Monday 23.08.10 – The last of the packing is complete, I look at the pile of technology, required for travel, chargers, USB cables etc. They get slipped between layers of shirts and socks and before I know it, it’s time to leave for Stansted airport. We plan on arriving with an hour and half to spare before the flight at15.05. I hate having to rush. I halt Siouxsie mid flow, and switch off the iPod thinking, I’ll get the second half of ‘Right Now’, by The Creatures, when the Ryanair aeroplane is airborne.
How wrong can I be. We set off and everything is going well, the traffic should be sparse, it’s after rush hour and the middle end of the school holidays. No one has told the congested lanes of the M6 this. Traffic lurches along, getting up to 50 MPH, then in the glare of red tail lights, slows to 30. All three lanes are moving at a turgid pace, pretty soon we come to the M6 snarl-up spot. Junction 11 to junction 8. I sigh, being used to this awful inevitable bottleneck, at least when we get passed the M5 turn off we’ll be motoring.
How wrong can I be 1. Usually after the M5 slip road at junction 8, the traffic eases and the travelling masses spread out, after miles of enforced confinement. Today it doesn’t, and to add insult to injury we start to slow down, there’s a men at work sign perched on the barrier of the central reservation. This is followed by a speed camera warning and a 50 MPH minimum. Then we come to a complete stop, gradually inching our way southwards, until we see sign number three telling us the inside lane is closed in 800 yards. Following instructions we all change lanes, allow others to filter in and secretly despise the people who continue yards becomes down the inside lane hoping to creep in nearer the lane closure. 800 yards becomes 600, 600 shrinks to 400, 400 to 200, and 200 dissolves into nothing, no lane closure, no speed camera, not even a cone in sight. You can see the anger on everyone’s faces as they realise the congestion and added journey time is down to an inept road worker not clearing away the signs.
That’s it I think, let’s just get there and have a coffee. How wrong can I be 2. We hit a section of road bordered each side by orange and white cones. Yellow spies in the sky enforce us to slow to 50 MPH. The lanes become narrower and we’re all forced to jostle for space. This goes on for miles, the person in the blue Kia, slows right down to 35 MPH, and I’m forced to do the same. This goes on for miles. I wouldn’t mind as the sign proclaims, the work is creating improvements to the motorway, which in turn will ease the flow of traffic. But who is doing the work? There’s not a single road worker to be seen.
We pass, the ghost-town road works and I hope that’s the last of it. I’ll get some speed up and catch up on lost time I decide. How wrong can I be 3. The sky rips open and deposits a heavy stream of grey water upon us. Traffic slows, lights are switched on, angry red eyes glaring out from the spray. The spray lessons visibility, and at times it’s difficult to see the tail lights of the car in front. Lorries sail past, adding to this dense foggy wetness, and the average speed once again drops below 50 MPH. We drive in and out of pockets of the deluge, emerging into sunshine, that blinds us as it bounces off the wet tarmac.
At least the congestion around Luton airport has been sorted out I say, remembering sailing past last I drove this way. How wrong can I be 4. We approach the site of previous congestion and my heart sinks, the barriers and speed restrictions are back. Once more we all reduce speed en masse, and my eyes keeps flicking across to the SatNav and the little numerical icon in the corner indicating possible arrival time. We can still make It I say. How wrong can I be 5. The slip road onto the M25 suddenly stops, the rain is back and the spray is so bad people can be seen leaning forward, peering out through their windscreens. Eventually we slither onto the M25, and it’s congested – no surprise there, but it usually moves a moderately swift pace this time of day. How wrong can I be 6. Everyone seems to be taking it easy, a white box van swaps lanes from inside to middle with such regularity no one has a hope of getting past. The outer lane is full of slow moving lorries, and joining the van in it’s lane switching activities is a red transit: I’m sure they’re a double act. We motor along barely reaching 60MPH, when suddenly white van makes a mistake, he moves into the middle lane, I see a chance and putting my foot down just as his left indicator flashes again I swerve into the space and watch as the speedometer increases. In the face of adversity there’s a glimmer of hope. We leave the M25, onto the M11, people subconsciously seem to know they mustn’t delay my progress. I travel at great speed, pull off the slip road. Jubilant, I say, “We’re here,”
I follow the signs for the long stay car park, my brain is calculating how long it will take to get to the gate, as we’ve checked in online, so already have our boarding passes. How wrong can I be 7. We can do it, I think. We’re told to drive to car park Z, the one furthest away, we pass other alphabetised parking modules most of them are closed and empty. We pull into the crowded car park and troll up and down lanes of immobilised vehicles, looking for a space to secure our inside. Space found, we rush out to catch the courtesy bus, as we step out of the car, it rains again. David gets soaked as he didn’t bring a coat, saying he wouldn’t need one - How wrong could he be. We climb aboard the bus and sit….and sit…and sit…and sit. We ask the driver how long we will be, his reply is, “You should have set out earlier.” – Is it a criminal offence to think, ‘If only I had a gun’.
