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Parent trap: Holiday high hopes

But things go downhill at the security area. Mike refuses to give up his carry-on luggage.

This is a Bob the Builder bag which he thinks is full of sticks for the campfire he intends to light on the plane. My wife, however, has replaced them with feminine personal-hygiene products that she couldn't fit in the main bag. Our hope has been that Mike will forget about the fire before he looks in the bag.

Anyway, I've already put everything else, including my belt, on the conveyer belt and am standing there with my hands in my pockets trying to hold up my trousers, attempting to reason with him. He's scowling at the security guard, while the lengthening queue is giving off enough negative energy to stun a small child. This is no time for cajoling, so I take the bag off him, and he roars like a stuck pig all the way through the shops, down three moving walkways until we get to gate B1.

The passengers at gate B1 look up in alarm at our approach. The sticky, wailing children, the frazzled parents and the buggy dripping luggage. We're like refugees. I know everyone is thinking: "Please, let it not be B1. Make them walk on, God, please." When we divert at the last minute to the cafe, you can hear the collective sigh of relief. Now things begin to spiral out of control. It's already past their bedtimes and they're all hopped up on sugar. On holidays, because you can't replicate what they'll eat at home, you'll cram anything into them. Chips, ice cream, more chips. They're at the stage now where they've just got two modes: hyper and miserable.

Trying to contain all this, you get wrapped up in a bubble and forget that there are other people there. So my wife stands up, claps her hands together and says: "I'm going for a wee, does anyone want to come with me?" One large gentleman with glasses and a ketchup stain on his tie puts up his hand and we move away quickly.

Now the travellers at gate B1 look up in horror. Yes, those dirty, badly behaved children and their dirty, badly behaved parents are, in fact, going to Dublin too.

People aren't at their best at airports. They are herded to one place then another, forced to waste time and made to take off bits of their clothes and buy crap, overpriced food. So there's not much goodwill left for the likes of us, elbowing our way to the front, rolling over toes and puking on designer luggage.

When Annie hears there's a life vest under every seat, she's thrilled. Free stuff! But when I explain to her that taking it out would probably cause mass hysteria, she's not happy. So she asks what's it for. Given her love of drama, the truth would probably send her into orbit. As it is, each time the plane changes direction, she asks if it's going to crash. So I tell her the life vests are for people who forgot to put on a vest that morning.

On the plane, in an effort to keep them quiet, I ask them what was their favourite bit of the holiday? The beach? The wide selection of playgrounds? The water slides and bouncy castles? The foreign language cartoons? The row-boats? The theme parks? The endless run of jellies, ice cream and chips? No, it was playing with the security cordon yokes in the airport.


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