Three children on a long-haul flight. What larks! And because of the bad weather, a five-hour ordeal turns into a nine-hour ordeal. Ho ho effin' ho!
Normally when you push a buggy with three or four children hanging out of it, you tend to be the object of tremendous goodwill. People are thinking, 'What a good father! What feisty children! So full of life!' Passers-by beam at us, or give me sympathetic looks because one of them is usually bawling. In situations like these, people can afford goodwill because the bawling children will very soon be a distant memory. Show up at the departure gate with a buggy and three children and you get few smiles. Even atheists are praying we don't end up beside them.
The good news is that the plane is lightly booked, so we have six seats to ourselves. The older two are quick to discover the delights of in-flight entertainment. But about halfway into the flight, things start to get messy. We've been hoarding every scrap of food they've given us, then parcelling it out to the children, but because they're children there are bits of food and discarded wrappings all over the floor.
Then there's what we call Conor's 'cuddly'. Since he's been six months old, Conor has been getting to sleep with the aid of anything satin, which he rubs, then crams in his mouth. The only satin things we have are my wife's old nightdresses. To keep him calm during take-off, he's been chewing on one and now the cuddly is soaked in spit. To dry it out, my wife hangs it up between two coat holders.
Between the bits of half-eaten food and plastic containers on the floor, not to mention the hot-red nightdress strung across the seats, our little enclave is starting to look like a cross between a squat and a brothel.
It's the first time that Mike, who's five, has worn headphones, and so everything he says is shouted. "Are we there yet? I need to do a poo!" There's a recently married couple sitting in the row opposite us, and I can see them thinking, 'Hmmm. Maybe we'll wait a while before we have children'.
We're flying over to see family in the States, and have booked to come back just before Conor's second birthday in order to avoid paying for him. But there are unforeseen consequences in not having a seat for a 23-and-a-half-month-old child. They have this bassinet thing that they can fasten to the wall to facilitate sleeping infants, but our great puddin' of a child won't fit in it. So instead, I sit under him until he drops off.
Great, I'm thinking. If we can keep him asleep all the way there, we're sorted. Three hours later, the pain in my arse is almost making me weep and I need to go to the toilet so bad, I no longer care if I wake him.
My wife is passed out on the seat in front and I don't want to wake her, so I struggle with the sleeping kid, He wakes, he howls. Everyone hates us. Sigh.