"Henry, have you remembered to wear underpants today?" I asked. It was only just still morning by the time he got dressed.
"Oops I forgot." he replied.
I reminded him of our trip back from France when I had PMS back in March.
Jimmy had flown back from England by himself - lucky bastard.
After a lovely time skiing in France, I had the pleasure of flying with two children all the way from Geneva via Heathrow to San Francisco. After a 4 a.m. start (none of us are morning people), we had to wait in a long security line to have the excitement of removing most of our clothes, our shoes, our finger nails, etc. Henry and Emily were fighting and screaming about whose backpack contained the most interesting contents. Henry insisted that his contained bombs and guns. I told him to shut up otherwise we would be arrested. They started punching each other at which point I slammed my backpack in between them.
A concerned Swiss woman behind me in the queue recommended that I take juniper. "I need a bloody stiff drink, not juniper." She then asked if Henry and Emily were twins. Henry was not amused as he had just turned six and Emily is only three. He pulled a really repulsive face at her. She was horrified but luckily stopped talking to us.
The rest of the journey from Geneva was uneventful I think. It was still too early in the morning for my brain to work.
At Heathrow Airport, Emily had a great time taunting the security man as she wrecked Harrods' Easter display. It consisted of a huge pink Easter bunny and a poodle wearing a pink collar and leash. Emily grabbed the poodle out of the mannequin's hand and dragged it around the store in between the racks of $1000 dresses. The snooty women who worked in the store looked down their extraordinarily long noses at her in disgust. The security man was surprisingly pleasant as he tried in his broken English to persuade her to release the poodle. I bribed her by saying we would go and get an ice-cream and so we left the poor security guard in peace. Unfortunately there was no ice-cream to be found. I did not look too hard. However, we did find a bar that sold a very nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
And so the three hour layover at Heathrow passed and we boarded our 11 hour flight for San Francisco. Emily was threatened with a visit by a fierce security man if she made too much noise and succumbed to sleep. I tried to doze off but Henry refused to take a rest for the entire flight. Instead he kept breaking the personal in-flight entertainment system, getting tangled up in the head phones and spilling orange juice all over my clothes and Emily whilst she was asleep. After nearly 10 long hours he decided that he needed to go to the restroom (or rather contortionist's cubicle). He had to wait a few minutes for someone else to finish. And apparently that wait tipped him over the edge because the next minute I heard him shouting. I thought he was locked in and could not get out but he sheepishly opened the door and apologized that he had not quite got to the toilet in time. The smell was incredible and as I looked down I saw that he had filled his shoes as well as having completely brown legs. I remembered that he had not worn any underwear that day because he had been wearing the same pair all week for the ski trip. He had rejected all the other pairs because Bob the Builder underwear is apparently no longer cool. So his triceratops underpants had been packed for fear of scaring other passengers with the smell.
Now we really were up shit creek without a plastic bag. I had carefully packed a spare pair of Emily's pink and orange pants with pink bows all over them. They looked great on Henry who of course was horrified about wearing them but I gave him the option of being naked or putting them on. They were capri length and just fabulous. I told him not to worry as we were flying into San Francisco and a lot of the men dress like that there but he was not convinced.
The airline attendant was very reluctant to part with his duty free bags to use for such lowly purposes as housing a pair of crapped on trousers but claimed to not have any rubbish bags or other plastic bags.
We returned to our seats after I had cleaned the airline toilet floor and packaged up the nasty shoes and trousers. The smell still exuded from the luggage locker but we only had 45 minutes until we were supposed to land. I saw a few passengers wrinkling up their noses but maybe they were Harrods' store assistants and always looked that way.
Emily had slept for most of the flight but woke up grumpy and she whined that she was thirsty. Breakfast was about to be served. Why they leave serving breakfast until the plane is just about to land is always a mystery to me. Just as they came around with the breakfast cart and blocked the aisle to the restroom, Emily needed to go. After dealing with that we returned to our seats to find that Henry was fast asleep. That was really bad news because now we only had half an hour until landing. It also occurred to me that he did not have any shoes to wear. I could not find the airline socks that we had been given so I went around the plane begging clean airline socks from people. I put three pairs on Henry's feet so that he would not be cold when we landed. The weather in San Francisco is very unpredictable in March.
We landed with an almighty thud but Henry stayed fast asleep. I waited until all the passengers got off the plane including all the ones with sticks, crutches, wheel chairs, extra large and awkward hand luggage and the ones that wanted to get extra conversation with the tired air stewardesses.
I shook Henry and woke him up but he fell asleep again. Emily tried shouting in his ear but to no avail. I tried three times and had to lift him out of his seat. I tried to get him to carry his own backpack but he shouted that he was not going to carry it. The bombs and guns or whatever that he had filled it with made it feel heavy enough to be full of weapons. I was starting to lose any patience or composure that I had managed during the flight. I pushed him along the aisle, laden with bags, because Emily would not carry hers either.
As we walked the five miles along the hallway in the airport to immigration Henry decided that he did not like the airline socks that I had put on him. He had complained about socks and underwear constantly on the ski trip and now he was crying and screaming. I told him to take them off but he did not want to do it himself. He howled and wailed and I completely snapped.
"Did I shit in your shoes? Did I shit in your shoes?" I screamed back at him. "Did I refuse to wear any of my other underwear all week in France?" And once again, "Did I shit in your shoes?"
We had just approached the line for immigration and were ushered to the front of the queue by an officer who asked if we had enjoyed a pleasant flight. "Shit!" I said holding up the bag of stinking shoes and trousers.
And the final delight was trying to push two luggage carts laden with car seats, oversized suitcases, several zoo animals, and all of our hand luggage. Henry managed to push one trolley in Geneva and I pushed the other. But he was still not cooperating in any way. Poor little Emily started to push one and she could not see where she was going. As we walked through customs I felt like declaring that Henry was not mine and would they mind impounding him. A few passengers looked twice to see how the seemingly self-propelled trolley was moving along. Thankfully a very nice man took pity on me and took charge of the second trolley until Jimmy met us in arrivals.
From now on I will always carry spare underwear for both children and for myself and plastic bags on transatlantic flights.
And I will continue to remind Henry of the importance of wearing underpants.