Wednesday, July 1, 2009

About that piece of patisserie...

Never boast on your blog that getting to an airport is going to be a piece of patisserie.

I am now at home in my own cluttered study. We walked through our door just before 5am, drooping with weariness after a very long journey home.

We boarded the RER train in plenty of time to hit the airport well ahead of our flight. Then the train stopped before emerging onto the second station. I immediately felt Don's panic rising as we sat in a tunnel, with PA announcements not to open the doors. Eventually we crawled into the station where people were exchanged, then after a short delay we set off again. Approaching the next station this was repeated with additional announcements about a known delay at a stop 2 further along. We sat and waited. And waited. There was another announcement confirming significant delays of unknown duration due to there being a person on the track at Stade de France. Don went from jittery to practically whistling like a newly boiled kettle! I had already offered to get off and get a taxi, which he had declined. Now I just stood up and grabbed the cases. It was no longer an offer but a certainty. The track was blocked. There was no way around the obstacle because there would be no further trains beyond the blockage to pick up.

We emerged onto the street to an empty taxi rank. Don was swearing and hypercrabby about every jolt of the cases over every bump. I ground my teeth and picked up my guide book (that I had nearly packed in the suitcase) and my mobile phone (with the battery failing fast) and called a taxi company. Just as she was promising me a cab in 7 minutes one pulled up (in front of a bus)in response to Don's frantic hailing. We piled in gratefully as the phone battery died. Eighteen minutes later we arrived where I was left as hostage to the taxi driver while Don entered the airport to find an ATM. He emerged after 10 minutes with 60 euros which he thrust at the driver for a 48 euro fare. When you tot up how much our initial tickets had cost as well, it was a very expensive airport ride!

We checked in easily, in plenty of time and headed to the gate where our seats would be allocated. The girl at the counter assured me we would have good seats but the flight was full. We queued dutifully and passed through all the security checks and got on to our bulkhead seats the centre two of four, with no-one on our outsides. Until ... 5 minutes prior to closing the doors a man with a cute baby appeared on one side, with many bags and trying to hold the kid while he stuffed things into overhead lockers. I beckoned for the baby who flirted very appealingly with me. As I was mid-flirt, a young woman appeared from the other side, looking curiously at me and frowning at the man across us. I then noticed that she had put down a baby carrier at the exit row. As she dumped more bags in the seat next to me it was quite clear that the baby had a Mama. And a sister. And that Don and I were somehow seated between parents of 8-month old twins. Two babies! Yes, I'm so lucky to be on a long flight with two babies, Mama moaned. We offered to move so they could sit together. Our offer was rejected irritably. It seemed she was just quite irritated. Full stop.

Papa had retrieved his little guy from me and was struggling to get him double seat-belted in place for take-off. Mama had settled the sleeping little girl to her chest under many floaty drapes without noticing the need for a double seat-belt. She turned her head and tried to feign sleep, while sniffing away tears. Okay.....

As we taxiied she leaned forward and saw the extra seat-belt stuffed into the seat pocket. She clucked her tongue and curled her lip as I offered to help. It would have been nice to know of this earlier she snarled. I applied my soothing never mind, it won't take a minute voice as she lifted the draped sleeping baby from her chest and I groped for her seatbelt, unfastened it, added the baby bit and reclipped it onto her, then clicked it around the baby. There, there. We took off to the loud wailing of baby boy, dummyless (it was in one of the many bags). Sigh.

It didn't get much better from there, in fact it descended into some level of hell for the first 8 hours of the 12 hour flight which left at midnight. As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off the flight staff assembled the bulkhead bassinets for the babies, but only after they put up our screens on stalks from the armrests of our seats, effectively trapping us in our extremely hard seats for the duration of the flight.

(edited to add:If it sounds like I am hard and unsympathetic to families flying with two babies across the don't mean to be. My heart did sink for them, a bit, as soon as I saw them. But it sank for us a trifle more, especially when I realised that the bassinets meant we would be trapped in our seats. They themselves had asked to be seated in that configuration. They did refuse to be sat together, and frankly it would not have made much difference. Someone had to sit next to them. Besides, my ass wouldn't fit into one of the aisle seats anyway. And I do like babies, so ... I suspect I was somewhat reluctant partly because I had a cold-sore healing on my face, and I couldn't snuggle and drool on them as I would ordinarily like. I looked like a leper. It was a drawback.)

