petite anglaise

February 15, 2007


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:44 pm

“Traffic’s diabolical,” says the taxi driver, by way of apology when he shows up ten minutes late to take Tadpole and me to the airport. “It’ll take us a good forty-five minutes to get to Orly…”

“No problem,” I reply, as though butter wouldn’t melt. “I’ve allowed plenty of time.” Forty-five minutes will give us an hour for check in, shopping for coffee and pain au chocolat, baggage scanning and temporary boot removal. I am a seasoned traveller. My feathers remain unruffled.

“Mummy, my tummy is hurting,” says Tadpole tugging at her strap.

“I’m sorry honey but you need to keep the strap fastened,” I say, convinced it is simply a thinly veiled escape attempt. Tummy ache is also her strategy of choice when faced with a plateful of broccoli. I know better than to take such complaints seriously.

* * * * * * * * * *

“My tummy is still hurting,” moans Tadpole.

“I’m sorry my sweet, but we’re nearly there. You’ll feel better soon. When we get out…”

The traffic on the motorway is fluid, and after crawling along the péripherique for the last fifty minutes we’re finally nearing the airport. Our driver is busy murmuring sweet nothings to his girlfriend. Or at least I assume that’s who he’s talking to. He’s wearing a headset. The car radio is tuned into Skyrock, a radio station which appears to consist of lots of shouting and very little music. A presenter with approximately two brain cells and a vocoder is calling random phone numbers and trying to frighten any small children who pick up the phone by pretending to be a monster. How irresponsible, I think to myself.

Tadpole coughs an ominous cough.

Some surprisingly efficient reflex kicks in and I grab the water bottle out of my open rucksack and remove the plastic bag I’d wrapped around it as a precaution, mindful of the fact that macbooks and moisture don’t mix, holding it just in front of Tadpole’s face.

Not a moment too soon.

The next ten minutes are spent trying to remove a foul-smelling paste consisting of bile, partially digested cornflakes and curdled milk from Tadpole’s jumper, dress and tights using one mini packet of Kleenex and a small amount of water. Miraculously the driver, deep in conversation, does not appear to have noticed our little mishap.

At Orly we pay, leap out of the cab and dash, heads down, through the driving rain into the terminal building, skidding to a halt in front of the bank of screens showing departure information.

Doncaster 10.15 desks 79-81. Embarquement!

Boarding? But it’s forty minutes until take off? Nonsense!

We dash to desks 79-81. That’s odd, there’s nobody there. Back to the monitors. Which definitely say desks 79-81. Huh? I flag down a nice uniformed lady who informs us that no, the information on the monitor is not incorrect. The reason there is no-one there is that check-in has CLOSED.

I hear a ringing in my ears and feel rather unsteady on my feet.

At the Thomsonfly desk a few moments later a nice uniformed man rings up to see if there is any way he can get the desperate lady with the dishevelled hair and wild eyes and her slightly puke-encrusted toddler onto the flight.

He cannot.

“MumOhMyGodWe’veMissedTheFlightTheyWon’tLetUsOn,” I howl into my telephone. “AndThere’sNoSpaceOnTheNextOneTomorrowWhatAreWeGoingToDo?”

If Tadpole were older she would know that when mummy is hysterical (and yes, I love the etymology of that word, which plants all blame squarely on my womb) she needs to be slapped smartly on the cheeks in order to be brought to her senses. In the meantime, I just have to Get A Grip. All On My Own. Deep breaths.

One change of clothes for Tadpole, one double espresso, several hundred euros and an airport transfer to Charles de Gaulle later and Tadpole and I board a flight to Leeds. I spend the entire journey fighting off the urge to order a stiff drink (lest my readers stage an intervention and commit me to the Priory) and trying not to be convinced that since bad things always occur in threes, my luggage is unlikely to be on board.

“Mummy, can you make me some couettes?” Tadpole pleads.

As I part her curls into two vaguely similar sized bunches, I notice a partially digested piece of cornflake I had missed earlier.

It is heart-shaped.


  1. Welcome back to Blighty! It seems that most of what we experience is a matter of perception. Would you have noticed the shape of the partially digested cornflake had it been any other day?

