By BARRIE MAHONEY [email protected]
Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.
As much as I love visiting friends and family in the UK, the necessary flight fills me with dread, which is why I avoid this tortuous ordeal as much as possible. No, it is not the actual flying part, nor the possibility of catching pig flu from all that recycled air, nor being crammed into airport buses like sardines. No, my horrors begin when packing my suitcase, or several in my case, a week or so before the trip.
Recent luggage restrictions are ridiculous; after all, my wash-bag alone is almost the entire weight allowance. Add to that all the necessary thermal underwear, gloves, scarves and gadgets that are essential for a trip to the UK, and you will understand the soul searching that I have to endure. Yes, I know, I am not alone in my whinging and I do fully understand all about global warming – as if an extra shirt or two would make any difference!
A good friend of mine recently decided to take me in hand when he heard of my forthcoming flight. “You will be wearing vests, so take just three shirts. Make each one last for two days and then go to the launderette,” he replied impatiently after hearing of my obvious distress.
Hmm, and a good dose of deodorant, I thought to myself, but not wishing to appear ungrateful, I continued to listen to his good advice. After all, my friend was an ex-marine who had travelled throughout South East Asia for several months with little more than a pair of shorts and a toothbrush. He taught me how to roll and not to fold my clothes. Did I really need to take an electric shaver, electric toothbrush, hairdryer and iron?
Two weeks later I was standing at the dreaded Gatwick airport, queuing to have my bags checked. I had suffered two weeks of just three shirts, visited the launderette twice, had plenty of showers and used lots of deodorant. No one had commented about my wearing the same items of clothing for two weeks and I stood with confidence in the queue waiting my turn.
“Had a good trip, sir?” came a friendly voice from a spotty youth wearing a smart uniform. This chirpiness took me back a little as both age and experience has taught me that such chirpiness from anyone official in airports throughout the world usually means trouble.
“You’re a little overweight, sir,” continued The Spotty Charmer, grinning broadly. I thought he could have chosen his phrasing a little better. After all, I have been wasting away on a diet for three months or so.
“How much overweight?” I snapped coldly, not about to indulge in pleasantries.
“Ten kilograms, sir. You must have bought a lot of stuff in the UK. I hope it’s worth it because that little lot will cost you 100 pounds sterling.” The Spotty Charmer had suddenly become officious and demanding in his voice, but he continued to smile broadly, although the breadth of the smile was thankfully restricted by the brace on his teeth.
“That’s impossible,” I replied. “Anyway, 10 kilograms at five pounds sterling per kilogram is only 50 pounds sterling. You are trying to overcharge me, young man.”
“Not so, sir. If you pre-book your excess luggage before your flight then you can have it for five pounds sterling per kilo. If not, it is 10 pounds sterling, sir.” I no longer liked the way he referred to me as “sir”. It had an evil resonance about it.
“What rubbish,” I spluttered. “How can I possibly foresee what the overall weight of my luggage will be until I have completed my trip. How can I judge that beforehand?”
“Well, that is your problem, sir. Will sir be taking anything out of his case or will sir be paying by credit card?”
“This is preposterous,” I exploded. “Sir will certainly not be taking anything out of his case,” I retorted, reluctantly offering my credit card.
“That’ll do nicely,” beamed The Spotty Charmer, whisking the card out of my hand and into his evil machine.
I sighed, knowing when I was beaten. How my friend had travelled the length and breadth of Asia with a pair of shorts and a toothbrush I shall never know.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s website: www.barriemahoney.com or read his latest novel, ‘Journeys and Jigsaws’ (ISBN: 9781843865384). © Barrie Mahoney