Fly By Night
Ben and I were asleep before the plane took off. So you can imagine my delight when ten minutes into a dream about the thin one from 'What Not To Wear' and a snapped fan belt I was woken for the sake of a hot flannel and a packet of Japanese crackers.
I surfed the in-flight movie channel. Alive, Skyjacked, Airport, Crash of Flight 401. There wasn't much I fancied watching, so I sucked on a Japanese cracker for the next seven hours. She didn't seem to mind.
The children both woke about halfway through the flight. In the circumstances, they were very well behaved, and I didn't have to use the cable ties I'd brought to cuff them to their seats. It was the longest flight we'd done with the little guys, and they dealt with it like consummate professionals. By contrast, the grown ups were less enamoured with the whole thing, and Bec in particular struggled with the length of the journey.
There's not much else to report about the flight until it landed. Then it all turned to custard. On landing, we taxied out to a remote stand somewhere near Stafford. It was miles from the main airport terminal. After a few minutes delay the ground crew brought some steps to the plane, only they weren't long enough. So they sent someone down to B&Q for a loft ladder, or so it seemed. It took nearly three quarters of an hour from landing to getting off the plane, which is a pain in the deep vein thrombosis when you've been sitting on your ass for the last fourteen hours.
Anyway, we did eventually get off the plane, and retrieved our bags from the enormous pile that had fallen from the carousel. It wasn't a great advert for Manchester Airport, but at least we were home.
We were met by my dad, and Lottie was evidently delighted to see Papa as she bounded into his arms. We were equally delighted to see him, as we'd just about run out of money.
We drove to my parents house where the rest of the day was a bit blurry, and uncharacteristically for the location, none of the confusion was wine fuelled. The bigtrip was almost at an end, and there was a huge amount of relief at being in sight of the finish line.
The odd thing was the fact they'd been reading this log on a daily basis, so they knew exactly what we'd been up to. So we didn't have to tell them about what we'd been doing at all. They just kept falling about at the fact that I was scared of butterflies. Which admittedly, was funny for about the first hour and a half.
We did that 'What time is it where you've just come from?' thing quite a lot too. I began my tirade about how jet lag is just a fantasy condition like yuppie flu. I got about two minutes in and fell asleep in my soup. I must have been coming down with a cold.
July 27, 2005.
Three o'clock in the morning is a great time to wake up when you are fresh as a daisy and your children are still asleep. It had been months since I had woken before the kids, and I had half a mind to get my own back by jumping on their beds and kicking them in the pants. Before you call the NSPCC, you'll be pleased to hear that I restrained myself and put the kettle on.
I drank tea, played about with a Sudoku puzzle and listened to the silence. It was great. As an aside, Sudoku puzzles are superb. Perhaps the most elegant puzzle I've seen in ages. And imagine my wife's delight in my discovering yet another pastime that is pointless and frustrating in equal measure.
The silence didn't last long. The children got up around four, whereupon we sat around scattering cheerios around their grandparent's kitchen. It's interesting to note that when you stand on an escaped cheerio on a tiled floor it disintegrates into about a gazillion atomic sized crumbs leaving devastation that is almost impossible to clear up using conventional gadgets. To this end, Papa has invested in a device specifically dedicated to the cleaning up of cheerio-nano-chunks. It's crying out for a patent.
At midday my Dad drove us back to our house. The journey was unremarkable, except for the weather, which was diluvian.
We arrived home whereupon the children tried to play with all their toys at once. It was a bit like Christmas morning without the hangover. Just after we arrived our neighbours dropped by. Alison and Rob have been sorting out the post, cutting the grass and holding off the bailiffs in our absence so we were delighted to see that they were still our friends.
And soon we were left in the house on our own. The bigtrip was over. We'd made it. There was no great reflection, no sigh of relief, just a sense of completion and a pile of post stretching to the moon and back.
July 28, 2005.
In the last three months we've flown around the world, driven over six thousand kilometres, monkeyed about at a hundred different playgrounds, walked hundreds of miles, scraped our knees more times than we can remember and written more than forty thousand words.
We have had a simply fantastic time. It's not always been easy, but we have managed to avoid getting ourselves into any serious scrapes, mostly through good luck rather than good management.
Most importantly we've spent three months together as a family. That was the overriding objective of the trip, and on this basis it's been a huge success. I've poked fun at them throughout the journey, but the reality is that despite two-thirds of them being under five, the rest of my family make fine travelling companions.
There are a few folks I would like to thank. My relatives Tania, Kevin, Rowland and Sheila for looking after us so well. Our fit friends Andy and Saira for our boot camp in Canmore. And our Kiwi mates Al and Susan for being such exceptional hosts that we now need another boot camp.
Most importantly I'd like to thank Bec who really conceived the whole idea of a bigtrip and who bullied me into going with her. I've not often given her credit throughout this journal, and that's hugely unfair. She's a honey.
And so what now? More adventures as a family I guess. We'll not be going very far for a few years, but we'll have adventures nonetheless. That much is certain.
Thanks for being part of bigtrip.