I am an hour shy of boarding my sixth flight in the past ten days, having recently spun through Bangkok and Hong Kong on various work assignments. Today, I am back in Thailand, awaiting a connection across to Islamabad, where I’ll be stationed for four days of meetings and workshops.
Two years back I penned a whimsical departure post on my last day in Pakistan, after a fascinating week there, and I’m excited about returning.
Travelling days like these play tricks with your mind. Today started with a 4:45am wake-up call from Florence, as she kicked off Day 2 of being six years old, albeit rather blurry-eyed and still coping with a sugar come-down from her Frozen themed birthday party yesterday after school. In the middle of the night, several hours from now, I’ll go to bed in the CARE staff house, in the centre of Islamabad, a masala omlette and some sweet tea awaiting me for breakfast when I wake up on Sunday.
I showed Flo where Pakistan was on a map this week. Her line of enquiry about my latest trip mainly focused on how many hours it would take to fly, and what meals I would eat on the plane. Like on many occasions with my children, their innocent – and on the surface, mundane – questions about life in general can be great levellers for the more typically preoccupied and convoluted minds of a parent.
That said, let me assure you of one thing: should you ever take on the challenge of hosting for your daughter a “cup-cake making” birthday party for eighteen kids, then do not expect this to have a similar ‘levelling’ effect. Whatsoever.
Only carnage – as any rational mind would have told you in advance – ensues when you mix up e-numbers, fruit juice, various cake products (cake balls on sticks, slices of birthday cake, and cupcakes made by the marauding Frozen wannabes themselves) and enough balloons and glossy pictures of Anna, Elsa and Yolaf the Snowman to sink a proverbial sleigh.
My youngest, Martha, was there too, in fancy dress, and the first to queue up to have her face painted. Whilst Flo dropped like a sack of overly stimulated and then utterly exhausted potatoes, around 8pm, Martha went on to surge well into the night-time, prancing around my kitchen declaring she “needed more candy”.
There are moments when I know I am being a good father, a hint of proud parent status leading me to believe that the fifteen minutes of homework completed, or the after school swimming lesson over, are gradually cementing my legacy as a responsible and “cut out” Lord of the Dads.
Yesterday, I had even meticulously prepared my signature pass-the-parcel game, pouring significant money back into the local Saigon toy-shop economy in the process.
And, then, just like that, wind forward to mid-way through the party, and behold a truly horror movie scary spectacle: eighteen pairs of starry-eyed, blue icing lipped children, pumped up with fizzy pop and about a kilo of sugar between them, all jostling to open each other’s pass-the-parcel prizes, before running wild around the venue scouring for their next fix.
It was Walt Disney re-enacting a fight scene from Braveheart. With Katy Perry tunes (Flo’s current favourite) blaring in the background.
I read this morning that there was rioting in Glasgow yesterday as the Scottish referendum results were declared – a picnic, I tell you, in contrast to a gaggle of youngsters tanked up on cake.
Happy Birthday, my darling Florence. I love you with all my heart, but may the sugar-free days of the remainder of your youth be plentiful.