So this time last week I was in Cornwall, just me and 3 children (2 of mine and 1 on short term loan).
We were only there for 3.5 days although we were very nearly not there at all...
Travelling with children is never something to be looked forward the way one looks forward to that first glass of wine after a long and stressful week or greeting a loved one after an absence. Travelling with children is stressful and fraught with peril, you can always guarantee that they will suddenly have a bladder about to burst when there is no toilet in sight, or a need to vomit when there is no sick bag and they will ask the time every 5 minutes. I love travelling on my own, it so rarely happens now that when the opportunity arises I will happily be early at the airport, just to wallow a little longer on that lone traveller feeling, bliss.
So there I was, Sunday afternoon with 3 children at Dusseldorf airport, waiting for a flight to Gatwick where we would have a 2 hour wait before catching our connection to Newquay where we would pick up our hire car and drive for an hour to Mullion down on the Lizard.
Easy. Peasy. Lemon. Squeezy.
Except it wasn't. Our 5pm flight got delayed and then delayed again and again. We were all given 15 euro to spend in any restaurant in the airport for dinner and told the flight would leave at 9pm - no chance of catching that 8.10pm flight to Newquay then.
Four and a half hours after we should have left Germany we were finally airborne. Fortunately there were other passengers who had FlyBe connections at Gatwick that they would now have missed and we all made ourselves known to the cabin crew, I was told that we would hopefully be met at the plane by 'someone'. I was expecting this 'someone' to then sort out a hotel for the night and onward flights in the morning, but no.
It was way better than that.
The 7 of us were herded together and with a member of staff from the airport doing a pretty good impression of Lassie/Skippy we were speeded through the airport, our end goal we were told was the flight to Newquay which was equally delayed (how odd I thought).
First stop was passport control, where of course there was a query with one passenger who had to fill in an immigration form...Skippy started to twitch nervously. That dealt with we were rushed through Gatwick like VIPs, boarding passes waved at another staff member's face and quickly into security, no-one had any liquids, we'd already been through security in Dusseldorf so everyone was clean, except for the youngest member of the group, my 9 year old daughter.
They pulled her rucksack to the side and started to empty it, one cuddly toy after another was swiftly disinterred, pencil case thoroughly examined, suspicious pencil sharpener allowed, Kitkats ignored until finally they found what they were after - a teeny tiny pen torch that on their X-ray scanner showed up as a laser pointer which is no longer allowed in hand luggage. We pointed out that it was a torch and not a laser pen and everything was repacked, Skippy almost vibrating with the desperation to get us to the plane.
Then we were off again, racing through the south terminal of Gatwick, barely registering the shops I could have spent a happy 2 hours browsing in until we slid to a halt at the gate where another member of staff rechecked that the photos on their system that had been taken maybe minutes earlier just before security still matched the heads on our bodies and finally there was our plane, engines humming, waiting for us, we had to confirm that the bags waiting next to the plane were actually ours (yes, yes & yes) and we were on.
Slumping with relief into our, fortunately back row seats, while the other 70+ passengers glared at us as if the delay (of 2 or so hours for them) that they were having to tolerate was all our fault...which in a round about way it was...
I got the full story from the member of cabin crew who was in the jump seat behind us for takeoff. She was the same person from the previous flight who'd told me that 'hopefully someone will meet you off the plane'. Apparently the Newquay-Gatwick plane had been diverted during that afternoon to do the Dusseldorf-Gatwick run because the plane that should have been doing it had to turn back when a problem developed. So after it had brought us from Dusseldorf the plane then reverted back to its Gatwick-Newquay route, loaded up all its waiting passengers and hung around waiting for us 7 to re-emerge from the living organism that is Gatwick.
We got to bed that night around 2am, but at least we made it to Mullion and slept where we'd planned to and weren't having to sleep in a hotel in either Gatwick or Newquay.