It's 4am London time, and after 4 hours in bed of trying to get to sleep, I've given up. Time for a wee small hours whinge.
First piece of advice - DON'T fly Virgin airlines. The staff are unfriendly and minimalist in what they provide, the food was absolutely awful, the choice of in flight entertainment was sparse and didn't kick in until twenty minutes after we left the ground, and that was only after having to endure endless advertising about how fabulous Richard Branson was and how fabulous the Vero in flight entertainment was.
I didn't really sleep at all on the the 9 hour flight because there are no foot rests, your knees are jammed up against the seat in front of you, and you can't recline back when there is a solid wall behind you. Besides which when Amy finally decided to get some sleep she also decided to use me as a bed instead of her father and squirmed and elbowed me for three hours.
I awaited eagerly the breakfast since I was so parched with the cabin staff not even bringing cups of water regularly through. Even then it was a measly packaged muffin thing and a muesli bar that was all sugar and not much else, and a mingy glass of juice - you should have seen the look of contempt I got when I downed that and asked for a glass of water aswell! Clearly cattle class aren't entitled to be properly hydrated on long haul flights when you fly Virgin.
James and Amy slept through breakfast (wisely) and when we finally arrived and got ready to clamber off the plane James informed me that he had put his wallet in my cabin bag when we went through security. A thorough inspection of my bag having to take everything out while everyone else was pushing past us to get off the plane established it was not in my bag, therefore James announced it was lost. A major panic then ensued about how this could have happened, including a search of James' bag by James and the floor and luggage compartment, no result. On no sleep I really couldn't cope with the fact that James had lost his work and personal credit cards and got a bit titchy shall we say. Eventually James re-searched his cabin bag and found his wallet was there after all.
Most people were off the plane now, which was just aswell, since Virgin announced that anyone [stupid enough] to ask them for special assistance had to wait until most people had got off the plane. Well, most people HAD got off the plane but that didn't stop them insisting that we wait until absolutely everyone had gone, and then keeping us waiting a further 10 minutes until nobody was in sight before wheeling Amy down to customs and baggage claim. We should have guessed this was the treatment we would get, having had to wait half an hour after we checked in at San Francisco for them to send someone with a wheelchair to get Amy through security. It would have been fine there as it turns out a we didn't have to walk far, but at Heathrow we always need a chair for Amy because you have to walk miles and she is tired after the long flight.
So anyway we got out and off to where we were staying via a very long and expensive taxi ride to pick up keys and then go to our digs. Amy kept trying to lie down to sleep and it is really hard keeping a child awake when you are exhausted yourself. James insisted we had to stay awake until the evening to time adjust and so we eventually went at 3.30pm to have lunch at a pizza place where the service was crap, the pizza was cold and my family complained. Then we dragged ourselves over to Regent's Park to sit in the sun, where Amy was happy on her ipad, but James was falling asleep, so then I went walking around with him to keep him awake and left Amy on her own because she can't walk indefinitely, got ignored by James who always has earplugs in, then dragged ourselves back to the flat, then dragged ourselves out for dinner at an Italian restaurant we had seen (much better than the on earlier). Downed a bottle of plonk and a good meal, put the second load of laundry I had washed up to dry, after having made up all three beds for everyone earlier. Had also got in groceries from the local dairy after finding Sainsbury's closed early on a Sunday - Amy was unhappy because she couldn't get Jaffa Cakes to eat for dinner and breakfast. Finally fell into bed around 10pm feeling really proud of myself for getting through the day awake and going to sleep at the right time. Except that my daughter didn't want to go to sleep and kept shouting and making noise and arguing with her Dad, who, for all his directions about beating the jetlag, didn't come to bed himself for several hours. I finally dropped off, and then we all woke up at 3am!!!!
I did everything I could think of to get back to sleep for two hours. Amy was cold so I climbed in bed with her to warm her up and when I thought she'd dropped off I went back to my own bed, only to find she had woken up again. Eventually she dropped off, and then James went to sleep, while I was still lying awake at 5am. Final straw was when James started snoring. At that point I admitted defeat and took a sleeping tablet - BIG mistake. After another half hour listening to James snoring I fell asleep...and woke up at 1pm! Round 1: Jetlag - 1, Katherine - nil.
