Kids on a Plane

It’s a much discussed topic when it comes to travelling on aeroplanes and most people have an opinion on the subject. What your opinion is may depend on whether you have or have ever had children and if you have, whether you choose or chose to travel with them.

Some people are of the opinion that we were all children once, most of us have travelled as a family at some point and it is just something that everybody has to expect. Other people’s lives are at a different stage to yours.

On the other hand some people favour adult only flights. Some airlines who use the two decked A380 allocate one of the decks as a family deck, keeping the other child free.

I guess there are some people who would ban children from flights altogether, but I’ve yet to meet someone with that strong a view.

I think most people agree that there has to be a sliding scale of expectation depending on how old the child is. If the child is a babe in arms then we must expect that there is very little you can do to control when they feel the need to make noise. However, if the child is three or above then there should be some expectation that the parent should be able to keep them under control a little bit better. Or am I being too harsh now? Both of mine were impeccably behaved on flights from the age of three, not thanks to me, rather thanks to Steve Jobs and his wonderful iPad.

I’ve seen countless incidents on flights where people have become annoyed at the noises children make. Some people get annoyed before a child even makes a noise and throw a stop just because they are sitting within three rows of a baby. I’ve even witnessed people strop out on a two hour trip to Spain! Seriously, you can’t put up with baby noise for two hours?!

Let’s be clear again, I’m talking about noises made by babies, not shouting toddlers or kids whose stupid/useless parents let them kick and grab at your seat throughout a flight. Or people who keep their kids quiet by letting them play with the bloody table, flipping it up and down whist you slowly lose your mind in front.

Babies who don’t understand language or reasoning, babies who don’t know when it’s night or day on a long haul flight, babies who communicate through loud noises when they’re hungry, tired, happy or sad.

I had an instance of passenger rage directed at one of my children. When H, my youngest, was nine months old we took him and a three year old T to Australia. We have friends there and we wanted to take advantage of my wife’s maternity leave and the fact that T had yet to start school. We felt a five week trip would be something we’d never be able to enjoy again with our kids. Hence we took the brave/stupid step to take two very small children around the world.

We had the time so we decided to split the journey up, spending two days either side in Kuala Lumpur. Hopefully this would make the journey that little bit less harsh.

The first leg from London to Kuala Lumpur was 13 hours. T was happy with his iPad and we were happy to let him watch and sleep, watch and sleep as he felt the need. He was as good as gold.

H stayed awake feeding for an hour then fell asleep. We were the luckiest parents in the world, he slept for a full nine hours. When he awoke we made a fuss, telling him what a good boy he was. He knew how happy we were with him which made him happy, he let out a large squeal of delight.

“For God’s sake shut that baby up…”

She was now looking the other way but I knew exactly who had said it. The miserable cow who gave us daggers when we got on the plane first (because we had kids) and then gave us daggers when she realised she was sitting across the aisle from us.

My wife hadn’t heard it but I had, very clearly.

I got up and walked over. The seat in the aisle was free, the next seat was taken up by who I assumed to be her husband and she was sitting by the window.

I put both my hands on the arm of her husband’s chair and leaned over him so my face was as near to her as I could reach.

“Excuse me?” I said, remaining as calm as possible. This is very difficult for me, I am very protective of my children, I am a very nervous flyer, I am naturally short tempered.

She looked round at me, “These flights cost a lot of money and we don’t want it ruined by your kid.”

I was fairly proud of my response, it was more measured than I could have hoped. “These flights don’t cost a lot of money love, if they did, people like you wouldn’t be able to afford them.”

In this context my reply doesn’t make much sense but I had hit the nail right on her head. In an instant I had identified her as a pompous Hyacinth Bucket (bouquet) kind of character and I was spot on. She shut up immediately, lips puckered like a rectum. Her husband looked like this wasn’t the first time she’d been a bitch.

I pushed myself back into the aisle. I then got a tap on my shoulder. I turned round to see a big Aussie bloke from the row in front standing there. He smiled and held out his hand.

“Well done mate, that was awesome, your kid’s alright!”

That kind of ended the incident on a happy note. I would have been sitting there paranoid that the rest of the flight felt like this woman. Instead he made me feel very happy and proud of the way I’d handled it. I thanked him and sat back down.

What are your thoughts? Any particularly nasty encounters with people moaning about your kids on a plane? Been affected by bad behaviour by kids on a plane? Let me know in the comments below?

 

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(Vegi) Chilli (Con Carne) Recipe (Basically have it your way!)

 

Mexican food is awesome. Tortillas, tacos, refried beans, guacamole and salsa. But the king of Mexican food, the absolute pinnacle has to be the chilli. Lets face it, you can have some mince, chuck whatever you like in it and call it a chilli. When have you ever been to two different places, ordered a chilli and had exactly the same meal? I’ve even been to a chilli cooking competition and one of the ingredients on offer was chocolate. Chocolate in a chilli? No, not for me either.

