With two teens and two babies, a holiday is just plane wrong
Our first mistake was taking the plane. Our second was taking the children. August 2012. Two toddlers and two teenagers; two desperate, sleep-deprived adults hallucinating about an 'escape' to the sun. One package holiday to Lanzarote in high season.
Who in their right mind would expect it all to go smoothly?
The only excuse, I guess, would be water on the brain from what has been laughingly called the summer.
In any case, here we are, up at 5am to catch a 9am flight. Me, the hombre, the senoritas, the heir and the spare. The heir, just turned three, has never flown before and is wildly, dangerously excited about it. The spare is 13 months and wildly excited about blueberries – we like to call it his 'blue period'.
We tear along the curving, glass-walled corridor to Terminal 2 in the wake of the hombre, who's just a little eager to get to the sun loungers and frosty beers he imagines are waiting for him at touchdown.
The senoritas, 12 and 15, are already dressed for the tropics, suspiciously unwhite legs skittering down the conveyor belts, saying things such as "Chillax, Dad, we're in loooads of time". The heir wants to run the length of these, while yours truly jiggles the one-year-old on hip, trying to keep up.
It's not until we get to the gate that we have a chance to stop and check the monitor. The plane's been delayed an hour. After all that. Still, now we can grab some breakfast.
We 'convey' our way back towards the main drag. The hombre has chivalrously offered to carry the spare and so it's his crisp white linen shirt that gets the worst of it. Blueberries, that is. We're not talking a little throw-up, we're talking purple swamp.
The hombre – after a respectable two minutes of swearing – whips off the soggy shirt, allowing those coasting by on the conveyor belt a glimpse of his manly physique.
"Cover yourself up, Daddy. That's indecent." Senorita the elder can be a bit of a prude.
"Here, put this on, for God's sake." She pulls off her size-six hoodie and hands it over. It stretches impressively to nearly (but not quite) cover his belly.
Saved by duty free. Elder senorita holds an overpriced Guinness T-shirt against the hombre for size. "I don't know," he says, doing a camp little waddle in his shrink-wrap hoodie. "I think I prefer this."
"If anyone asks, I'm not with you," mutters Senorita the younger, scuttling towards the perfume counter to make some distance between us. In response, he directs his waddle towards her, arms outstretched. "Come to me, my darling daughter." She glances back, panics, breaks into a run.
We don't know it at this stage of innocent cavorting around duty free, but we have another six hours to enjoy the full experience of Terminal 2. Hour by hour, we deflate like balloons forgotten behind the couch. All except the heir, who keeps asking: "Is that our plane? Is that one?"
"That one," I finally get to say, as the afternoon sun lights a different side of the terminal. The day has moved quicker than we have.
We board, we take off. So does poor junior, with another swamp all over my top. And then I feel a queasy warmth from a different direction: it looks like curry seeping through on to my lap, but it isn't.
Is there a patron saint of desperate aeroplane toilet situations? Wet wipes, toilet paper and a fair bit of swearing is all I have to hand. I make liberal use of them.
Three hours of squirming, chair-kicking, screeching and dirty looks later, we finally sight Lanzarote, the mysterious cones of its volcanoes etched against the evening light.
Relief and a little thrill shiver through me. We're on holiday, at last. In a couple of hours we could be walking down that beach down there, quaffing a frosty beer at sunset ...
The plane touches down. The heir does an 'Exorcist' all over the seat in front. Welcome to the Canaries!
This year, we're taking the ferry.