So let me see, James had woken up around 9 and been out for a walk when Amy and I were dead to the world. Tired to rouse me several times - no chance of that with the knockout drugs still in play. When I woke it took me an hour to wake up properly and get moving becuase I was so stiff and sore. James was hungry and wanted to go out for lunch. Had he got any groceries in? No. Amy didn't want to get up, and shouted at us that the day was ruined and it was our fault because we had let her sleep in and she had wanted to go shopping. We finally got out at around 3 and had a couple of semi civilised hours after much more shouting and cursing. Bought very expensive ie full price tickets to see Mamma Mia that night - what Amy wanted to see. James wanted to see Once but amy didn't want to see that. I want to see The Hothouse but we need a babysitter for Amy for that one (good luck with that). Then we took Amy to Hamley's heaven and James to Apple heaven and I bought a new watch to replace the one I smashed on the pavement in America when it fell off my wrist. Bought some nice Belgian chocolates which somehow didn't make it into my bag after I'd paid for them, or got lost on the way home - either way, gone by 11pm when we remembered em and couldn't find em. Walked back to flat, changed and back to Charing Cross, found a place that could feed us in 10 mins because that was all we had time for and went to Mamma Mia, which Amy and I thoroughly enjoyed and even James smiled at a couple of times...or perhaps he was only wincing.
Great I thought, Amy's been to her favourite store, and now seen this wonderful show, she'll be happy for a while. But no, as we were walking back to the tube station, it was "what show are we going to tomorrow night?" My response "it was very expensive to go to this show - we can't go to shows every night." Amy "Will I get to see Matilda?" Me "Not tomorrow night". Amy "When?" Me "Don't know". Amy "When can I skype Livvy again". And so the insatiable appetite to be entertained continues unabated, and my two companions travel the rest of the way through their day listening to the contents of their respective ipods and ignoring me.
When we got back at 11pm I asked Amy no less than 6 times to get ready for bed, which she failed to do and then lost my temper again. Asked James to chase her up while I fought to book the London hotels for pre and post Russia trip that James has been nagging me about for two days, fighting with the internet connection that dropped out every two minutes and took two minutes to come back on before dropping out again. Meanwhile James had not got Amy off to bed. When I finally went to bed myself at midnight my husband was still on his computer and my daughter was still complaining about not being able to get to sleep. After her fidgeting around, turning lights on to read and generally disturbing me, I sent her to the lounge to read. An hour later when I was still cold and not sleeping James came to bed, and tried to get Amy to come to bed too. That only succeeded in waking me up just after I had dropped off, at which point I suggested to James that he put Amy and her book and her duvet in the lounge so she could read and then go to sleep and we could at least have the lights off and have a chance of going to sleep ourselves. I could not get back to sleep, Amy eventually came to bed, leaving the lounge and bathroom lights on so she didn't have to be in the dark, and then she and James both went to sleep and James started snoring again - at which point I gave up again and got up to write this blog.
Just after we got back to the flat this evening after the show, my sister-in-law skyped me. She said something about how nice it is for people who go away overseas on long trips and have a wonderful time, while everyone else just stays at home and do the usual boring things.
People always think the grass is greener, don't they? Yes, parts of the trip have been wonderful. And parts of them have been hellish. I'm in the hell zone right now, and I can't see an end to it in the near future. We've got two more days to adjust to London time then we've got another 3 hour change for Russia and then a three hour change coming back to England a week later.
Just because I'm having a fabulous time seeing the world doesn't mean my life is better or happier than someone else's. Wherever you are, there is still washing and housework to do, travelling to negotiate, scratchy family members to try and accommodate, and we'll still have a new mortgage to pay when we get back racked up from being away, and I will have to find a job to help pay for it. Every single day I am travelling I still have to figure out how we can best get around with one family member who can't walk long distances, and that's not easy in a place like London.
Right now I would just like some rest and some time to myself, and not have to deal with everyone else's problems as well as my own. But Mum's prerogative always seems to have to be to fit in with the others, until I get so run down I totally lose my marbles and they go into shock and start being nice to me for an hour or two, until they think I've calmed down enough for their concerns to come to the fore again, be it "I'm bored, I'm hungry, I'm tired, I want something now" or "I'm useless, I've fucked up, I should have worked today, I should just give up" "I'll get fired and then how are we going to eat?"
Sorry, but it's hard to enjoy an overseas trip when this is the sort of script coming from your travel companions almost every waking moment when they are not tuned into some electronic gadget or other.
I hope noone bothers to get to the end of this rant - it really is just a rant.
But I still awake and it's five o'clock in the morning again and I have no hope that today is going to be any better. This a is bit of the trip I definitely wish I could fast forward to get to a better bit.