Friday, 20 May 2011

Fear of flying (with short people)

You may have noticed that last week was a quiet one around Chaos HQ. This is because I went offline for a spell to hang out with the real world's cutest little boy: my nephew. Spending time with Neffe is one of my heart's true joys. Flying with kids, however, is one of my biggest fears. Unfortunately getting to Neffe involves planes, trains, a gazillion flights of stairs, and an entire galaxy of pacification devices (mostly LULAS).

Cousin airlift. 
Neffe is growing up in Berlin, a magical city where nobody has a proper job and graffiti takes the place of magnolia paint. Visiting from London is a great shift in perspective. Wealth inequality isn't such an awful glaring beast in Berlin, and consequently people seem more relaxed and less preoccupied with money - a nice change.

Ana loves to fly. Nothing could ruin her excitement, even the discovery that her airplane wasn't purple, as requested. Ali took more convincing. But she proved herself to be an excellent judge of character at passport control, where she screamed like a banshee (which is frankly what I always feel like doing). 

Wandering around over the weekend, Tanta and I came across a beatboxing/freestyle rap duo at a flea market. The rapper took thematic suggestions from a rather kid-infested crowd, so his ditties wound up being about ice cream and toys in outer space. The little kids danced in circles at his feet and the grown-ups laughed at the word play. It was wonderful to see kids and grown-ups both having fun at the same thing, mingling freely and naturally.

Faith, trust, pixie dust.
I had to compare this experience to some of my lonely early motherhood afternoons spent cloistered off from the world at the local bounce and rhyme. Those afternoons were like eternities suspended between lunch and teatime in a roomful of other sleepless mamas, all mumbling in monotone about that most soul-crushing of words - ROUTINE - while taking on an increasingly pithed look with each round of 'Wind the Bobbin Up'. 

Perhaps those dark days would have been better spent at a Berlin flea market, mingling freely with all sorts. To this day, I want to scream like an Ali-banshee whenever I hear 'Wind the Bobbin Up'.

Tanta took me to Tempelhof, of Berlin Airlift fame, which ceased to be an airport 2008 and is now a park. But instead of going to the trouble and expense of converting it into an actual park, the local government has simply left it as is and you have to use your imagination. So people have BBQs on the grass in front of the terminal building, and windsurf down the runway with kites and skateboards.

Ant flies into the great wide open.
I love the idea of Tempelhof Park: the notion that you can recycle anything no matter how humongous it is and how broke you are, just by employing collective imagination. Funny how concrete things can become fluid if we agree to see them differently.

The physical landscape at Tempelhof is unchanged: the buildings, the runway, even a couple of airplanes. The only major new addition is a biergarten - which seems sensible enough - beer is tricky to conjure up in your mind, and crucial to the enjoyment of a sunny afternoon in Germany.

Walking down the runway - a habitat normally reserved for giant winged things - is a strangely intimidating and invigorating experience. I felt like an ant. An ant sadly bereft of wings and lots of other stuff. But an ant who could do just about anything, given a little time just a lucky break or two.


  1. Beautiful post. And about a city close to my heart, which is now yearning to attempt a take-off on the Tempelhof runway.



  2. beautiful writing there - I HATE flying with children too - its fine with 1 but more than one and it all goes pear shaped remarkably quickly I find

  3. It sounds like you had a great time, never seriously considered visiting Berlin, especially with 2 children in tow, but you've just made me change my mind! And I know what you mean re wind the bobbin up! Nat

  4. Gorgeous post!
    I've been delaying flying with the little people, but it seems that the longer I leave it - the more little people there are in my family haha!!
    You've inspired me to. If it all goes wrong with four children on board, I'll totally blame you ;-)

  5. Love the description of our city! I especially like the idea of Tempelhof as a concrete-based recycling project of humogous proportions. That flea market performance was something really special; I think Berlin was putting on its most spontaneous and fun face to lure my sweet nieces back over again ASAP to play with Neffe, who misses them very much. XO from Tanta.

  6. Also love the description of Berlin. I've lived here since 2007 and have a 1-year-old and I can safely say that we've never sung 'Wind the bobbin up' but we have had lots of lovely fleamarket adventures! :-)
    Come back again soon!

  7. Converted airport... sounds awesome, I wish we had the same spontaneity and imagination as the Germans. Seriously.

  8. Ahhh. I thought you had been a little quiet. Glad to hear you were off gallivanting. I am lucky enough to have flown into Tempelhof a few times before it closed - my big sister lives in a city not far from Berlin - and it really felt like arriving in the 'East', which of course it is/was.


    PS. Don't hate me, but I think that I have neatly avoided 'Wind the effing Bobbin up' by moving to Spain. I have yet to discover what the equivalent is here.

  9. Had a peek around your blog. Your writing is so clever! (and funny!)...

    So glad you stopped by - am following you back.

    And I hate flying sans or with kids. Sigh.


  10. Yaye you're back! I went away Wednesday last week but only to Peppa Pig World haha so I'm on catch-up.

    Yet another brilliantly written post Rachel, glad you had a great time. I've only flown with MC once before when we went to the Canaries last May - thankfully she was fine but ask me again mid-June when we return from Italy *sigh*

    I can't imagine what it's like with 2!

    p.s. I too feel like screaming like a banshee at passport control.

  11. One of the things I envy of children is their sense of entitlement (and confidence) to scream like banshees when the mood hits. Society appears to approve and validate this. I wonder if we would be healthier adults if we were permitted to do this freely without fear of being haul off to an asylum.

    Thank you for your visit. I'm a happy new follower and will stop by again soon.

  12. Now I want to move to Berlin - I'd like a pretend job right about now!

  13. That sounded like a fabulous time. Germany is certainly different. I've been considering Germany as a place to move to after here and this makes me consider more. Well written!

    Na razie! (for now)

  14. We flew with the kids in December. I will be leaving it another couple of years before we go again! (I may be over it by then) Crazy!!!!

    Oh how I loved my time in Berlin. It is a zany, artistic, vibey city. So German and yet, so not. Many good memories. Happy your trip was so successful x

  15. I enjoy flying on the outward trip with the children but never on the return one laden with washing, sandy towels and crabby children!

    Glad it all worked out

  16. Such a good read and well done on braving your fear of flying with little people! It sounds like it was totally worth while. I am flying direct from NZ to the UK for 3 weeks in August... With an 18 month old; I am already having nightmares in anticipation!!

  17. Converted airport... sounds awesome, I wish we had the same spontaneity and imagination as the Germans. Seriously.