Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Monkeying around on the way to the airport

We're on the M5 when we pass a bus chuntering cheerfully along on the inside lane. It bears the livery of Gibbons Coach Holidays.

As we drive by, I peer as best I can into the windows, hoping to spot a posse of long-limbed monkeys swinging down from the luggage rack, and swiftly mooning in unison from the back window.

In my head I can hear the lar gibbons that used to sing and whoop, whoop, whoop across the courtyard and valley at Cricket St Thomas in the good old days when it was a wildlife park.

But we overtake before my imagination overtakes me. The next coach is Hatton Premier Class Travel and I envisage sedate, upmarket passengers, all wearing tiaras and monocles.

At the airport, I'm flabbergasted not to be searched, as, usually, I set off every alarm going. My laptop takes an age to come through security and I have a minor panic attack fearing that all my writing and photos have been wiped from the hard drive during the scanning process.

We weave our way through Duty Free, find a seat in the departures lounge and gather our thoughts. Over the tannoy, the announcer invites a Mr Routledge on the 1pm flight to Athens to check-in desk number twenty-one. And then I see a man who says he's Mr Routledge with Mrs Routledge (who sadly is not Patricia), at the information desk, asking what they should do as they've already come through the gates of hell that is security, had their bags checked and don't want to go through the trauma of it all over again.

Mr Grigg treats me to the £3.99 Meal Deal at W H Smith rather than pay an arm and a leg for something soft and unappetising on the plane. Customers are looking at the chill cabinet, mouths agape like confused gibbons. Calories are uppermost in my mind following the excesses of Christmas but I reject anything with chicken in it (probably factory farmed and pumped full of rubbish), ham (ditto), tuna (endangers dolphins), salmon (farmed and fed on a diet of chemicals). I think about egg and cress but it's not free range and, even if it were, an egg sandwich is not the most sociable thing to take on a plane because the smell of the pack being opened is like someone passing wind. There is no salad (probably sprayed with pesticide in any case) so I go for Wensleydale cheese and pickle, figuring that at least if it's a named cheese it might be made to a certain standard and with care.

To be honest, I'm still concerned about the Routledges as I make my choice, which probably explains why I pick up a packet of cheese and onion crisps with no thought to what's gone in them or how they've been made. And then I'm dumbfounded by the range of drinks in plastic bottles which, if they're not full of sugar, are instead stacked full of aspartame which more than likely will cause me to behave like a gibbon on the plane.

By the time I've chosen, Mr Grigg is already in the queue but my own purse is deep within the recesses of my hand luggage so I do the family whistle, he turns around and I'm met with sighs and a stern face when I ask him if he can take my selection as well. A twinkly old man who is two behind my husband in the queue smiles at me and winks.

At the self-service till, Mr Grigg is laden down with two lots of meal deals, an extra bottle of water, a newspaper and no bag. There are no manned tills and no space to put the goods before scanning. There are bloops and bleeps and Mr Grigg is still there when the twinkly man walks past me as I guard our hand luggage in an aisle featuring those toilet seat-shaped travel cushions. He gestures with his head towards Mr Grigg and says 'still grumpy'.

We stop for a coffee and go to Starbucks because there are no independent retailers from which to choose. The list of drinks is as long as a gibbon's arm. I go for a flat white and then change it to breakfast tea because I haven't yet had my morning cuppa and it's fast approaching lunchtime.

"And which tea would madam like?" Mr Grigg says.

And I don't know why but I'm tempted to whoop like a gibbon or at least laugh like Cheetah the chimp from Daktari and request PG Tips, in homage to my favourite adverts as a child but which these days would never be allowed.

Next stop, Athens. I'll keep you posted.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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