Just before my daughter’s first birthday, we flew from Auckland to London, via Kuala Lumpur. We were travelling to the UK to spend some of the English summer with our families, and to introduce our daughter to them. Mrs L. and I were really excited about spending some time with our parents and siblings, in our old stomping grounds and to seeing a bit more of the old country. Two or three days before we were travelling, we’d moved home, and so the stress levels in our house hold were pretty high. We realised that travelling with an eleven month old, would be a bit of a trial and so we booked a room at a hotel, but up until a day or two before we flew we didn’t really think too much about how we would cope. In typically optimistic fashion, I imagined that the soothing sounds of the plane’s engines would lull little Fraboo into a 29 hour dreamless slumber, and we would all arrive at Heathrow refreshed and ready for six weeks of fun. Strangely, this fantasy also included me miraculously losing a couple of stone whilst in transit too, so you can see that it was doomed from the start.
It all started well with us boarding the plane and being sat next to a lovely older couple, who we jokingly apologised too before the plane set off. “This is her first time on a plane, so we don’t know how it’s going to go. Ho, ho!” They were seasoned travellers themselves, had flown with their own young children and assured us that our little girl couldn’t do anything that they hadn’t seen before, and they totally understood.
Just across the aisle from us there was another family, Mum and Dad with their son who I took to be about ten or eleven. The father began to give us venomous looks from the moment we sat down. I offered him my most winning smile, but he just shook his head and snarled. His wife was the type of lady who looked as though she didn’t miss very many meals, (in fact, I suspect she had probably invented some). She was so large that she couldn’t pull the little meal tray down flat. It rested snugly on her belly at about 30⁰ from horizontal, and when the air stewardesses came around asking “chicken or beef” I’m sure that I overheard her reply “Do I have to choose just one?”.
Rather predictably, as soon as the plane’s engine started, even though it was 1 am and well passed her bed time, our princess developed insomnia. This was accompanied after about 45 minutes, by incessant screaming. The father across the aisle began complaining to the cabin crew, insisting that he and his entourage be upgraded. When the stewardess refused his request he went very quiet, but later in the journey, I thought I saw him trying to sharpen the plastic knife which came with his meal. His voluptuous companion looked at our baby, licked her lips with a hungry look in her eye and I was immediately reminded of a National Geographic documentary about Great White Sharks! She appeared to lose her appetite after our little one threw up all over me. We had packed a change of clothes for the baby, but I had neglected to pack any for myself.
When we arrived at Kuala Lumpur, it was bright and humid, and I was beginning to smell very ripe. To make matters even better, where I had been furiously dabbing at my trousers in a vain effort to remove the vomit, to anyone who cared to look (and there were plenty who did), I appeared to have wet myself. We sought refuge in the room we’d booked, and our daughter was so overjoyed at not being forced to sleep in the cramped bassinet on the plane that she jumped for joy. For an hour and a half! Oh, best laid plans of mice and men.
Needless to say when we arrived in England, we didn’t look like the conquering heroes I imagined. We were however, very glad to have landed. Well, up until we remembered that we would have to do the same all over again in six weeks time.