I think they missed me, but I’m not sure who missed me most – the kids or the pets.
The first hint came by telephone in a call to Dark Princess, to let her know that I’d arrived at Gatwick but we wouldn’t be getting home until much later as it was rush hour traffic.
And I needed coffee and a cogitate.
Travel by airplane is so quick these days that it’s almost like time lapse photography. Each frame of the past week in Porto and the Douro Valley morphs into a surreal reel of images that dissolves into one lasting impression.
Our wonderful week in Porto and up in the magnificent Douro Valley felt so grown-up relaxed that I wasn’t certain I was ready to come home. Landing at Gatwick after a short 1hr 40minute flight, I had felt a little like a time traveller. I often wonder if travelling quickly is dislocating, for that very reason. That’s why I enjoy long-haul travel (yes I know I’m odd!) because it gives you time to process the last destination before you get to the next one. That, and there’s usually a glass of free wine!
Dark Princess seemed very pleased to hear from me, but not so pleased that we wouldn’t be home for another couple of hours.
“Are you still in Portugal?” she asked tearfully. I explained that my Englishman needed a feed and I needed a coffee before we drove the two hours home in rush hour traffic. I could tell she was disappointed and I was pretty sure that it wasn’t because they needed more time to clean the house. Properly!
The next hint that we’d been missed came on the way home in the form of a missed call on my phone. Then a brief message from Son on voicemail. Apparently we had run out of potatoes, and milk, and bread, and cat food and dog food.
“Just saying”, he said.
As in, just saying in the hope you’ll stop and go to the supermarket and then come home and FEED ME.
I got the message, but I didn’t go to the supermarket.
We were pulling into our town when Miss Fliss rang and advised on the critical lack of potatoes. I suggested pasta, rice, orzo and when those suggestions didn’t improve the mood I confessed we were just pulling into town.
A few moments later the two cats and two out of three kids came running out to meet our car. The cats were meowing, the kids were yelling, the dog bowled My Englishman over.
And I was completely briefed on the potato famine crisis. (I think the kids were dragging out their Irish roots a tad too much!)
My first impression of the state of the house came from the smell that wafted out the front door. It was a mixture of teenage hormones, socks and stale washing that was growing a new form of antibiotic in the dryer. I hold high hopes for that chemical innovation as the kids have informed me that they’ve completely run out of money and yes, we had no
It was noisy and frantic with everyone trying to get in their piece about new timetables at college and school, and how they spent their allowance on apple pies from the supermarket. In the midst of this chaos their father rang from New Zealand, and Dark Princess asked him to call another time.
We were all flabbergasted. She never does that! Miss Fliss asked her why, and that’s when I got the answer to my question: who had missed us the most? When Dark Princess said she’d missed – not only me – but her stepfather as well, so wanted to spend the evening with us instead of on the phone, I knew.
So today is a mix of emotions. I’m pleased to be back but sad to leave Porto. I’m pleased to see the kids but feel saddened that they missed us. But most of all I feel guilty that we had such a good time, when they were missing us. And though I did succumb to the sad looks on wan little faces, and popped out and got emergency cat food and milk, I haven’t yet replenished the potato cupboard.
Do you ever stop feeling guilty about travelling without your kids?