Sunday, January 07, 2007


The end of this week provided a series of firsts.

I didn't buy anything in a charity shop, either for me or for the boys. There were one or two bits and bobs, but the prices were beyond charity shop levels, added to which I knew that space in suitcases was at a premium and I didn't want to take up valuable grams with dross.

I took my youngest to A&E which provided the opportunity to tick off a whole bevy of firsts:
  • first hospital visit ever for me in the UK
  • first hospital visit ever for my youngest in the UK (as you may know, we are regulars in France...)
  • first time on the bus all the way to the terminus at the Romford end
  • first time I set foot in the newly built Queen's Hospital (as opposed to setting foot in the old one; Oldchurch)
The reason was not too dramatic. The boys had been play fighting with plastic swords and my youngest had received a whack in the eye pushing about 20 eyelashes under his bottom lid - very painful. He wouldn't let me examine him, and on phoning NHS Direct (another first) they advised me to take him to A&E just in case. My mother accompanied us and it was a first for her going to the new hospital. We were seen, treated and home within 3.5hrs, including a very long wait at the pharmacy.

Another first was going ice-skating at the Natural History Museum on Friday evening. I booked tickets in the morning for the 4pm session and as we glided round, the lights in the massive trees and on the magnificent museum buildings were lit. Numbers were strictly controlled, so there was ample space, and people were very convivial and friendly helping those who fell over and so on. The ice was rather wet and my youngest got soaked as he spent a lot of time on his backside, but I had taken a change of clothes so we didn't need a visit to A&E to treat pneumonia.

I am a fair to crappy skater but managed to stay upright and did not need the change of clothes I hadn't brought for myself. I did enjoy the mulled wine we sipped afterwards, watching what was going on in the rink in the amazingly balmy winter air. There were a number of these outdoor rinks in London this winter including in the moat at the Tower of London. I chose the NHM for its reputation as the most attractive location, with the best viewing platform (for my mother's benefit).

Yesterday, in the rain, we took the boys on a double decker bus ride to a terminus we had never been to before. Due to various unforeseen circumstances (A&E), we had not made it to our planned cinema visit on this bus on Thursday, so my mother suggested a ride to explore the farthest reaches of the 248 route. We grabbed the front seats, and sat enjoying the enfolding scenery, in the warm, just for the sake of it. I use the word 'scenery' in the loosest sense of the word as the bus took us through a council estate of dreary, sodden houses, and while we were happy to have fulfilled a sense of adventure, we had no wish to make a return trip.

This morning we encountered our last 'first' by taking a shuttle bus to Stansted at an ungodly hour of the night (1.20am), arriving at 2am having bombed down the M11 and having to spend an uncomfortable and tiring couple of hours dozing on the floor waiting for the Montpellier check-in to open. RyanAir's latest method of fleecing its passengers is to stop priority boarding for those with small children, and the frail, and to make everyone pay £2 each for the privilege. Families who need to sit together are practically obliged to fork out this extortionate sum, as are OAPs, thus it's aimed at the 'frailest' passengers. I shall think extremely carefully next time I go to the UK and search out first both BA and Eurostar to compare their prices. I wonder what Michael O'Leary will think up as the next wheeze to price families off his aircraft.

Still, we made it in one piece having eaten our homemade bacon sarnies on the plane and arrived home to a loaf of fresh pain de compagne, butter and jam. Firsts are all very well, but they can be very exhausting. It's great to be home!


  1. It sounds as though you had a good time in England - the worst part was obviously the trip back - ungodly hours at airports tend to destroy the rest and relaxation of a holiday!

  2. Another first - for those behind - first time they saw you leave, first time they waited impatiently 'till the jolly little C° came back, and first time following all the exciting trip on a blog.....Welcomùe Home to the Adventurous Group who has got up to so many things in eight days, so many adventures, visits, trips and surprises it...... firstly takes your breath away!


  3. Ah... Ryanair, early in the morning. I know what you mean. We got up at 3.15 am to make the 06.40 flight home to France from Nottingham and got fleeced on excess baggage. Four of us, each with a 15 K allowance, but stupidly we only took three bags, and one of these was slightly over the 15 K limit. If we'd had the same weight of luggage but spread over 4 bags we'd have been fine, but no, there's no sharing of baggage allocation, it has to be up to 15K per bag, and one bag per person, and our three bags were tightly packed, so we got clobbered a mighty £16 for our piddly extra 3 KG. I don't get it: isn't it better for them to have to handle less bags, albeit slightly heavier, than more, lighter ones? Actually no, I do get it: it's obviously MUCH better for them to pocket my £16. What was I thinking of? Stupid me. Then when we'd sorted out the excess bag business the check in girl said "you're aware Ryanair no longer board families with young children first, are you?", and we went through the crap about would I like to pay some more money for the privilege of getting on first. Give me strength.

  4. We did have a good trip over to Blighty, but then we always do. I don't know why Richard of Orleans has such a terrible time when he goes, because I love going back. I love coming home too, mind!

    RyanAir are the pits but they know they have the financially careful over a barrel so treat us like shit. Not only do you have to pay for each item of baggage, but you have to pay if it's the slightest bit heavy. I suppose anon could consider that the £16 is really £16-(2x£3.5) as he didn't pay the baggage fee for the extra bag. Small consolation...

    I did pay the £6 boarding as the prospect of a boarding scrum after such a night was more than I was prepared to envisage. Mind you, it may be interesting to see whta happens with children who get separated from their parents and the complaints which follow their abandoned screaming.

  5. It will be interesting to see what Bill says when he gets back from his holiday in Rome and London - he travelled that route on the can't be any worse than these 'fleece you' air companies - it may take a bit longer (but am not too sure) and be a bit more expensive but when one sees and partakes in the hassle at airports, the train MUST be better.

    I hope to go to England soon and am definitely going to look into the possibility of travelling by train

  6. golly - now I'm worried...I'm going to England in a couple of weeks for my sister's wedding - off on Friday, back so early on Sunday morning I don't think there'll be time to sleep between the end of the reception and the boarding of the plane. I love travelling by train and Eurostar though, for longer trips. It feels like a proper journey and you get to see the changing landscape as you travel north...and it reminds me of my youth(sigh)when I did Interrail every summer...

    Welcome back anyway!

  7. Travelling no frills can be a nightmare these days. Word has it that Easyjet is too busy developing its Eastern European routes to worry about us southerners.
    Train: I took the train once, a night train. by daybreak 10 people in the carriage had been robbed while they slept.(We were just sitting not in couchettes) Never again.


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