I arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport feeling washed out, as though, unbeknown to me, a vampire has been feasting on my blood for the duration of our flight.
The usual, interminable queue greets us at passport control. I fail to see the point of designing a doughnut-shaped terminal building, with several passport control points, if at any given time there is only one member of staff on duty, creating a huge bottleneck. Thankfully Tadpole is unusually calm and is not yet begging to be released from the pushchair and its restraining ‘strapons’.
Our British passports are handed back once the officer has given the pushchair a brief, cursory glance, and I heave a sigh of relief, as I have forgotten to bring a copy of her birth certificate. Again. As Tadpole and I don’t share the same surname, and her passport photo dates back to when she was three weeks old (propped up against my white T-shirt because she was unable to support her own head at that point), the officers could be forgiven for wondering if I am trying to smuggle a random infant into the country. They don’t seem to mind though, as she’s a British citizen today. I suspect the situation would be somewhat different if she was travelling as tétard and not Tadpole. I’ve heard ominous mutterings about the need for an official document signed by Tadpole’s father authorising us to leave le territoire français.
Next ordeal: baggage reclaim. We wait. And wait. And wait some more. I get fidgety and text a friend, then lock the keypad so Tadpole can pretend to make some important business calls:
“Allô? Allô, ca va? Grandad? Postman Pat, black cat, early in the morning, when the day ee dawning, Pat feels he’s a really happy man. Bye!”
I find it impossible to remain calm at baggage reclaim. After only five minutes have elapsed, I am already shaking and having flashbacks to that time when the 60 litre backpack containing all my Christmas presents (plus every pair of shoes I owned) got lost at Amsterdam airport, only to turn up, looking suitably battered and sheepish, approximately one week later. I have not so fond memories of spending several hours painstakingly picking tiny shards of a broken vase out of all my clothing. The last couple of mishaps were far less serious, but sent stress levels soaring all the same. My bag arrived several hours later than I in Madrid, on our recent long weekend away, and Tadpole’s pushchair arrived two whole days late when we went ‘home’ to York for Easter.
Clearly airports and I do not get along.
The little green light starts flashing to signal the imminent arrival of baggage, and I helpfully drag a fat-little-English-Disneyland-Paris-bound-chav* off the conveyor belt, just in the nick of time.
Bags file past. Large ones, small ones, pink Disney ones, suitcases on wheels, holdalls, pushchairs and car seats. No sign of my enormous bag on wheels (which weighed in at an expensive 23 kilos as we are repatriating Tadpole’s early birthday presents). Paranoia sets in. I chew on my lip manically as I scour the crowds for signs of someone wheeling away my suitcase (it happened to a friend recently), and wishing that it had some more distinctive markings on it so that I could identify it reliably from a distance.
“Come on, ” I mutter under my breath, impatiently.
“Come on mummy’s bag, where it is mummy’s bag?” chants Tadpole, gleefully.
And then I spot it, slowly juddering around the conveyor belt in the distance. We are standing well back because I am always worried someone will swing round with an unwieldy suitcase and send Tadpole flying.
“There it is! Look!” I say to Tadpole a little too loudly, overcome as I am with relief. A few heads turn in our direction, but I think nothing of it, at first.
But as the bag approaches, every single person looks my way, one by one, some smirking knowingly, others stifling a giggle. Or laughing out loud. Pointing at my bag.
I am confused. I know it’s a big bag, but that fact alone can’t possibly be the cause of so much amusement. Can it?
The bag is rounding the last curve of the conveyor belt when I suddenly realise what all the fuss is about and start blushing furiously.
There is a cylindrical bulge in the front pocket of my bag. It is vibrating, rather violently, thanks to a set of fresh batteries, purchased only yesterday.
I rue the day my dentist recommended using an electric toothbrush.
[*that phrase was especially for you, Parkin Pig]