partner has never been outside Europe on a plane. Everyone was very excited. And then the reality of travelling on a plane kicked in. First, we couldn’t do the online check-in. Worse, it booked in only son and daughter three, but raised random security checks on everyone else. I had visions of only son and daughter three sitting on their own in different parts of the plane. Eventually after a couple of calls, we sorted it out. Then when we got to Heathrow the check-in machine didn’t work so we had to check in at baggage drop. One of the suitcases was over the allowed weight as daughter one had added some big shoes at the last moment so we had to repack. Going through security with teenagers is a bit of a nightmare. We needed a lot of bags for all the make-up despite regular reminders about airport security when they were packing. Even so, daughter three smuggled in some straightener cream confiscated because the container was over the allowed size even though it only had a bit of cream in the bottom.
We got to the departure gate and the stewardess announced the first group for boarding. My partner got up and rushed towards the desk. “It’s not our group,” I said. “We don’t do it like this on Ryanair,” he replied. “It’s a stampede as soon as they say the flight is ready for boarding.” He settled down to wait for his turn. As we approached the desk my phone’s alarm went off. Only son had set it for boarding time in his excitement and without our knowledge. People behind us looked slightly nervous. We turned the alarm off and got on board the plane. Only son was ecstatic. He couldn’t remember ever having been on a plane and certainly not one with a free blanket and a tv in front of him. He settled down with a word search book before switching his full attention to the security drill.
By the time we got into the air he had worked out what film he wanted to watch – Jumanji [he saw it at the cinema at Christmas]. He then proceeded to watch it four times in a row, only stopping for food and for several super-exciting visits to the toilet. He was utterly amazed by the food, all coming in small packets. So enthralled was he that he decided to have a cup of tea just so he could use the milk and sugar. He had a brief snooze, lying across his mother and father before tucking into chicken sandwiches. The whole trip was a total delight. “Best day ever ever,” he stated.
That was around 10 minutes before we were due to land. The plane said five minutes to land and seemed to stick on five minutes for quite a while as we circled in the air. Then it suddenly switched from five minutes to land to 45 minutes to land. The pilot came on the tannoy and announced a slight change of plans. There was a freak storm at our destination, the airport was closed and we were being diverted to the US. This was followed by lightening and the plane suddenly dropping several times. I suddenly remembered why I didn’t like flying. All those years of flying to see my relatives with my brother reading out tales of planes disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle came flooding back. The girls were all holding hands. Eventually we got back up above the clouds and landed in Fort Lauderdale 25 minutes later. We caught a brief glimpse of the freeway [“I’ve been in the US,” my partner exclaimed. Bonus points] before we departed again and landed at our destination, ready to start the holiday.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.