I know everyone feels anti-climactic after a holiday – you’re all spent up and you’re returning to the reality of rain, work, buying new school uniforms, unpacking and washing, cleaning, cooking meals…
But at least anti-climactic is calm and uneventful. There was nothing calm and uneventful about arriving home from sixteen days in Portugal in the early hours of Friday morning.
We’d been travelling since 4.45pm. The flight wasn’t delayed but there were roadworks on the way home from the airport that sent us on a diversion and added a good half an hour onto our transfer.
Nobody had slept for longer than ten minutes on the return journey so when we finally arrived home at 1am, all anybody wanted to do was to collapse into their own bed and sink into oblivion.
It wasn’t meant to be.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as we thanked the mini-bus driver, wearily unlocked the front door and dragged the cases over the threshold. The house was blissfully quiet, thanks to our friend who was dog-sitting. The house was also seemingly spotless, thanks to a full blitz before we went.
Not understanding the irony as I said it, I sighed, ‘Isn’t it nice coming back to a clean house?’ and dropped down gratefully onto the sofa.
Meanwhile, Eric had gone upstairs to get ready for bed as the boys drank some milk before getting into their pyjamas. Then all hell let loose as we heard a strange, high-pitched noise coming from our bedroom.
It turned out the noise was coming from my husband and was accompanied by a dance that Mr Bean would be proud of as he hopped around, frantically brushing his legs with his hands. We stared, transfixed, thinking that spending the last two weeks with us had finally finished him off.
On closer inspection, however, we realised that the dancing and brushing was to get rid of the tiny black dots that were clustered around his ankles. Dots that moved. Dots that jumped. Dots that turned out to be a flea infestation that were trying to find a home in the hairs of my near-hysterical husband’s legs.
My first thought was to leave him to it and go and book me and the kids into a hotel. Then I noticed the time, remembered I had no money and instead just ran away without helping him instead.
By the time we got downstairs, we were all doing the Mr Bean dance and manically swatting ourselves and each other, like some bad ‘Three Stooges’ sketch. The boys, never ones to miss an opportunity, were whacking each other with reckless abandon, delighted to have the opportunity to smack each other without fear of retribution.
It would appear that our house had been the location for a fortnight’s flea party and the guest list was extensive. Even though we’d treated the dogs and the house before we went away, the absence of regular hoovering had been the equivalent of a free bar and all-you-can-eat buffet.
Funny how the old adrenaline kicks in and suddenly you’re not so tired anymore. Even when we couldn’t see them any more we continued to swipe at fresh air amidst cries of, ‘Get them off me!’ ‘I can still see them!’ ‘They’re jumping on me!’ (I’m scratching now as I recall the scene.)
Caught up in the moment and deliriously tired, Z wailed, ‘I’m frightened!’
I tried to reassure him with, ‘They can’t hurt you, sweetheart. They just make you itchy’, whilst trying not to visibly shudder, tear off all my clothes and writhe around naked on the floor.
Eric (possibly embarrassed by his earlier girly screeching) masterfully grabbed the vacuum cleaner and growled, ‘I’m going in. Save yourselves.’
(Not really. He grumbled something about just wanting to go to f***ing sleep and reluctantly trudged upstairs. Although I did hear muttered cries of ‘Die, you little bastards!’ as he brandished the suction tool.)
Eventually, confident he’d got most of them, he gave us the ‘all clear’ and we tentatively tried again…shortly followed by more dancing, hopping, swatting and shouting. We traipsed back downstairs.
It was now 1.30 in the morning and the boys were all on the verge of tears and almost falling asleep standing up. ‘Let’s just go to bed’, Eric declared.
‘I am NOT sending my children to bed with insects jumping on them!’ I retorted primly, despite only days before letting my son suck on a dark brown stain from a beach towel that we thought was Oreo ice-cream but couldn’t be sure.
‘What are we going to do, then?’ he asked resignedly.
‘We need flea spray. Asda’s open for 24 hours.’ With a walk that was akin to approaching the electric chair, Eric went for supplies whilst I huddled in the conservatory with the kids, trying not to touch anything and Googling ‘flea infestation’ on my phone.
The advice was to vacuum – check…and then steam clean your carpets. Funnily enough, 1.45am is not the ideal time to be hiring a steam cleaner so I improvised by mopping the carpets with scalding water and washing up liquid.
When Eric returned, he had purchased not one, but THREE cans of flea spray. He held one aloft, finger poised over the nozzle and one poking out of each pocket of his hoodie, like a modern day cowboy about to have a shoot out. (I think he was trying to regain some dignity after screaming like a little girl when he first discovered them.)
Whilst he sprayed (I make it sound like he’s a tom cat on heat), I washed the settee throws and pillow cases for good measure and mopped the floors downstairs. At this point it was 2am.
Finally, after showering the boys (just in case) they crawled into bed, at 2.15am.
Eric and I turned off the light, slumped into bed, snuggled down…and heard ‘Muuummm! Zach’s got one on his neck!’
I jolted upright, swung my legs over the side and was just reaching for the can of flea spray when the same voice called out, ‘Oh no, it’s OK. It’s not a flea. It’s just a freckle!’
FFS. Welcome home.