    Comment by Ariel — February 15, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  2. Petite Anglaise – Tadpole-vomit-predictor extraordinaire!
    The question is, how long before the flight were you supposed to be there?
    Perhaps the people I saw in the bar at Manchester Airport at 5am last time I was there had all missed their flights?

    Comment by Hywel Mallett — February 15, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  3. Of course the cornflake was heart shaped: Tadpole is your Valentine, the person you love most in the world.
    Having never had a Valentine card or wish in my life, I end up dreaming about it and reading symbolism into everything around me.
    Wish I had a Tadpole to express it!

    Comment by Greenmantle — February 15, 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  4. Happy Belated Valentines Petite. I really enjoy your words. They make even the minutia as important as any other part of life.

    Comment by M — February 15, 2007 @ 11:56 pm

  5. I know the feeling, I’ve had the “mummy, I don’t feel well” & the next thing she’s doing an exorcist impersonation. I often used to say I was just waiting for her head to start spinning around. One of the more attractive aspects of motherhood. Still love her though, even if she is possessed every now & then.

    Comment by Qld Deb — February 16, 2007 @ 12:12 am

  6. Doncaster is really not worth visiting anyway, I spent 18 years there…
    A flight to Leeds and a heart-shaped regurgitated cornflake sound like far better alternatives.

    Comment by Paris Lights — February 16, 2007 @ 12:14 am

  7. Aaw….too many stressful events! Hope Tadpole recovers and that you have a wonderful time.

    Comment by Karen Mc Cullagh — February 16, 2007 @ 12:43 am

  8. Okay, THIS was the best Valentines-related entry I’ve read yet. Adorable.

    Comment by Morgan — February 16, 2007 @ 12:46 am

  9. Fantastic post! So funny.

    Comment by suzanne — February 16, 2007 @ 1:08 am

  10. Welcome to Yorkshire! Drove passed the airport today and my 5 year old son was waving to the planes. We’re from Harrogate.

    Have a great time over here.

    Comment by Michelle — February 16, 2007 @ 1:09 am

  11. I sympathise so much.. I missed a flight to go see my children for a week-end – they’d been staying with my parents for many weeks and I was longing to see them; I got to the airport early,checked inand decided there was heaps of time to have a drink; eventually, I wandered down to the desk and was told I was too late!(last flight of the evening) I pleaded, I ranted, I wept – no good; so I did a neat rugby swerve around the stewardess and raced off to get on the plane; those were my days of Camel filter narcotics, so, very soon I was out of breath; the policeman running beside me wasn’t. He assured me that if I did not stop, I would be arrested. … I slept on a bench and got the first flight in the morning. I have always always arrived 2 hours early since then……

    Comment by Janejill — February 16, 2007 @ 1:15 am

  12. How did it happen, Petite? Get the time wrong in your head?
    It’s always my paranoia when I’m flying, that I’ll somehow get the takeoff time wrong. I’ll check the e ticket every 5 minutes

    Comment by AussieGil — February 16, 2007 @ 1:17 am

  13. What is it about motherhood that gives us a sixth sense about impending hurl?

    Comment by Susan — February 16, 2007 @ 1:21 am

  14. Awwww Petite! Your stories of mishap and infuriating travel problems are enough to cheer up the loneliest of bloggers at this irritating time of year :)

    Comment by Ignorminious — February 16, 2007 @ 1:51 am

  15. Of course it had to be heart shaped!
    Hope poor tadpole feels better :)
    I got myself a panty rose for Valentine’s Day… it’s my latest entry on my LJ :(

    Comment by petit_litchi — February 16, 2007 @ 3:04 am

  16. I enjoyed that one. Good post!

    Bad luck about the flihgt. VERY irritating!!

    Comment by Sally Lomax — February 16, 2007 @ 4:16 am

  17. Have a safe trip. Remember, everything they do as toddlers will be your guiding light when they become TEENAGERS!

    Love your posts.

    Comment by WONDER WOMAN — February 16, 2007 @ 4:23 am

  18. Gotta love the heart-shaped cornflake puke. I hope that’s up there with your top five Valentine’s Day presents of all time. :)

    Comment by The Narcissist — February 16, 2007 @ 4:55 am

  19. Modern air travel while convenient often “sucks'( Take that American Airlines!!) Planes nowadays are often filthy and late. Whatever were Wilbur and Orville thinking? I loathe being body searched by some ham-handed oaf because I’ve forgotten my pen in my pocket. Rant Off :-)Have a nice time P’tite and enjoy home.