Since becoming a vegetarian I have had a few worries about things that I may miss with a chilli being one of them. A chilli con carne has great emphasis on the meat, obviously, but I wanted to make a chilli where the meat could easily be replaced, because it wasn’t necessarily the main event. Plus I was worried as a chilli has been the kid’s favourite for a while now. Here’s the recipe I came across where I replaced the beef mince with vegi mince. This is so chock full of veg, it remains the kid’s favourite and they haven’t even noticed the switch!

 

Ingredients

  • 500g of vegi mince or 500g of minced beef
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 1 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 400g tin of kidney beans
  • 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander – remove le
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Method

  • Peel and finely chop the onions
  • Chop carrots in half widthways.  Chop each part in half again lengthways.  Slice into 0.5cm chunks all the way along
  • Chop the red peppers into chunks of approximately 2cm squared
  • Chop the celery in slices approximately 0.5cm thick
  • Remove leaves from coriander and save then finely chop stalks and put to one side
  • Take a large, deep casserole pan and put it on a medium heat
  • Pour olive oil into the bottom until the whole base is covered
  • Tip in all of your vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, red peppers)
  • Add the chilli, cinnamon and cumin and plenty of salt and pepper
  • Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring continuously until the veg has softened up a bit
  • Chuck in the chickpeas, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, mince (vegi or beef), chopped coriander stalks and balsamic vinegar.  Season generously to your taste
  • Fill up one of the empty tomato tins with water and pour it in.  Mix everything together
  • Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer
  • Put a lid on the pan and leave a little gap on the side
  • Let simmer for an hour, thoroughly stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened

If using vegi mince then it will likely take less than an hour for the liquid to evaporate.  Feel free to stop cooking when it’s at a consistency you desire.If using beef mince, ensure you cook for at least the full hour.  There will be more liquid than the vegi mince so you may need to cook for longer.
Serve with rice, pitta bread and whatever other accompaniments you like, tacos, tortillas, guacamole, salsa or sour cream.

Wallop!

It’s the end of my youngest son’s first half term of school. It’s been largely uneventful save for a couple of minor issues, oh and there was a little problem with a bit of a fight.

My dad was one of those dads who always told you,

“If he hits you, you hit him back”.

I’ve not said that to either of my children. It’s not that I don’t believe in punching someone in the face if they’ve just done the same to you, far from it, I just believe that you should judge every situation as it comes i.e. How big is he? How much did it hurt? Did I deserve it?

In any case that belief is for adults only, not for children, especially 4 year olds like my H! Instead we have adopted the approach,

“If someone upsets you go and tell the teacher.”

We haven’t even mentioned ‘punches’, as far as my kids are concerned no-one wants to punch them in the face. That’s how it should be!

Despite all this I got called aside by H’s teacher at the end of one day and she spoke to me while a sheepish looking H cowered around my legs.

Apparently a kid in Year 1 (year above four year old H) was saying horrible things to him and generally being verbally abusive. My seven year old eldest would be very upset and tell the teacher immediately, H smacked him in the face without a word.

Now I don’t know if it’s being a dad as opposed to a mum, but I felt a pang of pride swell up from somewhere inside me that I just couldn’t control. Of course on the outside I was horrified, I said all the right things and chastised H and told him that was not the way to behave. And on the whole I agree with my outside appearance. But that pang inside remains whether I like it or not.

A few days later I was telling one of the other dads in the school playground. A bespectacled fellow who doesn’t appear to have any aggression in him whatsoever. His response to the story was.

“Good on him!”

I didn’t agree with him openly and still towed the party line that I was shocked and appalled. But inside I felt glad that I wasn’t a monster.

I found out through the grapevine later that the boy who H walloped is known for being a bit of a bully. Apparently getting a slap from a four year old has brought him down a peg or two and he’s treating others with a bit more respect now. My outward words of warning for H have certainly taken effect too and I don’t think he’ll be walloping anyone again anytime soon. Perhaps all’s well that ends well?

The Late Kids

 

I was once at a customer’s house and he was discussing his young grandaughter’s first couple of weeks at school. He wasn’t a fan of her headmistress and complained,

“She stands in front of the school once the bell goes in the morning and tells the late parents they must make more effort to be on time, can you believe that?!”

My response,

“Yes I can believe that, your daughter is obviously a very selfish person and it sounds as though she has been late on a number of occasions already within the first two weeks for you to know that this is something the headmistress does every day. Does she think it’s a good thing that she’s teaching her child that it doesn’t matter about being on time and that everybody will just wait for you because the whole world revolves around her. Does your daughter care in any way that somebody has to take time out of their day to take your grandaughter to her classroom, where her teacher has to stop what she’s doing with the twenty nine other children just to accommodate your grandaughter and her selfish mother?”

