One maxim pretty much sums up travelling alone with a small child: if something can go wrong, it probably will. Like your taxi for the airport arriving half an hour late. Or south London being more grid locked than I've ever seen it. Even policemen were abandoning their "nee-nor" cars and continuing on foot. Suffice to say at 9.25am, 90 minutes after I'd orderd my cab and five minutes before I wanted to arrive atHeathrow, we were still the wrong side of the river and barely inching forward. At which point I was honestly doubting if we'd ever make it and was quite happy to divert instead to Paddington to catch the most expensive train in the world, aka the Heathrow Express. Somehow we made the 9.41am, but only thanks to my taxi driver dumping his car and running behind me, the buggy, my two bags and Louis pulling my big suitcase behind him.
Even at Heathrow I still felt cursed. The so-called fast bag drop queue was longer and slower than I'm convinced any check-in queue used to be. Then there was the umbrella incident at the security gate: apparently you're not allowed umbrellas on "eppa-planes" either anymore. Or at least that was the new law Sod decreed especially for me. I kid not: even the lady back at the Virgin desk said I'd been unlucky to get stopped.
I guess the lesson learned is that it pays to leave more time than you could ever imagine needing. The extra half-hour I'd felt oh-so-grown-up about leaving us was the difference between us catching and missing the plane, but it was still barely enough. That said, I did manage to down a coffee, buy Louis an egg sandwich and grab an emergency London bus for additional plane amusement purposes from Hamleys, so it wasn't a complete disaster.
And if Sonoko is reading this fearing for her solo trip to Tokyo this summer, then there is a happy ending to this tale. Despite life conspiring against me, Louis couldn't have been more angelic. He did everything right from actually sitting in his buggy when required (a minor miracle, trust me) to making a dash for it at the final security queue at just the right minute, which meant the lady frisking people took pity on me and let me jump the last bit. He was a delight on the "eppa-plane", which thoroughly delighted him; I'm not sure he's ever enjoyed eight hours so much. The "special Louis didi", which is what he still calls the TV, was just the most exciting thing ever, even if he did barely manage ten minutes of Fantastic Mr Fox. I'd be lying if I said the time passed quickly - with the exception of the blissful 60 minutes that Louis napped, during which I ate my meal, drank a G+T and watched half of Julie and Julia - but I'd also be lying if I said it was a nightmare. In fact, I'd happily do it all again, which is just as well seeing as we fly back on Monday.