    Comment by Beau Radley — February 16, 2007 @ 5:55 am

  20. That thing with the plastic bag – that’s maternal instinct, no one else would have even thought of it. But I’m amazed the taxi driver didn’t throw you out on the spot. I’m in Paris at the moment and have almost been thrown out of two taxis just for having children with me! Enjoy your trip Petite, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Blighty.

    Comment by Helena Frith Powell — February 16, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  21. I love this post, this happened to me last year, nothing you can do to persuade them to let you check-in & so frustrating… good to see you’re another Northerner Petite. I’m off again in a few days, for sunny hols in Skipton !

    Comment by Kate — February 16, 2007 @ 7:53 am

  22. I feel like I’m getting old…all of the online faves of mine are extremely maternal as of late…

    And, that part about pretending to be a monster was hilarious to me…so not only am I apparently “getting old”, but I’m also likely to have children that run with scissors.


    Comment by Mlle Smith — February 16, 2007 @ 7:57 am

  23. Great instinct with the bag. They probably made you dump the water bottle anyway, right? So the bag was just waiting to fulfill its ultimate purpose – vomit catcher.

    Comment by BlondebutBright — February 16, 2007 @ 8:21 am

  24. I love this post

    Comment by redlady — February 16, 2007 @ 9:01 am

  25. Hi. Just wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I added a link to your blog from mine. I am an American living in Marseille. Thanks. If you don’t comment, I will assume it isn’t a problem

    Comment by Megan — February 16, 2007 @ 9:33 am

  26. Glad that they did manage to get you on a flight- there is nothing worse than rushing to the airport only to find yourself hauling a mountain of luggage back up the stairs to your flat a few hours later (and with AirFrance’s love of striking, that happens far too often). In June this last year, we left for CDG 2 hours ahead of time, since the drive from Porte de Bercy is generally around 30 minutes and ended up arriving 20 minues before departure- missing our flight- due to insane traffic for the Villepin parc expo. All I want to know is what the hell is Foire de la Terre and why did 8 MILLION people want to go to it?

    Comment by Nicole — February 16, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  27. As one who has traveled alone with a toddler…a LOT…I feel for you. No matter how seasoned you are, the stress can sometimes be enormous. And the smallest things…like a heart-shaped cornflake (minus the sick) can bring you back into calm.

    Comment by Culinary Cowgirl — February 16, 2007 @ 10:37 am

  28. Oh how I sympathise. I have had the toddler-puking-in-taxi experience, the toe-clenching traffic-jam-on-route-to-airport experience and the missed-flight-experience. But never all at once.

    Note to Hywel Mallett: the people drinking in the bar at Manchester airport at 5am had probably arrived early on purpose to get more drinking time in. I think it’s a “English going on holiday” thing, particularly prevalent at Manchester airport, where any time spent in an airport and on a plane is an excuse for a piss-up, however early in the morning it is.

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — February 16, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  29. Poor you. Glad you made it home eventually and hope Tadpole’s sickness was a one off and not the beginning of something else. Love the way you write about ‘little’ disasters.

    Comment by sablonneuse — February 16, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  30. I hate flying, really I do, the stress it causes me is almost unbearable, I even got all antsy just reading that post!

    Comment by Girl About-Town — February 16, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  31. Totally agree with what you said about the etymology of the word ‘hysterical’. Somebody should invent an equivalent for men…


    Meaning, of course, ‘unable to ask for directions when you get lost, due to inherent male stubborness’.

    Sorry, men, couldn’t resist commenting!

    Comment by Grande Anglaise — February 16, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  32. Well, you certainly can’t beat that valentine on uniqueness. Your Tadpole sure is creative!

    Comment by sognatrice — February 16, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  33. Oh, my little brother did that to my dad.

    They’d dropped us off at school, and Mum and tiny brother were driving Dad to the airport for a six week trip. Little brother leans over from his carseat and, raaaalllf – all over the new coat.

    They stopped at my grandmothers and sponged it clean, but that jacket never smelled quite right again.

