Sorry to keep banging on about it, but yesterday, I found myself going from Marseille Mp3 to Stansted Airport, or London Stansted, as they would have you believe. It must come as quite a shock for naive travellers to find that London consists of a huge airport surrounded by fields..... ‘we were somehow expecting somewhere a little more..... well, classy. Where’s Madame Tussaud’s?’
I like travelling, but not sitting on planes for short hops. If you’re going on a long flight, there’s the anticipation of arriving at the other end, quite possibly in a place you’ve never visited before, plus you can watch a film, something I rarely do.I had the dubious privilege of seeing both the Mr Bean films on long haul flights. It’s also an excuse to drink lots of Bloody Marys, based on the sound Irish principle of there being ‘the eatin’ and drinkin’ in it.’
Little flights put me in a bad mood, with the exception of one in Oregon, where the pilot of a thirty-seater came round and distributed cans of beer before takeoff.
I left the house with plenty of time to spare and could probably be heard grumbling under my breath from a distance. As I arrived in the outskirts of Nimes, I glanced over to the passenger seat and suddenly was aware that my boarding pass didn’t seem to be protruding from my wallet anymore. I pulled over and searched the car. It was gone. I had the bright idea of popping over to the technical university, where we used to work, to make another copy, but found that there was no-one around who could help. At this point I decided to set off for the airport and pay the fee. When I got back to the car, I couldn’t find my telephone. It had been on the seat, like my boarding pass, but now there was just a conspicuous space.
The other problem was that I had very little money and only enough petrol to get to Marseille. Not a problem normally, but, probably due to the rising stress levels, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the pin code for my card. I went to a cash machine and tapped a number. 'Code incorrect.' I tried again; ditto. Out of desperation and the prospect of having to go home and book another flight, money loss, etc, I made one last heroic digital attempt and to my utter astonishment, my money was delivered to me. Wish I could remember what number it was.
By this time, I was running late and have to confess that I jumped a couple of red lights when no-one was about and drove like a maniac for the remaining hour or so to the airport.
I arrived breathless and told my story to the girl at the famous hated Irish airline desk. To my surprise, she just printed out a thing which looked like a till receipt and handed it over for no charge.
I was suffused with relief and made my way to the dismal passenger lounge, where the flight was already being called. We then spent the obligatory 45 minutes or so downstairs in a disorderly queue. It is possible to pay extra for priority boarding. How one extricates oneself from a rugby scrum to do this is a mystery. Do Ryanair charge you for using your own elbows to get to the front of the line?
Things were starting to go swimmingly. I settled myself in a seat and got going on my Hilary Mantel. It was then that another disturbing thought came into my head: where is my wallet? I definitely had it when I got on the plane, but now, of it there was no sign. Being by the window, I didn’t want to disturb the two guys sitting next to me. I asked them if perhaps they were sitting on it, but there was nothing. I reassured myself that I had put it in my bag, but it was bothering me. I decided that, at least I had my passport, which I could see nestling in my top pocket. I’d worry about the hire car once I got though customs.
As soon as we landed I took my bag down and checked. No wallet. I got on the floor with beating heart and there it was. More relief.
We got off the plane and as I was wheeling my bag down the endless corridors, I happened to glance down. My passport had disappeared. This time there were no maybes. I knew that it must have fallen out when retrieving my wallet.
I reported my loss to the customs man, who was very understanding. Luckily I had ID in the form of my French driver’s licence bearing my photo, name and address. I handed this over and after about another 75 pages of Hilary M, he returned and told me I could go through. Apparently, they can verify it all by computer.
I finally got to my dad’s about two hours late and this morning emailed the lost property people used by the airlines. So far there has been no reply.
They say that travel broadens the mind. Can this be achieved whilst simultaneously having a nervous breakdown?