Am I painting an effective picture? A bulkhead seat never gives quite enough legroom anyway with the seatpockets blocking full knee extension. The seats were rock-hard from the moment we sat down. They didn't tilt back much, and we couldn't extend our legs anyway. The aircon was set to inferno. The seats were so narrow my hips were cemented in the forward facing position. The couple tutted at each other across us, each dealing with their own baby. And Don and I tried to get some sleep (who am I kidding) It. was. not. good. Because of the bassinet barriers we had to climb up onto the seats and walk over the armrests to get out to go to the toilet. I managed it twice on my side and had to wake Mama up from her deep sleep (in those 5 mins) to get back in.

After 8 hours we possibly lost all sensation to our backs and lower limbs, because it seemed we were marginally less uncomfortable, but it could have been that our spines were now permanently remoulded. I'll let you know about that.

Breakfast was served about 1.5 hours prior to landing and both parents had their hands full. After we finished Papa was struggling to get a mouthful with a wriggling little guy who was yelling his head off so he came to sit on my lap again for a while and I fed him a breadroll which kept him very amused for 20 minutes as he gummed and sucked it to death and rained crumbs down the two of us. Mama had disappeared for a while but when she came back her little girl decided that she wanted some of the roll too so we passed it around and all got crumby together. It was a fun way to end the flight.

They live in Singapore so were not coming on to Perth (shame) but we landed to the news that the homeward flight was delayed by 2.5 hours, so we had 4 hours in Singapore. That left us with time to scour the terminals looking for a replacement hat for a fantastic little number that Steff had lost in Melbourne after only 2 weeks last year. It was such a good hat that it needed to be replaced. We found it in the last terminal we searched. It was so worth it.

Finally our flight boarded and we had a row of four to ourselves. There is a God. A bit of sleep then an hour of immigration, baggage waiting, customs and taxi queues.

We crept into the house and put the kettle on (its been 2 weeks since we've seen a kettle) while I jumped into the shower. Then I got out hurriedly to let Don in to cool off a burn to his groin from a hot cuppa he had slopped straight from the kettle. Bugger. It was not too bad but it stopped him from sleeping in bed as he needed a cold compress to stop it blistering. Luckily it missed all the interesting bits of anatomy, but it made him think twice about sleepily getting naked in anticipation of a shower while manoevering boiling water! Its OK today, although for a minute there I could see myself heading straight to the hospital at 5.30am before we'd even slept.

The house was in good shape. Presents have been given and well received. I'm heading out to the shops to get a roast for dinner. I've seen both of the kids only now- Steff went to work while I was crashed this morning and Don only saw her briefly before he fell back asleep on the couch, and she has just arrived home. Mum is blogging...what else is new - in my defense I had hoped to be finished with it but got interrupted with a phonecall I couldn't get out of. Our reunion was very happy nonetheless.

I haven't downloaded any photos yet. You'll see them when I do.


Frogdancer said...


Lisa L said...

I tried to make a comment, but I don't think it 'took' sounds like you had the trip from hell! So sorry! How wierd that the parents didn't want to sit together. Must've been a bad row!

Stomper Girl said...

Is it wrong that I was giggling through reading that?

I think it sounded like you were very nice about your seating arrangements on the plane. They were lucky to have you really.

I do like the phrase *a piece of patisserie*!

Anonymous said...

I would have flushed them.

Or at least demanded to to be upgraded.

persiflage said...

Sounds frightful. I admire your tolerance and helpfulness. I was on a flight where a mother with two very small boys came and bullied a hapless and innocent passenger into giving up his seat, two rows away from my seat. the father was on the same flight with a broken leg, so could (apparently) not help. Mum sat on the floor - which the crew permitted, while the kids used the seats. Fortunately the kids were relatively little trouble.
Welcome home.

InfoMidwife said...

Good to see you home safe and sound. You sound like you had a fantastic time, it seem to go very quickly. Or maybe I've been so busy it flew bye. I bet you're tired and glad to be home.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. I am speechless. Is it bad I laughed?