Friday 24 May 2019

Barry Egan: 'It's a miracle: we survived the journey and witnessed a big step forward'

This Man's Life

'We had the added torture of getting the carry-on cases - as well as all the actual big luggage we had checked in from the airport - out to the taxi' (stock photo)
'We had the added torture of getting the carry-on cases - as well as all the actual big luggage we had checked in from the airport - out to the taxi' (stock photo)
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

WC Fields said, wisely: "Never work with children or animals." I am going to amend that to: "Never travel with young children..."

We flew to Gran Canaria last week on a mid-afternoon flight. Getting two small kids - and a small mountain of carry-on luggage - from Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport to our gate was an epic struggle straight out of the Old Testament. The Old Testament with swim nappies, Minnie Mouse-themed water floats, Factor 50 suncream and sangria.

It was a wonder my wife and I didn't break up between leaving the check-in desk and getting to our gate. This was possibly because I accused her of overpacking and she in return told me, not unreasonably, to grow the feck up.

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All this as I feared (not unreasonably) suffering permanent spine damage, hauling case after case. There were other reasons my wife and I were looking daggers at each other. The 16-month-old baby boy would not go into his buggy and insisted on being carried.

The four-year-old little girl insisted on being carried too. I was holding her and pushing two carry-on cases on wheels. You could not - repeat, not - make this up.

After much cajoling and bribery (a lollipop), we eventually got the baby into his buggy.

So to recap: I was carrying the four-year-old and pushing, hauling, dragging two cases on wheels while my wife pushed the buggy with the baby onboard and pushed a case on wheels. We were sweating buckets.

I thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion on the spot. Added to this was our daughter (who would not walk) constantly and annoyingly asking: "Are we there yet? When are going to be in the Canary Islands, daddy?"

Finally, after about 20 minutes of spine-injuring dragging, we found our gate.

I had a beer. It was 2.30pm. Do you have a problem with that?

I was in holiday mode. Totally exhausted but in holiday mode. In truth, I don't think I had ever been so tired in my life. My wife didn't look full of the joys either, to be fair.

Then the baby started crying and the four-year-old asked: "Are we there yet?"

And then: "Why is it taking so long to get there, daddy?" It was shaping up to be the worst foreign holiday ever (it turned out to be our best holiday ever).

And we hadn't even left the country yet.

Getting our stuff, and our kids, on to the actual plane proved even more exhausting, but we finally made it, and we settled down in our seats for the trip to sunny Spain.

By the time we touched down in Gran Canaria airport four hours later, it seemed more like we had flown to Australia. It was the longest flight of our lives. The baby would not sit on either my lap or his mother's.

And whenever we tried to restrain him from getting up, he roared at the top of his lungs (and I mean the top!) so loud, in fact, that I'm sure the pilot could hear the baby's thunderous demands above the din of turbulence at 35,000ft.

So, in recovery mode from getting all the carry-on luggage and the kids to the plane, I spent a good portion of the flight walking up and down the aisle of the plane with the aforesaid baby in my arms or me walking behind him as he crawled and crawled.

And crawled.

Meanwhile the four-year-old was, happily, glued to her iPad. Possibly because she knew that, yes, we were nearly there. My wife and I had never been so delighted for Paw Patrol or My Little Pony in our lives.

Finally, we landed.

We were covered in milk from the baby's bottle plus various other food stuff like bananas, etc that he had managed to throw over us - but we had landed.

Then, however, we had the added torture of getting the carry-on cases - as well as all the actual big luggage we had checked in from the airport - out to the taxi.

That was even more comedically exhausting because the kids were so wrecked that they all wanted to be picked up and carried too. But we did it. And it was worth it, as our first night in the jewel of the Atlantic would prove.

Twenty minutes later, the four-year-old was dancing at our hotel's mini disco with her new pals, the one-year-old was crawling around the dance floor... and mummy and daddy were blissfully looking on at them in the warm evening sunshine with a well-earned glass of wine in our hands.

Yes, we might have looked slightly the worse for wear (baby milk, bits of crushed biscuits, various fruits mashed into our clothes and hair) but we were very happy.

Exhausted but in holiday mode. Then at 8pm the first miracle of the night happened: our 16-month-old son took his first steps.

He walked on the dancefloor of the mini disco to The Birdie Song. It was a sacred moment that I will cherish for as long as I live. The look on his little face as he looked up and clapped his hands before falling on his bum after walking three steps was unforgettable.

Then at 9.45om the second miracle of the night happened...

I was sitting in the downstairs bar in our hotel, Lopesan in Costa Meloneras, watching Liverpool play Barcelona. I hadn't expected much in terms of a recovery from Klopp's boys to be honest. Yet what transpired was one of the most extraordinary sporting moments I had ever witnessed.

Liverpool (without Salah or Firmino) coming back from a three-goal deficit in the first leg to beat Barcelona (with Messi and Suarez) four nil. It was a modern miracle of sorts at Anfield. Everybody in the bar in Gran Canaria was up on their feet cheering at what they were witnessing. I had my son in my arms.

He kept pointing at the screen. I remember watching football games on the telly with my dad as a child. I don't think my 16-month-old son had a clue what had just happened at Anfield.

Nor, I imagine, did Lionel Messi.

The Real Madrid fans in the bar were weeping with joy that their arch rivals from Catalonia had been humiliated so badly.

The following morning on the beach at Meloneras, the Spanish and the Germans and the Dutch talked of little other than the miracle at Anfield the night before.

At that stage, though, my mind had returned to the first miracle of sorts from the previous night: my baby son's first steps. And indeed he walked on the beach and towards the waves.

He stopped just short of walking on the water.

Sunday Independent

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