We get to the terminal, but all is in vain, as we enter the building the gate for our flight closes. We don’t run blindly in an attempt to get them to re-open it. We don’t stamp and come out with expletives. We do walk over to the Ryanair desk and talk calmly of our plight, to the portly Irish lady. Relieved of a further £200 we are booked on for the next flight, a full 28 hours away. We umm and err about sleeping in the car, but decide on a hotel, another £135 later and we’re in a deluxe double room at the Hilton. Sorry, but a free 189 ml bottle of red wine, a scatter cushion and an orange (how random) does not make a standard room deluxe.
We shower, and set off for dinner in the restaurant, it’s the Hilton so it must be good. How wrong can I be 8. Oh don’t get me wrong the food was great, the ambience wasn’t. What is it with restaurant’s and Sadé. I’m sure someone once wrote a review saying her music is ideal for a backdrop to eating. How wrong, It’s just a monotonous drone punctuated by the odd trumpet. I like the food but the music spoils it for me.
Tuesday 24.08.10 – After a fitful nights sleep, we shower and make our way from the hotel to the airport, arriving in departures at 09.00. Breakfast is scrambled eggs on toast and a cup of tea, at an exorbitant price, but they have you don’t they, no need to fear competition here, retailers are the boss in this situation. Breakfast over and a stroll around the meagre offering of shops at 11.15 I open my laptop to do some writing. Boredom is now beginning to nudge at me, I could read but I’m saving my book for the flight. Out of my hand luggage comes my iPod and the first song to shuffle is That’s Not My Name’ by The Ting Tings, which prompts me to wonder what has happened to them, isn’t it about time we were offered a second album?
8 seats away from me sleeps a man who I earlier saw check in for a flight to Turkey, his snores attracting attention; as it’s still relatively quiet they are amplified by the empty space. My iPod now begins to play the puerile, and absurdly named Shalimar song, ‘Inky Dinky Wang Dang Doo’. Time for a change of scenery methinks.
We find an internet service and print off our boarding passes and in the afternoon I’m sat in a public space on a blue seat that’s attached to another seven similar seats. I watch 2 lads in their late teens, both dressed as thug Papi’s, a pseudo menacing Latino air about them. They have purchased belt buckles with enough (fake) bling to blind a jeweller. One has a skull whilst the other is now sporting a crucifix that starts at his belly button and ends mid way down his genitals.
Wings play ‘Silly Love Songs’, a song that reminds me of playing truant from school, as I used to listen to the Wings at the Speed of Sound album in my teens on an old 8 track player. A group of men pass me, all are wearing those quarter length trousers. there’s something odd about this item of mans apparel, no matter how masculine the wearer is, they always seem to appear to mince when they wear these.
I look at the screen as Toyah, ‘The Vow’, (Acoustic Version) plays, there are now just 25 flights that need to have their gate number posted before ours. I sit and people watch, there’s a handsome young man serving at Est Bar, he has a tattoo on his next, I wonder if it’s something inspiring, maybe a simple word like ‘Sempre’. I wander over only to be disappointed, it’s just 4 random Chinese symbols. I do hope they mean something, and not something a tattoo artist has picked up off a take-away menu.
We finally board the plane, and within minutes we are airborne, the carriage is full with every available seat taken, the travelling cargo a mix of Italians and English. I am sandwiched on both sides, to left of me is a flatulent man, with a serious body odour issue, who falls asleep almost instantly. ‘Loss Of Contact’ by The Photo’s plays in my ears, as I watch two small Italian boys argue over an iPod.
Our cabin crew are, chief steward, Tomasz, a handsome, slim and stylish black man. A blonde girl who’s hair is scraped back so severely her nostrils are permanently flared and a chubby dark haired lad with a gap between each of his teeth big enough to pass a penny through.
One family are spread over many individual seats, the result of arriving at the last minute. They crowd the aisles as they move between each member to chat and pass on morsels of confectionary. I’m sure the constant stream of children running up the centre of the plane to exchange a kiss with Nonna is the real reason for the turbulence we momentarily experience. Unable to get past the steward smiles; a fake gappy one.
As we fly over Venice, ‘High Tide’ by The River City People begins to play. Let’s hope the people below don’t experience one. As the song changes and we are informed the Captain shall begin descent in ten minutes, I get a flash of a hairy midriff from a man reaching over for a baby.
Within minutes we have collected the car, I feel home at last and in the dark we drive from Pescara towards Casoli.
Apologies for any typo’s etc didn’t review it before posting.