Well that’s not quite true, he was after all a customer and I was trying to secure payment from him for services rendered. I believe my true cowardly response was something along the lines of,

“No, that’s terrible”.

There is one child in my older son’s class whose mother doesn’t have time (can’t be arsed) to feed him in the mornings. So she stops at the bakery opposite the school and buys him a sausage roll which makes him ten minutes late every day. He then spends the first twenty minutes of school wandering round the classroom eating and dropping said sausage roll all over the place. The other children aren’t allowed to eat in the classroom and this child can’t possibly start work until he’s finished his sausage roll so everyone ends up disrupted. The child is behind in terms of learning and is well known as a child who frequently misbehaves in the classroom. I’m not qualified to suggest there’s any link.

Now, I appreciate that getting children ready for school in the mornings is a nightmare and there are going to be some mornings where there are catastrophic failures in the process, so I am not talking about parents who are occasionally late with their children. I am, however, talking about mums who are late at least four out of every five days, week in week out.

There’s one mum at our boy’s school who is on time perhaps one day every two months and lives a one minute walk from the school.

The link between all of the mums at least is that they are immaculate, hair like they’ve just stepped out of the salon, make up that could have been done by Estée Lauder herself and smelling like they work behind the perfume counter at Boots. We’re not talking usual effort for a day at the office either, we are talking an effort that most women would only make if they were going to a black tie do or out to the races. Surely some of that preening time could be used to help your very small child to get ready in the mornings or is that too obvious?

Is it just me who this bothers. Does anyone give a toss about being on time anymore?

Death by Calpol

“Do you think if I was going to kill myself I’d use Calpol?”

I loathe pointless unenforceable bureaucracy!
So we’re all ill, I go to Tesco and buy Benylin for the missus, Benylin for me and Calpol for the kids.  Go to the till with some other shopping, cashier putting it through when she suddenly stops.

“I can’t sell you this” pointing to the Calpol.
“You what?”
“It’s your third product containing paracetamol, it’s a suicide risk”.
“You what?”
“The till has stopped me selling you the Calpol because you already have two other paracetamol products.  It’s to protect you”.
“From Calpol?”
“Yes”.
“Do you think if I was going to kill myself I’d use Calpol?”
“…..”
“Don’t you think I’d die from sugar overdose before the paracetamol killed me?”
“Nothing I can do sir, the till won’t let me”.
“OK, put it to one side and put it through in the next transaction”.
“I can’t do that”.
“I guarantee that would work”.
“I can’t”.
Person in the queue behind me, “Give it to me I’ll get it in my shopping and he can give me the money”.
Cashier, “That’s not allowed, he’s still getting three paracetamol products”.
Me, “With which I’m going to top myself?”
“Yes”.
“OK, give it back to me I’ll get it at the next till”.
“I can’t do that”.
“OK, give it back to me I’ll put it back on the shelf for you”.
She bizarrely gives it back…
“I’m now going to buy it on the till next to you”,
“You can’t do that”.
“Watch me”.

I know it’s not the cashier’s fault and that she’s just enforcing the ‘rules’ but seriously?!  Even if I did want to kill myself with Calpol what on earth has Tesco got to do with it?    Also, the two pack rule applies regardless of the amount in the packet.  You can actually buy own brand paracetamol in Tesco in packs of 90.  You are allowed to buy two of these which gives you 180 pills.  If you bought them in 16s they’d stop you at 32.  If you really did want to kill yourself in a hurry and only had enough time to complete one transaction then there is a way!

Lads Weekends for Fathers

One of my best mates has just invited me on a lads weekend away. To be specific he’s asked if I want to fly out to Spain on a Friday afternoon and come back Sunday. I’m struggling with a few things. Is it appropriate for me to go, is it something I really want to do anyway?!

Let me put some context round it. As I said one person is one of my best friends from school and an ex business partner, so I know him very well. He isn’t single, lives with his girlfriend but he has no kids, has no intention of having kids and I’m not sure if he even likes kids? Three of the other people going are people who I would say I’m friends with, we get on well and I invited them to my birthday party in the summer but I can honestly say that I’ve never rung any of them or even been out with any of them individually. I like them but they are not what you would call, my mates. The last person going out I have never heard of or met.

We’re going out to see another bloke who runs a bar in southern Spain and the plan is to stay in his flat. The five people mentioned above are all close mates with him, I am not. I don’t dislike the guy but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like me. I’m not sure of the reason, I’ve never really been bothered enough to find out. We’re very courteous when we see each other don’t get me wrong, but there is a weird vibe.

