My little angels turn into devils on a plane



23:50 GMT, 11 April 2012

My mother used to say: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you angrier.’ On Good Friday I realised why she usually uttered this phrase through gritted teeth after the bank holiday car journey to visit my granny.

We’d go from Cornwall to London in an ancient Mini without seatbelts or reliable brakes. We would hurtle along the A303 with my sister and I crammed in the back alongside Barney, our huge mongrel, and the collection of hamsters and guinea pigs we seemed to transport everywhere.

The journeys took anything between six and 12 hours (and required four flasks of sweet tea).

Travel chaos: The Candy family's Easter holiday was hit by delays (posed by model)

Travel chaos: The Candy family's Easter holiday was hit by delays (posed by model)

These road trips are seared on my memory as tortuous adventures whose emotional ups-and-downs mirrored the stages of bereavement: numbness, sadness, anger and finally an exhausted acceptance of the utterly grim situation.

The destination was always worth the journey, but I swore I’d never put myself through one of those epic journeys again. And I didn’t. Until I had children, that is.

While car journeys with the children are bad, flights are little better. Even if Richard Branson flew us round the world in a mink-lined private jet, the experience would still be exhausting, chaotic and smell ever so slightly of sick.

I know the drill for aeroplanes and families: that’s why we usually go to Cornwall for school breaks or stay at home. I’ve been searched in airports while breastfeeding a baby, sat through a delayed four-hour flight covered in gallons of liquid from a leaky nappy, endured a two-hour flight comforting a vomiting child and once been shouted at by an angry, child-hating air hostess for unbuckling and rebuckling a baby seat belt.

So I know that travelling with children demands a thicker skin than singing out of tune in front of Simon Cowell.

With this in mind, last week we set off from home at 7am to catch a cheap, short flight to France for a half-term break. We’d be there by 12.30pm if all went to plan. Perhaps I should have realised what was in store for us when we put Mabel in her buggy and the tyre deflated in front of us.

Then the five-year-old ate his muffin and its paper wrapper in the car.
Maybe it’s because we have four offspring, including a ten-month-old, that the journey felt a tougher test than most.

Or was it that our flight to the Continent suddenly turned into a short hop from one London airport to another, where we landed due to a ‘hydraulics malfunction’.

After we’d been given a tiny bag of miniature breadsticks for lunch on the runway, we were put on a coach older than I am to drive back to the airport we first took off from to have another go in a new plane.

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Car seats weren’t available for little ones, so along with the two other mums with newborns, I sat with the baby on my lap as we hurtled down a motorway.

Is this against the law, I wondered, while Mr Candy, who is relentlessly positive about any major emergencies, but gets unreasonably upset if Tesco’s runs out of English mustard, initiated an ill-advised game of Guess The Animal. He misread the mood — I heard someone shout: ‘Bloody gorilla!’

Children can develop halos or horns on a trip, and there’s no telling which way it will go.

Mine were decently behaved until they hit a blood sugar low and began an argument of epic proportions about who was the best Moshi Monster character before making repeated visits to their favourite place on earth: the-loo-with-a-Dyson-hand-drier, a miracle of engineering in their eyes, more impressive than a jumbo jet or space travel.

‘Look,’ Henry said suspiciously after his third visit. ‘It’s dried my shoes inside and out and they’ve turned a different colour.’

When we finally boarded a working aircraft, five hours after the first one was supposed to leave, we were handed a cheese roll as lunch number two.

As I bit into it, the crown of my root canal broke off and fell into my lap.

I took a deep breath, Mr Candy mentally calculated the cost of replacing the tooth and baby Mabel giggled. She laughed so hard we couldn’t help but laugh, too.

Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine