Monday, 23 January 2006

Right, better get on with the story of Christmas, then.

So, Friday finished work with the glorious prospect of a fortnight back in Blighty to look forward to. First job was to pack and this simple task was made all the easier by the fact that the Guru had already done most of it. Indeed such was her foresight that she had actually sent two boxes of stuff on to her parents, with whom we stopped on Saturday night before flying on Sunday, as a sort of staging post or way station...

OK, that was written a few weeks ago before I managed to pour coffee over the computer, so have to now try and remember what went on over the hols – not an easy task from this distance.

So, to the in-laws prior to our departure, this was a cunning plan as it meant that if anything went wrong with our leaving, like forgetting something vital, we would still be in a position to do something about it. Luckily we didn’t, but what I did do, or rather, what I wasn’t sure that I’d done, was about the only thing that the Guru asked me to do, which was not to forget to take the milk out of the fridge before leaving and wash the carton. Ok, simple thing to do I know, but I spent the entire holiday worrying about whether we were going to return to a living fridge covered in green slime. Naturally before we left the house the Guru had asked me about three times to throw it away and of course I replied, probably louder than necessary something like ‘look just leave it to me, I’ll sort it out, alright!’ Ooops...

Anyway that was by the by as we were to the in-laws, where we picked up the boxes already sent, and repacked the suitcases, including borrowing one from the mother-in-law, everything actually fitted into the cases and didn’t seem to weigh too much over the limit – although we did manage to gt all the youngster’s stuff into one separate bag that was ‘hand’ luggage and weighed a ton.

The other thing I had been worrying about was the seats and whether we would get a baby bassinet/cot thing for Marcus. I was worried as Virgin refused to allow us to book specific seats in advance and, as we went through a travel agency rather than booking direct, wouldn’t confirm the availability of aforesaid cot thing until about a month before the flight, which ended up being two weeks before the flight and even then was only a ‘you should be alright, just make sure you check in early...’ (but coming back the other way, you can do his quick check in thing where you can reserve specific seats over the internet, hmm). But on getting to Narita, checking in was a cinch and we got exactly the seats we wanted. Even better was that not only was the airport empty, so, basically, was the flight. Nice. But before we got on the flight we had to go through the security check – of course it was the usual ‘did you pack your bags yourself?’ and ‘any dangerous objects in there?’ type questions, to which the answers were yes and no respectively – we had been very careful to ensure that things like Marcus’ nail scissors were safely in the suitcase. In fact so much attention had been focused on his stuff that the Guru had quite forgotten about her eyebrow scissors in her make up bag...

The security people were very nice about it, realising that a women with a baby strapped to her front was perhaps not an international terrorist hell bent on hijacking a 747 armed only with a tiny pair of eyebrow scissors – but it was a close run thing. Their helpful suggestion was to try to catch the suitcases before they went into the hold, but alas they had already departed and so we had to say goodbye to the scissors, which was a particularly poignant and emotional moment – the Guru had had them for a good few years – but now they are safely stored in the examples box in front of the security check area (should we ever want to visit them in the future).

The flight itself was long, involving and, in the end, not quite as bad as I thought it might have been. We got the middle bulkhead seats, which was good, and the baby cot thing, this wasn’t. The cot thing was placed on a big fold down tray thing in front of us, folded up into a cot shape, fastened together with press studs and then attached to the fold down tray with a couple of straps. This would have been ok except that the straps went across the top of the cot about 10cm from the top end and the bottom end, or exactly where Marcus’ head and knees were when we tried to lie him down. Now the youngster isn’t the best of sleepers in the first place and one of usually has to lie next to him after putting him down to make sure he actually drops off – in a aeroplane with a too small cot thing with straps over the top getting him in and off to sleep proved almost impossible. We succeeded a couple of times, the first was going ok until he tried to roll over and realised that because of the straps he couldn’t – best wake up then. Next time we’d tried again, got there and he’d been asleep for about 15 minutes and seemed to be going well. Then, of course, a mild judder ran through the plane and due to this ‘turbulence’ the seat belt light came on and so we had to take him out of the cot – wouldn’t you just know it. After that we just gave up and kept a hold of him, hard on the arms but easier in the long run.

