“Dad, we can’t find our youngest brother.” So went the start of the text message that Mr M and I received as we settled into our seats on the plane. We were off to Thailand for our first proper family holiday with all three children since 2008, to meet Mr M’s sister and her family and celebrate her 50th birthday.
In a rare moment of wifely adoration, I had used my air miles to upgrade Mr M and myself to business class. The three Cost Centres had been left wandering around Heathrow. They had promised to be at the gate on time. Perhaps that had been just too much to ask for.
“CC#2 and I were teasing him and he ran off in a strop. Now we can’t find him anywhere. I have his boarding pass and passport and we have put out a public announcement.” While horrified, I was not surprised. The Cost Centres are now 21, 16 and 12, and the older two do occasionally gang up on the little one. Rather immature of them, as I have pointed out, but they always tell me to stop worrying, and that they all love each other really.
The text message ignited a mammoth on-board row about which of us was going to get off the plane and try to find #3. I flatly refused, on the grounds that I had worked more hours in the preceding months than Mr M and all three Cost Centres combined. I was not moving an inch. In the end Mr M grabbed his carry-on luggage and jacket and with a fit of expletives went back to where he had boarded the plane.
I had already become convinced that this holiday was jinxed. Our hotel in Koh Samui was flooded three days before we went and their kitchens and pool put out of action. Undeterred, we rebooked at the Hyatt in Hua Hin. Floods in Thailand, missing children, absolutely nothing was going to stop me having a holiday.
I had also left my office-full of colleagues to fend for themselves. Usually this is fine, but it all started to go pear-shaped even before I arrived at the airport.
One of my colleagues, who has been working on a particular transaction round the clock for months and was finally about to bring it to a conclusion, got an e-mail that same day from a key party saying that they wanted to pull out. She was completely distraught. And of course I was not there to give her a hug and say it would all be OK.
Then, to compound matters, my assistant, Observant Olivia (having breathed a sigh of relief that I was finally going to be off her hands for a week), had a call from the Metropolitan Police. They wanted to make an appointment to come and question me about some furniture that had been dumped illegally. They knew it was me, because I had been identified from the TV. OO lives in constant fear that I am going to get into trouble for saying or doing the wrong thing, and now her expectations had finally been met.
All this on the same day! The day that the Cost Centres broke up for the Easter holidays and we were leaving the country. The date, in case you hadn’t guessed, was April 1. The e-mail that my colleague had received had been sent by another member of my team, using a fake e-mail account he had set up for the purpose. And the policeman on the phone turned out to be calling from three floors above OO – it was someone she didn’t know, who had been persuaded to pretend he was in uniform. And me? I had already been taken in that day by Radio 4, which had broadcast an item about 3D radio.
And of course the CCs were all safely on board when they sent that text. They alerted their father to this just as he was trying to explain to the air hostess at the door why he wanted to get off the plane that he had just got on. When he returned to his seat I thought he was going to burst a vein, he was so furious. The CCs were unrepentant. “Dad,” the next text said, “it was a joke!”
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