    At least she left you a valentine though. You can’t ask for more than that.

    That’s very rough about the flight though – I bet they overbooked it, so once they had a full plane they closed the gate.

    Comment by Damian — February 16, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  34. What an exquisite piece of writing. Thank you.

    Comment by Luciluna — February 16, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  35. Cleaning hear-shaped tummy-ache residue out of your daughter’s hair… now THAT’S real love. Happy belated Valentine’s Day to both of you!

    Comment by The Bold Soul — February 16, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  36. ouch.

    Comment by mainja — February 16, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

  37. Hope they haven’t cancelled your return reservation as you missed the outound flight…

    Comment by Trickd — February 16, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

  38. I think you should have had that stiff drink you didn’t let yourself have! You deserved it! Hope the rest of your holiday is better than the beginning.

    Comment by Karen — February 16, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  39. Oh, I hate that sinking feeling you get when you miss a flight. I remember pleading at Bologna airport only for a snooty desk clerk to reply, deadpan; “Madam, your flight is now here” (pointing skywards).

    Comment by Cath — February 16, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  40. Enjoyed this one – a refreshing antidote to Valetine’s Day schmuck for us singles and so is your link to the Anti-Valentines cards so thank you. You can never win with airports, can you, early and you’ve got far too much time hanging around in queues and lounges, late and, well, you’re just buggered. I’m a “just in time” girl so also very much hate trains that take themselves off the departures board what they say is 5 minutes before leaving but I’m sure is 6 or 7 thus evilly preventing a last minute run for it. I know it’s exactly what they intend, but damn them.

    Comment by The B — February 16, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

  41. Classic Petite, just classic!

    Comment by john.g. — February 16, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

  42. y’know orlyval is so fast and convenient – i never use a taxi these days. what a sweet little message from your funny valentine. hope she feels better soon.

    Comment by mad muthas — February 16, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  43. Excellent intuitive response — shame about the timing! From personal experience I can thoroughly recommend sudden, unannounced projectile vomiting by small persons as a highly effective method of dispersing queues at check-in or passport control. Works a treat every time.

    Comment by kitikat — February 16, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

  44. Is this the time to tell our international readers that something in the region of 30 thousand pieces of luggage are sat in Heathrow, that the baggage handlers have lost at various times… and that they destroy them after a couple of months ?

    Comment by Jonathan — February 17, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  45. Glad to learn the twelve step approach is working. Norfolk is absolutely packed with alkies so no problem finding a meeting.
    You know we care.

    Comment by andrew — February 17, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

  46. I always use thomsonfly to and from Orly and doncaster too…doncaster airports so diddy and Orly so big…anyway…nice post

    Comment by Maxi — February 19, 2007 @ 9:50 am

  47. Bonjour petite,

    meant to leave you a note earlier but been busy.

    However, was so sympathique with your vomiting episode. My youngest pulled the same trick on the way to Oxford recently. I was driving toute seule with all four progeny, and about half an hour from my destination she threw up. Amazingly my eight year old showed huge amounts of self possession and held her hand encouragingly till we got where we were going.

    One of the WORST aspects of motherhood in my view!

    Comment by Jane Henry — February 19, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

  48. The image in my mind of my daughter’s first sickness is seeing myself in the mirror holding her baby self in front of my whilst she is projectile vomiting. I’m crying in that image. I didn’t fully appreciate that phrase until that night.

    Kids… wonderful? Perhaps… Glad you made it across the channel.

    Comment by Danna — February 19, 2007 @ 11:47 pm

  49. i too had a rough time with airlines this weekend….could’nt get confirmed tickets so was on standby and the clerk only let us get on 10 minutes before the plane left………hectic i say….and we had the same repetition coming home yesterday….. my nerves were shot!

    about tadpole….hmm hope she is better….that is the reason my children NEVER slept in my bed….the smell….you never get it out…..

    enjoy your stay!!!!

    Comment by Suzanne — February 20, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

  50. Thanks Damian!

    Dad’s poor (new) blue sports jacket! I also remember another trip when our poor mother had to run over to a fountain outside departures at Sydney Airport in order to slosh away evidence of my horrible childhood motion sickness…

    Comment by Ben — February 21, 2007 @ 1:29 am

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