So yes, we’ve been rather quiet online. Most of September has been spent in the following ways:

  • preparing for Surprise Grandma Singapore trip
  • in Singapore
  • recovering from Surprise Grandma Singapore trip.

And if I have time and energy enough tonight, I’ll cover some of the highlights of our journey. But I thought I’d dedicate this post to my solo-parent flight with Arddun.

Yes, that’s right. Me, my very wriggly toddler, and an almost-full Singapore Airlines A380. Sydney to Singapore, non-stop.

To understand the full extent of this enterprise, you have to understand that we live in Canberra. Which means our day had started with an indecently early wake-up call, followed by 3 hours on the road, and another nail-biting bit where we got stuck in Sydney traffic for half an hour. And that was just to get to the airport.

Couple that with a late and bumpy take-off, and you’ll begin to see how long my day was starting to get.

I think in my heart of hearts, I’d rather relished the prospect of doing the solo-with-Arddun travel thing. It was something our family anticipated having to do this year because we knew how stupid Tony’s workload was going to get by September, which was why he couldn’t join us. But I think it also evolved into something like a rite of passage for me. A personal challenge. Something I’d embraced with all the apprehension and naive optimism of a new mother contemplating labour and childbirth. Right, I’d told myself, I’m going to do this. I know I’ll be able to survive this, because loads of other women have. Eight hours on an airplane with an active toddler. Nothing to sneeze at, but I am creative, I am quick-thinking, and I have a sense of humour.

I’ll skip the bit about the check-in, except to say that I’ll never use Sydney Airport’s luggage trolleys again unless I can work out trolley reverse psychology. I’ll also glance over the take-off (so bumpy that the child on Arddun’s left cried, “Wheeee!!!” like he was in the amusement park). In truth, the first 6 hours of the flight were, on hindsight, uneventful. Sure, it got difficult trying to keep Arddun seated. But it was a huge blessing that SQ gave me a spare seat for Arddun even though I didn’t pay for one, so I wasn’t complaining. And sure, every air stewardess that got babysitting duty while I nipped to the bathroom commented on “how very active” my child was, upon my hasty return.

And yes, we lost at least one crayon within seconds of opening the box and the boy next to us ended up hogging the entire set anyway. The in-flight entertainment failed to capture her attention because the screen was fixed high up on the wall in front of us, and her headphones were too big for her tiny head. Also, all iPhone apps and videos downloaded for her pleasure were drowned out by engine and ambient noise, so In the Night Garden made even less sense than ever. Her nap was cut short by at least half, because the child beside us had given an almighty yell out of the blue. She devoured my lunch since she’d clearly outgrown Rafferty’s, refused all the goodies I’d procured from the Asian bakery the day before, and wanted, NEEDED to drink my tea. And of course, she HAD to use up two diapers by hour 6, which meant already two rounds of changing her in a very cramp lavatory.

But nothing too dramatic. She wasn’t noisy, she wasn’t unmanageable, we were fine.

Enter hour 7, and I smell something seriously suss.

I had been sure to secure our seats the moment I bought our tickets online, so I was able to get the bassinet seat in the upper deck. Which meant the front half of the upper deck was First Class, and then it was Economy, with us on the front row. I’d figured that the fewer the passengers surrounding us, the fewer people I’d be likely to irritate, should my child turn feral.

It also meant, however, that I’d have to walk the entire length of Economy class to get to the lavatories. And this was turning out to be an almighty stink.

True enough, we get in there and I realise that everything has gone everywhere. It’s a miracle my clothes are not soiled, because the poor girl needs a bath. I use up all my nappy wipes, save one. I’m so thankful I packed her a change of clothes, and I am praying the plane doesn’t get major turbulence while I’m frantically giving her a mini-bath from the slow, stately trickle of airplane tap water.

Not fun.

Amazingly, Arddun didn’t try any Chinese acrobatics, and we eventually make it out. I apologise to the queue, and scuttle back to the front.

An apple had been dropped off on Arddun’s seat, as previously requested. Stolen from First Class. How kind.

“Would you like an apple?” I ask my daughter.

“Apper!” she agrees happily, signs “please” very politely, and takes two bites.

And then she erupts like Mount Vesuvius. Top end, this time.

Yes folks, it’s everywhere. On the seats, on the blankets, on the ground, on me. Amazingly, thanks to the wide angle of her projectile spew, she managed to keep herself nice and dry. Lord knows I don’t have any change of clothes left for her. But then, I didn’t pack anything for me either, did I.

I had yelped involuntarily, so I think lots of passengers heard. There’s this horrid pause while I’m standing there, wearing spew and a rather wild look. Meanwhile, the curtains part from the back of the plane and the stewardesses wheel our in-flight dinner down both corridors. My access to the lavatories – blocked. No stewardesses on hand to help. Wriggly one-year-old, impervious to the disaster she’d just created and surprisingly chirpy for one suddenly so sick. Clothes starting to stick to my skin in a sickening fashion.

Napkins, nappy wipes, tissues start coming forward from everywhere. My first instinct is to get the yuck off the seats, just in case SQ decide to hand me a bill for chair shampoo.

“Right!” I say, and firmly toss Arddun on to her seat before strapping her in. “Don’t go anywhere, little girl!” She unbuckles herself in 2 seconds. I frantically tear open a paperbag for garbage, and start swiping with my left while holding on to my inquisitive child with my right. Nota bene: the little paperbags they supply on airplanes just in case you feel queasy? Absolutely impossible to tear open in a tremendous hurry.

Someone from the next aisle tells me that I have spew on my clothes. Yes thank you, I’m aware of that, I’m just trying to do one thing at a time please, thankyouverymuch.

A stewardess comes over. How can I help, she asks. She arrives with a humongous paperbag that has two tiny packets of nappy wipes in them. I direct her to the happy child, and ask that she just watches Arddun so I can get on with it. And then I clean everything. And spend lots of time yet again in the lavatory at the back. And apologise to everyone on my way there and back, for spoiling their dinners.

And then I sit in my stinky clothes, now scrubbed transparent because I was stupidly wearing white, for the final hour of our flight. And I thank GOD that we’re flying to Singapore, and not London.

And so yes, that was our flight to Singapore. Thankfully, the flight back to Sydney felt quicker and much easier, even though Arddun didn’t get a spare seat this time. Turns out that Arddun had contracted gastroenteritis before or during the flight, which meant the poor thing was still spewing and pooing all through our first week in Singapore. And then she’d passed it on to me. And we eventually passed it on to our host, Audrey, before scuttling off to my mother’s.

It’s funny – I had been so diligent about Arddun’s food and entertainment that I had brought enough to even feed and entertain the child sitting beside us. But it had just never crossed my mind that she’d be this sick on an airplane. Still, like childbirth, the awful moment eventually passes… and then everything becomes just a Really Good Cringey Story.

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