Raptor (formerly known as Son1) pulled his first all-nighter on us last night. I’d felt sure he’d fall fast asleep as soon as we took off from Vienna. The signs were all there as we waited at the gate after our Eid getaway – glassy eyes, voice raised in an over-tired fight with Son2, a whiny tone, his face waxy-white as though it had been lightly dusted with flour. I glanced at my watch: it was past midnight Dubai time.
As soon as we were airbourne, I put my seat back. I’d only been staring at the luggage bins for half a minute when I succumbed to sleep.
The next thing I was aware of was the plane juddering.
Over the sound of seatbelts being buckled up came the captain’s voice. “Good news,” he said, “we’ve just started our descent into Dubai. We should have you on the ground in about 25 minutes.”
DH leaned over from the row behind. “Good luck waking him up,” he said, nodding to Raptor, “he’s only just dropped off.”
Astonished, I prodded and poked him, then finally managed to jostle him awake – he had indeed spent the whole five hours watching movies in the dark. Happy that such a night of uninterrupted viewing actually existed.
Arriving back into the brilliant early-morning light must then have told his brain to stay awake. At home, sun streamed through the patio door. The effect was warm, a homely glow falling over the furniture. Raptor blinked and reached for some electronic stimulation. I’ll admit I was already half way up the stairs to catch a nap.
Later, we sat around chatting about the trip. “What was your best bit?” DH asked me.
I thought for a few moments. I loved Vienna. From the imperial grandeur of this once powerful centre of the Hapsburg monarchy to the opulence of the Schönbrunn Palace, the Austrian capital is an unforgettable city, steeped in history and the birthplace of too many great musicians to shake a baton at. “All of it,” I said. “I loved it all.”
“And what was your best bit?” DH asked Raptor.
I felt sure he’d say the bones. We’d pushed the boat out, you see, to make sure – as you do – that the kids had a memorable time.
I thought we’d surely trumped ourselves on the tour of the cathedral’s catacombs. Shocking doesn’t even begin to describe it. First, you visit the old catacombs where the internal organs of members of the royal family are stored in urns. Then, in the ‘new’ catacombs you see the skeletons of thousands of plague victims. Most chilling were the brick caverns stacked high with neatly arranged bones – a 17th century space-saving concept, illuminated, for the benefit of modern visitors, by dim, yellowish electric lights. It was a dark highlight, if ever I’ve seen one. My sons had been stunned into silence.
I waited. Maybe I was wrong. Perhaps his most memorable moment had been when we’d raced down a platform to catch a glimpse of his favourite European train. Or ridden a tram to tick that box. Surely all this had been more interesting than the movies on the plane? Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?
“Erm,” he said, crinkling his forehead. A deep perplexed line appeared between his eyes as though someone had drawn it there with a pencil. “Can you just remind me what we did again?”
Gah! I guess you just have to assume that when you travel with kids, it all sinks in on some level … right?