Transatlantic transfer hell left Judith Napier more than sympathetic with her toddler's tantrums
Cold and rainy: a typical Aberdeen morning in mid-summer. Our trip to the US to introduce little F (10 months old) to her grandfather means a 4am start.

Husband and I crash suitcases around in a fashion designed to help F wake naturally, eat her porridge and ease her gently into the day. Finally realise that tiptoeing for the past 10 months has not been necessary - F snores heedlessly until we turf her out of her cot and sling her, her security baton and flask of porridge into the car.

At Aberdeen airport, computer problems mean long queues. More delays en route cause us slight jitters - we have still got a further two connections to go.

Luckily, we have enough time to make the Schipol-to-Seattle flight, where, we have been assured, we will find bulkhead seats and a bassinet for F. Wrong. We get mid-row seats in the central block alongside a three-year- old who has a flying phobia - unsurprising, then, that she throws spectacular hysterics when flight attendants insist she is firmly strapped in for the entire duration of a 30-minute delay. Only her vomiting persuades them that seat belts may not be essential while we are still stationary.

Assurances that baby food can be heated up prove to be as reliable as the bulkhead-and-bassinet line, so F sups cold chicken stew. Sleeps. Next- door child yips. F wakes. Hours pass and F, flailing her security baton, grows increasingly wound up, egged on by nearby passengers who mistake her wild over-excitement for natural good spirits. Boisterous peekaboo games add to the incipient meltdown.

We land with a sobbing, earachy, stew-stained child and a father who is so fraught that, despite icebergs and a sinking ship on the in-flight film, is totally convinced that he's watched The Full Monty.

Timing's tight but we'll make our Spokane connection if, as we've been assured, parents with young children are first off the plane. But parents with young children are last off the plane.

Two hours later we've cleared immigration, had F's fruit supplies confiscated, and missed our flight. Still, we're assured, there are dozens of flights to Spokane. But Seattle is in chaos after a fogbound morning, and the best offer is 10pm - eight hours away without so much as a banana for the kid. F is zonked in her stroller, so temporarily unavailable for tantrum. I have one on her behalf.

We trail round check-in gates following wild rumours of earlier flights. At one of these, a smug official confiscates the fruit-knife we carry for preparing F's food, but as his colleagues have already swiped the fruit, this seems only fair.

Husband grimly stalks check-in clerks. I slouch lumpenly in a hell of competing Tannoys, luggage, Americans eating huge, oozing pizzas, and clutch a baby so wretched that she's even losing confidence in her security baton.

Finally, at 7pm, we get a standby flight on a small plane with no air- conditioning. On our way! Almost airborne - but then it is back to the terminal to seek out a missing hub-cap. Long, murderously, for that fruit- knife.

By 11.30pm, we've arrived at Spokane, and have then driven to grandfather's lakeside cottage in the wilds of Idaho.

In the shower, I wearily scrape off the worst of porridge, stew, and sweat from baby and self, only to find there's a frog and a slug in the soap dish.

Emerge, shrieking.

"You didn't disturb them, did you?" demands grandfather sternly.

Fair enough - no-one had assured me that there wouldn't be a frog and a slug in the shower, so I really shouldn't complain.

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