Gone are the blissful days of flying for Mark Dinning. With his kids, it’s chaos…
So here we are, our first full year in Dubai has passed. My kids have excelled themselves at school. My wife has overcome her phobia of driving over here. And I’ve managed to not get fired. All things told, I consider this a resounding success. We have, it has to be said, had a blast.
Here’s the plan: tomorrow, all five of us will fly back to the UK, where my wife and boys will spend July and August seeing old friends and family, and avoiding the 50°C heat. I will stay with them for a week and then fly back to the city for the summer, trying my very best to convince my wife that as much as I will miss them desperately (and really I will), there isn’t a small part of me secretly more than a little excited at the prospect of being a bachelor again.
Here’s the problem: the plane. It’s funny how the prospect of plane travel changes as you do. First, as a kid, they were a boring metal tube of neverendingness – even that two-hour hop from London to Malaga could feel like a fortnight. Then, as a teenager en route to crazy summer holidays, they were a portal to another, tantalising, dimension – full of fun and sunburn. Then, as something approximating a professional, they evolved into little oases of calm – email and phone-free zones (don’t get me started on this new wi-fi on board lark) where you could catch a movie or two, munch on those mini-pretzel things and have a nice kip before whatever business you were headed to kicked in.
Now, as a parent, they are a pit of despair. We are, I’m afraid to say, that family. You know the one. Big plastic bag full of crisps that will get chucked everywhere. Handheld computer consoles constantly running out of battery, causing tantrums at 30,000 feet. Spilt drinks. Running in the aisles. Fist fights between warring parties. Pillows hastily assembled in-between as a barrier of precisely zero effectiveness. Frequent toilet trips… And I haven’t even got to the kids yet. There will be shouting. There will be tears. Seats in front will get kicked. Repeatedly. Apologies in advance.
This will go on for seven long hours. There will be no escape. For us or for anyone. Bags have been packed with military precision, each containing toys, games, books, jigsaws, Lego (which will go all over the floor the second it’s opened, guaranteed), sweets, magazines and playing cards, to be distributed on the hour every hour. ‘This will keep the little ones happily occupied for blissful 45-minute intervals every time you take a new thing out of the bag,’ says someone on dubaimums.com, who clearly doesn’t have any children.
Planes. They used to be magical, wondrous things. Now I just think those Wright brothers were plain wrong.
Mark Dinning is our editor. We feel for those unfortunate folk sitting in front of his family on that seven-hour flight…