Arriving in England and once again I was ‘so’ happy that we were able to use the lively and characterful Heathrow rather than the sterile and soulless Narita. But all tings were well, being met by the various family members, for whom this was the first opportunity to meet Marcus, though with his body clock on about 1am Tokyo time whilst it was really 4pm UK time, he did seem a bit fazed by the whole thing, especially when he was strapped into a car seat for the first time in his life.

From then on the whole holiday thing took over. We stayed at golf-playing-brother’s place for about 5 days, were introduced to Charlie, my nephew and Marcus’s cousin all rolled into one (now, at 16 months, a walking and talking ball of energy and snot), met up with old school friends and generally enjoyed ourselves whilst watching Marcus try to come to terms with jet lag. For adults it isn’t too bad as you can tell yourself to not sleep during the days and, reasonably quickly, get over it. Babies, on the other hand, think it is perfectly natural to be up at 3am and wanting to play. At first this isn’t too bad as your body clock is saying the same thing, but after a couple of night, when not a few bottles of red have been seen off, the novelty and enjoyment starts to wear a bit thin. Still, at least g-p-b has satellite and there are plenty of crap channels to watch at 3am. The youngster did eventually get over the jet lag, but it probably wasn’t until the Thursday night, after having arrived on Sunday afternoon.

Christmas itself was at the folks place in deepest, darkest Hampshire, but before we got there we had a brief visit to Hove where Marcus met his great grand parents on my father’s side. As they are both getting on a bit now, great grandfather is in his 90s and generally pretty marble-less, this was perhaps the one and only time for them all to meet. I’m glad to say it was a happy affair, all were on their best behaviour and things all went without a hitch, which doesn’t make for particularly gripping blogging, but hey, it was an important moment for all there.

For Christmas day we had 13 sitting down for lunch. Of course if Agatha Christie had had anything to do with it the butler would have poisoned someone over the chance to acquire a priceless diamond, or something. So, mindful of this, the babies were luckily not included in the seating plan and we gave the butler the afternoon off, thus preventing any sort of nonsense going on. The days carried on much in the same vein, plenty of red wine was consumed, and Father Christmas paid us all a visit on Christmas afternoon to dispense toys and whatnot – I’m not sure that Marcus’ had much clue what was going on, but Charlie was agog at the whole show and I think it made his Christmas. Oddly, though, my father missed out on the whole thing as he was elsewhere in the house at the time. Odd that...

And lastly, of course, the (sort of) annual Christmas backgammon tournament was held. Now last time this happened, as you can see from the link, it was very much a nip and tuck affair, with the advantage tipping one way, then the other. But this time around, well, suffice it to say that a whipping was handed out and, as you can probably tell from the smile on my face at the memory, it was yours truly that handed out the whipping. 30-13 was the final score, almost as sweet as the vintage port that accompanied the victory. I won’t dwell on it as that would appear to be crowing so suffice it to say, nyah nyah nyah!

And then we came home. Again the flight back, leaving the UK on the 31st and arriving in Japan on January 1st 2006, was more or less empty. Again we got decent seats and again Marcus would not sleep in the cot thing. Coming home seemed a lot quicker than going to the UK, even though the flight was only about 30 minutes quicker, but it was still long enough. At one stage there were about 6 parents with their babies all standing in the galley area at the back, no one getting any sleep – it was almost like we had set up a little day care centre. Narita airport was again a dream to navigate and I reckon that it was no more than about 15 minutes from the time we left the plane until we were in a taxi heading for the in-laws. But of course it had to happen somewhere – all holiday we had managed not to drop, step on or otherwise accidentally damage the youngster but in the plane, as we were about to get off I was help the Guru put him into the baby carrier/sling thing. To do this I lift him up, the Guru guides his feet and body into the sling and then he kind of slides down into it. This time, though, as I lifted him up I did it a little too vigorously and managed to smack his head on the luggage compartment above... Doh! No real damage done, thankfully, but a bit of a shock for the poor lad.

Still, at least I had remembered to take the milk out of the fridge. Phew!

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