The Travelling Bishops

Jubilee weekend, and we have been in Saigon for two recovery sleeps now, since arriving back from our trip to the UK on Thursday.

We left behind us some of the most glorious weather England has been drenched in for many months, as well as leaving a general maelstrom of children’s debris and overloaded dishwashers everywhere we went.

Ten different friends, family, and hotels helped host our fly-by visit, and although executed at break neck speed, it was all incredible fun and the memories will live on for a long time.  Thank you to everyone who helped make it so.

Never to be outdone in a game of “how hot is your balcony”, Saigon greeted us off our 16 hour flight last week with 35 degree rays, smouldering humidity, and hordes of commuters biking to work dressed as if there was a chill in the air.

The buzz of the city, and the colour of its backdrop, was as pleasing as our first sip of café da and slurp of beef pho.  Many of you may have seen this great footage of how Saigon looks and feels when sped up by cunning camera trickery, but in case not, feast your eyes…

So, anyway, as I type this – circa 11.30pm – Florence is displaying her first signs of the quirkier side to jet-lag by walking in to our bedroom claiming she is not going to sleep tonight, pretending to impersonate a snake on the floor, whislt Lou and I default to deliberating how many sachets of calpol is an acceptable dose for a three and a half year old, in order to get her back to sleep.  We settle for one dose, and a stint on the sofa in front of Cinderella, leaving us room for manoeuvre later.

In fairness to the kids, they have been great sports throughout our hectic schedule back and forth these past weeks.  They have embraced it all, and Martha has come back to Vietnam after her first ever time away from the country, now aged one, and tentatively taking her first steps.

This time last week we were indulging in what was the main event of our trip, sister-in-law Melly’s marriage to the very fine and “unflappable” Adam – aka ‘Uncle Beans’ – Rollinson.  Their Big Day would have passed any Queen’s pageant test with flying colours, set as it was in the remarkable grounds of Minley Manor in Hampshire, and blessed not only by the barracks’ padre and a guard of honour, but also by some simply breath-taking summer weather.

Congratulations to the happy couple, who should by now have summited Mount Kilimanjaro on their honeymoon, before heading off to the white sands of Zanzibar.  Nice.  Hope Adam doesn’t get too sweaty in his uniform though…

‘Four weddings and a funeral’, eat your heart out

Having been away from Saigon for a short while, it has been great to return and reclaim some sort of a routine (as well as do one final unpack of all our luggage).

Both Flo and Martha did not blink an eye at their transitions back.  Lou managed to hit the ground running, too, on the organising front by – hopefully – negotiating us a new and more cost effective apartment the day we got back, and has been researching online this evening where we might go for the lunar New Year break in 2013 (Flo, at this point is still WIDE AWAKE as Cinderella has just discovered her “friends” – the mice and the blue and white birds – have miraculously designed her a new dress to wear to the Ball…)

For me, being back was simply great because it meant I was no longer on a plane.

I have previously written about some of my habitual flying routines, but these were mainly reflections on solo work travels.  None of which had prepared me for long-hauling it with two young children in tow, and a wife – who I of course love dearly – but whose phobia of planes means the only way of getting from Asia to Europe involves diazapam and Teacher’s whiskey, therefore rendering her, well, asleep.

Our first outbound flight was overnight, which meant Flo and Martha dutifully snoozed for five or six hours.  But in between there was mayhem.  Flo is actually a great traveller, entertaining herself with books, various compartmentalised meals, and then watching some sort of suitable in-flight entertainment (on Vietnam airlines this consists of one thirty minute wildlife documentary).

It is Martha who is mainly responsible for the mayhem.  She doesn’t really eat on planes. She makes lots of noise, and she is constantly on the move.

This was a photo I took on the way out, from my seat, just after I’d finally managed to get Martha to sleep for a second stint.  The drinks on the right were originally for Lou, but due to her sleeping, and my stressing, it is fair to say I was their main beneficiary.

Onwards and upwards

On the return leg, the stakes were considerably upped.  It was a day flight, and once again Vietnam Airlines dropped us in Charles de Gaulle unexpectedly for three hours – thanks for that – and wouldn’t let anyone off.  Again, much thanks VA.

During the full 16 hour journey – did I mention the flight was 16 hours? – Martha managed to sleep for around two of them.  In between she was “almost asleep” for most of the rest of the time, but still insisted on bounding up and down the aisles playing cute to the other passengers, each of whom looked suitably relaxed watching decent films on their laptops and drinking a variety of alcoholic drinks, all of which I could have merrily mine-swept off their trays before they’d had a chance to stop me.

As it was I didn’t mine-sweep any drinks (if truth be told, I had gotten away with murder on that front during the last hour of the wedding the previous Saturday) instead I diligently followed Martha up and down, before embarking on yet another bout of trying to sway her to sleep in my arms down the end of the plane next to the loos.  Away from people.  Expect of course those people using the loos.

Over the hours to come, my gentle sways became ardent please-go-to-sleep-you-inconsiderate-little-monster-please-please-please rocking motions.  My sweet whisperings turned to clenched teeth gnarling.  I tried to stroke her to sleep in the basinette we had been given.  A cot that would have easily contained an 8lb baby, but not our Martha, whose head and feet were just centimetres from the edges, and in which she found it more fun to kneel and grab the sides in a head banging motion, before launching herself onto my lap.

My lowest moment of the whole nightmare, found me defeated after a particularly long and redundant period of rocking Martha, rousing Lou awake from her drug-fuelled slumber, and offering her the line “you will have to take over, as I fear I may soon hurt our child”.

All of which is now a surreal whirlwind in my mind.  One that came as it did at the end of an amazing adventure – an adventure we will always cherish.

Cinderalla, you will be pleased to know, did make it to the Ball, however I am off to find the calpol and attempt to get the still jet-lagged Florence to sleep, as we are now well into the early hours of Sunday.  Cornish pasties, fish and chips and a commemorative tea-towel are all on the agenda tomorrow at a local Jubilee party.  What more could you ask for on a Sunday in Saigon I ask you?

Here, in the meantime, are a few quick photos of my lovely family, at the aforementioned wedding, to remind me that, when not 33,000ft in the air, we are all quite a happy bunch.

Sweet dreams everyone…

What’s not to like about chocolate brownies and ice cream at a wedding?

In practice for marauding up and down the plane

Off the diazapam, on the champers

2 thoughts on “The Travelling Bishops

  1. Hi Tim, it was lovely to see you all at ‘The Wedding of the Year!’ (move over Brangelina!) I can fully empathise with your woes of flying with babes, we have many such cherishable memories! But what I really want to know is where did you put the British sunshine? You weren’t supposed to take it back with you! Xx

  2. Great to see you guys too, and sorry about stealing the rays….you will just need to drop in sometime (as we agreed in the marquee at around 1am)…in any case your photo taking skills are so Vietnamese that I think it would only be right you come back and show them off to the locals! Have a great Jubilee Sunday, Tim x

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