Operation JJ, or to give it, it’s full title Operation Jet-set Jackie, took place on the date of 10.10.2010. It was the culmination of months of planning and reconnaissance, and….. Okay so I’m lying, it was the result of a few messages over the social networking site Facebook. Basically Becky, had split up from her fiancé in Greece, (Malia) and had moved back to the UK. Sadly she had to leave her beloved Jack Russell behind: Hence the name ‘Jackie’. One day as the iPod shuffled bringing forth ‘Material World’ by Tracy Chapman, I checked my Facebook page. I noticed Becky’s status update read, Becky, desperately needs to find £500 by the end of the week to fly my dog over to the UK from Greece...anyone got any fast money-making ideas? :-(
I, being concerned; (for concerned read nosey) call to enquire what the upshot is. Ten minutes later I am sat on the sofa with said friend, drinking a chilled glass of Fragolino and hearing all the gossip. Basically, her boyfriend says he wants to go travelling, so if she can’t get the dog by Friday, he’ll give it away. (A bluff we think). In the meantime a girl named Ingrid, is leaving Malia at the weekend and heading home to The Netherlands. She says she can carry the dog to Amsterdam airport. Another glass of wine and I come up with a cunning plan. Let’s bob over to France on a ferry, skirt through Belgium and pop over the border into Holland and pick up the pooch.
I drive back from Becky’s house listening to ‘State Farm’ by Yazoo. I am giddy with excitement, or is it the wine. I check ferry sailings and consult maps and the trusty Satnav, to determine timings, Becky liaises with Ingrid and before long a plan has been formed; in the process we have also adopted the persona of secret agents. Becky becomes Red49, I am Pink61 and the secret agent we are about to rescue (Holly) is Green 22.
Sunday 10.10.10 and the time is 04.45 and Barbra Streisand sings ‘Promises’ from her hugely successful 1980 album collaboration with Barry Gibb. I arrive at Becky’s at 05.00 and with Red49 and Pink61 in position our mission begins.
Becky has prepared enough food to keep a family of four happy on a day out, we have chicken sandwiches, ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, chicken and cheese, ham and cheese, etc etc…. today will be a sandwich lottery, it’ll be a case of dip hand into the bag and retrieve your mystery butty. As we pull away from the kerb Kelly Clarkson starts to sing, ‘Where Is Your Heart?’.
The drive to Dover seems to pass by quickly, music shuffles as we chat, we’re obviously suffering from lack of sleep as the conversation is punctuated with jokes and bad impressions of people from TV drama’s. We spend the latter part of the journey pretending to be soap opera villains, and come to the conclusion that to be a good one, one must have a moustache and a fake French accent. We park up on board our ferry, The Pride of Dover and as ‘Gasolina’ by Bonde Do Role finishes playing I remove the iPod from it’s dock and we move upstairs to the lounge.
Our first objective is to act like proper secret agents and check out the lounge for enemy agents and potential Cretan spies from Malia. This done we settle down with a large coffee courtesy of the ‘Costa’ chain and have our first go on the sandwich lottery.
First out of the bag is chicken and mayo, followed by Becky’s enormous bag of sliced cucumber. There’s very few other people on board, an unfortunate looking girl saunters past giving us a side long glance, as does a young mother with three children, I say children, I can tell by their height they are such, but the two boys look like old men, maybe they’ve been deprived of sleep too. After another pointed stare by a passer by I come to realise, that perhaps we’re laughing far too loud for this early hour. Another go on the sandwich lottery gives us cheese, and the obligatory cucumber.
Calais greets us with brilliant sunshine and the promise of good weather, we’re quickly off the ferry and meandering our way along the French highway, heading towards Dunkirk, which Becky believes because of it’s name should really be in Scotland. We cross the border into Belgium as Lene Lovich sings ‘Wonderful One’ and Becky is unimpressed, not with the Michigan born singer but with the little blue sign that simply says Belgique. She reckons there should be signs similar to those in the UK that mark our borders. Next thing we plan to do is to write to the European Union and begin a campaign for large roadside signs that read ‘Welcome to Belgium’ possibly with the country’s flag upon them.
We stop to fill up, the car with fuel and ourselves with fizzy drinks. Beside us is a car and sat on the front seat is a Jack Russell terrier, we deem this to be a good omen, and an indication that our mission shall be a success. With Ian Dury and the Blockheads playing ‘In-Betweenies’ we leave the service station and head north.
We cross over the border into the Netherlands, once again no impressive indication that we’re in another country apart from the language used on the road signs. Everywhere we look someone seems to riding a bicycle, we drive through pretty villages with squat little houses clad with timber when we come to stop at a junction beside a warehouse building sporting the unfortunate name of Tampon.
We arrive at the airport in Amsterdam just as our contact Ingrid texts to say she’s clearing customs. We dash into a shop to get Ingrid a bottle of wine and to buy Lizzie a large Toblerone: It seems that very airport in the world sells this chocolate product in vast quantities, is triangular confection that popular? We wait outside the arrivals gate and before long Ingrid appears carrying a pet carrier, and within seconds the door is opened and Holly crawls out and into the arms of Becky. Sadly the little dog is wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, which she was dressed in prior to departure from Crete, but despite looking like Chav-dog, she’s adorable.
Once Ingrid had been thanked a multiple of times and Holly had had a drink, we started on the journey back to Calais. We have a three hour journey straight through the centre of Belgium and four and a half hours in which to do it in. However the roads that were clear earlier are now cramped with lorries also heading for the ferry ports of Calais and Dunkirk. We arrive at the port just as our ferry leaves and therefore join the queue for the next one. It’s discovered that Holly’s pet passport is missing a signature, nothing too serious, just a vets moniker, the lady in the border control borrows a pen from us and signs it, asking us to look away as she does it. Once sorted, we park up on board ‘The Pride of Kent.’
The final go at the sandwich lottery takes place, and I win a warm cheese one that has languished at the bottom of the bag all day. We drink coffee and by now have signs of fatigue clearly showing. I pop to the loo and it’s like a scene from a horror movie, the cubicle doors are all clanging open and closed with the rise and fall of the ferry. It’s disconcerting trying to pee, half expecting a lunatic wearing a mask to lunge out from behind a door.
The drive back is dull, there’s something numbing about that long trek back from Dover to Staffordshire in the dark. We’re both fading fast having been awake and travelling non stop for almost 24 hours, we put Lady Gaga on the iPod, and sing along like a pair of demented X Factor contestants. Exactly 25.5 hours later I drop Becky off at home with Holly and a bag minus sandwiches. Agents Red49 and Green22 officially retire. I drive home as Lady Gaga launches into ‘Bad Romance’ once more. Fifteen minutes later as a door closes on the cold Monday air outside, Agent Pink61 also retires.
Apologies for any typo's and spelling mistakes, I've not double checked this entry.