The other thing to be aware of is that my wife has given the green light! That could be the most worrying thing of all! As blokes we all know that when a woman says, “Go ahead…” it’s definitely not giving you permission, it’s half a dare and half wanting to see you make the right decision. It’s the classic giving you enough rope to hang yourself situation.

I didn’t beg or try to persuade her, she just told me to go ahead straight away. If you beg to go and she eventually says, “OK” then you are in even more trouble my friend. If she appears to have given in at the end of a long row/discussion by saying “OK” then that means that if you should choose to take that path, then she will be thinking long and hard about how you can pay for it afterwards. Thankfully that’s not the situation here.

To be fair she has said that because I spend so much of my time at home looking after the kids then I should go out and enjoy myself, so in this case I think I do have permission. With the caveat of course that if I do go then it can be thrown in my face in any argument in the future regardless.

When I’m talking about appropriateness I’m lucky enough to not be talking about money. We can afford for me to go and it’s not going to eat into kids/family budgets. Besides at this time of year the flights are only £80 and I’m not going to be paying for accommodation so it’s hardly a trip to Vegas.

Yes it would seem that I am going away and enjoying myself whilst she looks after the kids all weekend after a full week at work, but this opportunity has come up for her before and she has turned it down. I have given the green light when the opportunities have arisen for her and I was completely genuine about it. Her friends with kids have gone away multiple times but she has always said no. She says she works all week and doesn’t see enough of the kids as it is, that’s fair enough, she works far longer hours than any of her friends, all of whom would probably be considered the primary carers in their family lives.

Should I consider leaving my family at all for frivolous reasons, even just for two nights? Well yes quite frankly. That’s not a consideration, having kids is a massive responsibility and number one priority but life is for enjoying for everyone, if you don’t get a break from the norm you go crazy.

If this was a stag do then there wouldn’t be any thought going into it. I’d be there no matter where it was. Stag dos are sacrosanct, we both know that, but unfortunately at our age stag dos and hen dos are few and far between.

If it was just a couple of nights away in the UK it probably wouldn’t be a discussion either. For example if we were going up to Manchester to see a band or watch the cricket then I would be there like a shot. Moneywise it would probably be more expensive considering how much it costs to travel by train in this country.

My last consideration is can I be bothered. It isn’t a special occasion, it isn’t a group of my close friends going. To be honest I think the answer is no, I really can’t be arsed anyway!

Romanesco Cauliflower and Carrots

One of my favourite vegetables has just appeared in Tesco! I first came across a Romanesco Cauliflower when it was delivered in a box from one of those organic vegetable companies and if truth be told when I first laid eyes on it I had no idea what it was! When I heard the name I wasn’t massively excited. I mean cauliflower, hardly the most dynamic of vegetables. I don’t dislike it, I don’t like it either but I will eat it. It’s basically a tasteless mush if you overcook it and has an unpleasant bitter taste when you undercook it. Mix it with cheese sauce, top it with bread crumbs and grill it and turn it into cauliflower cheese, now you’re taking. But the reason that dish is so nice probably has more to do with the cheese, rather than the cauliflower.

Anyway, a Romanesco cauliflower may have the name ‘cauliflower’ in the title, it may grow like a cauliflower with leaves around the bottom and a lumpy flowering part in the middle, it may also be from the same family as a cauliflower, but a cauliflower it ain’t. In fact it’s only in the UK where we add the word ‘cauliflower’, in most other places it’s just called Romanesco. I guess that’s because it wasn’t that long ago when cauliflower, carrots and peas were the only vegetable we ate so they added the ‘cauliflower’ to make it less scary for us!

Once you take the leaves off then it bears very little resemblance to a cauliflower, it looks more like broccoli on acid, the kind of broccoli you’d expect to see in Alice in Wonderland. It’s a better raw eat than cauliflower and it’s flavour in much nuttier and more earthy.

As well as eating it raw it can be sautéed, or cooked through. You can add garlic and lemon, stick it in a curry or make Romanesco cheese, as above! Romanesco absolutely soaks up flavour so go nuts!

Here’s an accompaniment to a Shepherdess Pie I made last night. It’s simple and very tasty.

Ingredients

  • One Romanesco cauliflower
  • One large carrot 
  • 1tsp dried marjoram
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 500ml vegetable stock

 

Method

  • Break the Romanesco small florets
  • Chop the carrots into chunks – Cut the carrot in half then cut it in half again lengthways.  Chop each part in half lengthways again, push the halves together then proceed to chop into 1cm cubes
  • Place a large pan on the heat and bring the vegetable stock back to the boil.  Chuck in your Romnesco and carrot and the herbs and mix it all up.  Put the lid on the pan, keep it on a medium to high heat and leave for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with a slotted spoon as an accompaniment

Tip: Use a large enough pan so that the Romesco isn’t fully covered by the stock.