I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and ev'ry highway...

Those of you who don't like Frank Sinatra will just have to imagine someone else doing the singing, I mean enough people have recorded it, there must be at least one version that is acceptable.

We get out of the little monorail relieved that it didn’t turn out to be a water ride with loop-the-loops and enter the terminal. Where there are more shops. We quickly steer Ellie past all of these and head down to our departure gate. There’s already quite a few people down there, even though it’s still about 3 hours until our departure. On the way to our gate we pass the gate for the Manchester flight departing just a few minutes before ours and I suddenly remember that Catherine is due to take this very flight and make a mental note to come back and see if I can find her even though I have no clue what she looks like.

We are seated right next to the entrance to the plane so we don’t have to fight through too many crowds to get on. The grown-ups take it in turns to walk back up to the minuscule duty free shop. You US guys aren’t that big on duty free, are you? Anyway I found no suitable chocolaty goodness amongst all the strange smelling bottles so ducked back out of there and went back to our seats. Big Steve and Adrian went next to look at the limited retail opportunities available to them. They were gone for a long time and I started to worry that they had taken a wrong turning at the sweetie shop and got accosted by a non-smiling security person. I picked up Steven and went to search for them. As I walked past the Manchester gate I spotted a young boy wearing glasses and suddenly remembered that Catherine had a son that wore glasses. Hmm, maybe on the way back I’ll get brave…

About 5 seconds later I became aware of someone coming up behind me and speaking to me in an accent that could only be from Wigan. It was Catherine! We had a quick 10 minute exchange of trip reports during which time Adrian and Big Steve turned up. After saying our hellos, goodbyes, and have a nice flight homes, we left Catherine and went back to our own gate.

There was still an hour before we would start boarding and Ellie was getting a bit antsy. I got my Gameboy Advance out, put in the Powerpuff Girls game and offered it to her. She took it and…silence. Until the time we stood up to board there was not another sound out of her. Now why didn’t I think of this two weeks ago? Shortly before boarding started the nice lady from Virgin asked for strollers/buggies to be bought forward for tagging and loading on to the aircraft. See, they do it at the gate here, why not at Gatwick? Anyway, Adrian pushed he way through the throng of people refusing to move away from the gate entrance to hand over Steven’s buggy.

First Class passengers were called on first. This sent the hoard into a panic, obviously thinking the plane was going to go without them so they all huddled a bit closer round the gate. Then Premium Economy and Special Assistance were called for boarding. The hoard got even more scared and huddled together even closer to the gate, ready to make a run for it should the plane show signs of moving. Next they called for parties with childen under 2 for boarding. Adrian stood behind the huddled mass and held his two hands together to make a step. I, carrying Steven, took a short run-up, put my left foot into Adrian’s step and pushed off with the right foot and jumped. At the same time Adrian pushed upwards and launched the two of us over the top of the mass of bodies and into the clear so we could safely get on the plane.

Of course this didn’t happen, but we literally did have to push people aside to get on the plane. No amount of excuse me pleads was going to make any of these people move further away from the plane. Big Steve and Lisa followed us through the narrow channel we managed to carve out for ourselves. Their children are not under 2, but Harry is 2 and Big Steve picked him up and followed us saying, “I’ve got a Harry and I’m not afraid to use him.” I gave our boarding passes to the agent there and he looked at me and said, “they haven’t called for infant boarding yet.” Yes they have, that lady over there just did the announcement. “That lady over there” came over to us and let us through with a look that indicated she thought that the other agent was an idiot.

Yay, we are through the huddled hoards of scared “the-plane-will-go-without-us” masses and heading on to the plane. We briefly consider turning round and taunting the waiting mass but then realised we were about to be confined in a small space with them for 8 hours so thought better of it.

I am sitting next to 3 year old Louis for the flight home. He seems quite a sociable young chap and is eager to play with Steven, but his mummy tells him to wait until we’ve taken off. Well I was quite prepared to hand Steven over there and then, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until we’re airborne. Anyway Louis settled for telling me all about his holiday and how he’d met Mickey Mouse. Then, as night fell around Central Florida, we were speeding down the runway and into the air to start our journey home.

The bar service was bought round and we remembered the disgusting orange juice from the outward flight so gave that a big miss this time. We also turned down the offer of a skycot because Steven wouldn’t use it and it would just become a big crumb holder. We actually used the big fold down table though for our food and drink as it gave us much more room between table and legs to move limbs and small children around without your cheese and crackers ending up flying 4 rows back over your head.

Steven started playing with my fingers and Louis enquired as to what was going on and I told him that if he waved his fingers around Steven would grab them and play with them. Well he wasn’t that enamoured by that idea so he sat firmly on his hands for several minutes until I convinced him that Steven was actually harmless.