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Published: April 26th 2008
Mum and Dad's garden
A British spring - but unlike in Minnesota, it was all gone by noon
Deplaning after more than eight hours squashed into a seat that didn't recline with the Toddler on my lap was a wonderful feeling. We could have landed anywhere and I'd still have been euphoric. In fact, at one point it looked like we might have to land somewhere else. A male passenger developed chest pains and, sitting in the back row right by the bathroom, I heard the flight attendants talking in hushed tones and witnessed them reaching for the medical equipment in the cabin above my head. Thankfully, our fellow passenger must have had indigestion and visions of an emergency landing - and ending up in Iceland with the Toddler - faded.
Coming down to land at Gatwick, I was reminded that England really is a green and pleasant land. Then, suddenly - SNOW! I wasn't mistaken. There really was snow on the ground on the hills. Having come from snowy climes, I was looking forward to England feeling positively balmy in comparison - I have to say, I'm still waiting!
Another reason I always feel such immense relief when we arrive is that, once in the terminal building, I finally get to use the bathroom. The Toddler
is always the last passenger to fall asleep on the way over and once he's dropped off, I daren't move. Having done my fair share of solo transatlantic travel with the Toddler, I've learnt that, the older he gets, the less people help - the flight attendants (also known as the Gatwick witches) included. When you get on board by yourself with a baby, people line up to help, but when passengers see you struggling up the aisle with a two-year-old you can see them thinking, 'Whatever you do, don't sit near us!' I smile sweetly and claim that he should sleep the whole way (ha, ha, as if!).
Actually, the Toddler does really well on flights, but it is exhausting. Once he's got bored of watching DVDs, I am the in-flight entertainment. I also have to stop him kicking the seat in front / chucking things at unsuspecting passengers / getting run over by the trolley / and pulling the person in front's hair. His trump card - throwing a massive tantrum in a confined space - has me quivvering in my shoes but this can usually (but not always) be averted as long as I've spent the
previous two days planning enough activities for the trip and feed him enough Pringles.
Back in Woking, my first stop is bed. But the Toddler - like a true travel connoisseur with thousands of air miles - somehow managed to stay up ALL day - such was his excitement at finding a houseful of toys. Usually, when we visit England, he morphs into the Teenager, staying up really late with jet lag and sleeping in really late. But this time, having kept going all day, he crashed out at a very civilised 7.30pm and slept all night! We paid for it later, though, as it all caught up with him - and us - the next day. Settling him in was harder this time, probably because being that much older, he was aware his whole life had been turned upside down (no more 'Big car', mega malls, etc). The more demanding he became, the more I noticed a kind of knowing (dare I say satisfied) look on my mother’s face, as though she’d seen it all before in someone else - can’t think who. Now he's doing really well and sounding very British! (I'm definitely a mummy now, not
Having lived overseas for nearly five years, it's like seeing England through fresh eyes again. Some things take a bit of getting used to again, it has to be said. Like driving on the left side, on really narrow roads, with parked cars, speed bumps and cyclists to negotiate. Driving in America is MUCH easier! Mum and Dad's road twists and turns round numerous bends, with little space to spare, and, as part of 'traffic calming measures' and as if the road wasn't narrow enough already, there's even a chiccane - on a bend! Are they mad? It's definitely much more crowded here and it certainly rains a lot, but actually after five months of snow, I'm rather enjoying the drizzle. The bathroom shower is the size of a telephone box and no-one talks to us on the street anymore - in fact, such is the need for privacy here, strangers tend to avert their eyes. I haven't started any random conversations, like I used to enjoy in America, in case people think I'm a lunatic. But there's also lots to enjoy - the quaintness, history, unique culture, British telly, and best of all, my favourite foods.
Real bacon, sausage rolls, Heinz beans, Marmite, Branston pickle (my husband would add Monster Munch and Ribena to this list). Ah, there's no place like home!
Of course, the big advantage to being back is seeing family and friends again - and it's really nice that the Toddler is getting to know his cousin (Rebecca, though he can't say this yet so calls her 'girl'!) A recent outing took us all to Milton Keynes (a city I'd never seen before and really liked as it felt American!) to see Thomas and friends live on stage! Going to the theatre with hundreds of toddlers and pre-schoolers was a hilarous experience - and very loud. In order to be heard over the general din from the kids, the musical had to be even louder. The Toddler loved it - clapping along, shouting out 'Diesel, Diesel' and munching on sandwiches and Scotch eggs!
While the Toddler and I have been getting to grips with life in Great Britain, his Daddy has been settling in to Dubai, where he's started his training on the Airbus. So far his biggest technical problem has been working the British-style washer/dryer. He's checked out the beach
for us, discovered where the best Arabic food is sold and has started the mountain of paperwork we need to wade through to live in Dubai. Our house won't be ready for another 2-4 months, thanks to a concrete shortage. The Airbus training is hard work and intense, but the other day he did get to hang out in a swimming pool with all the flight attendants, practising water evacuations. The flight attendants this airline hires tend to be some of the most beautiful women from around the world....hmphhhh.
Meanwhile, I'm feeling a little rounder than before and am having a wardrobe malfunction. I actually have a new character to introduce to my blog, who you'll be hearing a lot more about - the Zygote. He or she is very small, is about 15 weeks old and has made me pretty sick and very tired - oh, and given me diabetes again - and I know this is just the beginning! Yes, if all goes well, the Toddler is set to become a big brother in October!
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