We're back. 5 weeks break in the UK has whizzed by, but it was time to go home. So we packed up the most enormous number of bags and boxes and got ourselves in Heathrow to catch a flight to Budapest, another to Sarajevo and then drove a further 3 hours to get back to Tuzla.
So much travelling in the last couple of weeks, both with and without the kids, was a stark reminder of how different the whole flight experience is when you are in charge of small children.
1. Inflight Entertainment
Without children - it may have been cramped and crowded mayhem on the flight to New York, but we could read and watch movies (and I did watch quite a few). Bliss. Total, unadultered bliss. I may have been a bit overexcited about the whole experience.
With children - walking up and down the aisles endlessly desperately scanning the faces for sympathetic passengers or anyone who might also have a child. Trying to keep them out of the galley area. A lot of Room on the Broom and Sir. Charlie Stinky Socks stories (with appropriate soundtrack at high volume).
Without Children - would you prefer the beef or the chicken darling? Which film are you going to watch? Please pass me the second half of the newspaper. Shall we go to MOMA on Friday? Do you think we'll have time to go to the theatre?
With Children - It would be a good idea if you went to the loo now before we got on the plane. Please stop kicking the seat of the woman in front. Don't stand up on you chair. Keep your seat belt done up - and the table up too! Shhhh. Look at all the tiny cars and houses down there. I don't think sweetle beatles live in the airplane wings. Stop hitting your brother. You can't need to go to the loo again. Don't press the alarm button in the loo. I don't know what that button does. Sit still. I know we've been flying for a long time, but we still have quite a long time to go. What about some drawing? I've got some stickers for you. I don't think they want you to put stickers on there.
Then with David, conveniently seated away from the mayhem as the airlines couldn't seat us all together - We are swapping seats. It is your turn right now! No you can't finish the article you are reading.
3. Going to the loo
Without children - whenever I wanted. On my own. In under 10 minutes.
With children - always with at least one, occasionally two in tow. Not to mention any bags which also need to be shoved into the cramped cubicle. Any event accompanied by a commentary informing the whole of the ladies that Mummy has just done a wee. Inevitably an attempt is made to open the door, leaving Mummy exposed with trousers around her ankles. Once or twice they have a success. Inevitably there is some water spraying around the sinks, soap splashed all over the place and then a fight over who is going to put their hands in the dryer first.
4. Waiting at the terminal
Without children - time for an elegant, relaxed coffee. Possibly with paper. Able to move fast when the flight is called. Even if we are still horrendously late for the flight, we can still peg it to get there on time.
With children - impromptu wrestling match and lots of running around as I try to exhaust the activity impulses for a few hours. Rolling around on the floor always attracts disapproving looks from other adults, although those with children often join us. Have to move as soon as the flight is called and we will still be the last there as Luke will inevitably be drawn to some rubbish bin and have to be prized away screaming. If they make us take our shoes off, at least one shoe will disappear for some time and at least one child will make a break for it whilst I am trying to put my shoes back on.
Without children - it arrives, we eat it with a glass of wine or so, have a coffee afterwards. Not the greatest meal I've ever had but not the worst either. All is well.
With children - it arrives. They take one bite and hate it. I don't blame them for this, airlines do insist on providing absurdly strongly flavoured cheese and onion sandwiches which kids are never going to go for. They do eat the chocolate thing provided though and then go a bit nuts. I try to cram some apples into them, or maybe a prepacked sandwich but they don't go for this. It leads to a day of appalling eating and stomach aches later.
6. On arrival
Without children - thanking everyone that we don't have kids with us, we wait patiently in the immigration queue. Once through, pick up luggage and decide to catch the subway into the city as there is horrendous traffic. Proceed smoothly with no problems.
With children - children, released from sitting down quietly, race around like demons, respecting no queue or the immigration desks. Just as we get to the front, one will need a wee really desperately and we will have to negotiate vaguely keeping our place. Contemplate getting the bus back home to Tuzla. This will mean getting taxis (notice the plural, we were never going to be able to get all our stuff into one taxi) to the bus station and then a 3 hour bus ride. Abandon idea rapidly and rent a car instead.
We're pleased to be back home, and actually the journey back wasn't as bad as it could have been. However, we're not about to repeat the experience anytime soon and I need a holiday to recover.