So, holiday after holiday I have given in to the male-induced lunacy of paying ten quid less for a ticket so that I may drag myself shivering and semiconscious from my snoring-burrow into the bathroom and thence to the foul , freezing car.
Two hours of mindless motorway tedium follows, punctuated only by a constant stream of brainless-tunes-from-the-nineteen Seventies courtesy of Radio Torment, and the relentless crunch of my companion troughing Cheese and Onion crisps.
When, several hours later, release eventually comes, it is predictably at some cost. Although this is not actually written down, anyone who ever visits airports will know that they are subject to the Law of Airport Inconvenience, which falls under the general umbrella of the Law of Sod, and applies to every single thing about the airport, including the location of the only free parking spaces
Necessarily, these must only exist in a corner between the bins and the perimeter fence at some two kilometres from the actual building. So, having emerged from the car, there follows a workout more suited to a boot camp than a holiday, heaving and humping suitcases onto trollies and buses and escalators until the experience culminates at a conveyor belt staffed by evil minded uniforms.
If I am lucky, these packaged souls will take one look and allocate me the seat with the toilet in front and the ADHD four year old behind. If I am unlucky, they will force me to redistribute the contents of the luggage to fit the weight requirement. I will have to open my suitcase, and as twelve pairs of comfy knickers and half a bottle of gin erupt onto the airport floor, many other passengers will look on with great joy.
Eventually we will free to wander towards Security, definitely the most magical part of the airport and possibly the pinnacle of the whole experience. If the forces of darkness ever got hold of Disneyland, this would be the result. First, the queue. One can only marvel at the masterpiece of crowd-management that crams 3,000 barely awake people into a space designed for 300.
Then, the opportunity to extract one’s ‘electronic devices’ from where they are resting at the very bottom of the hand luggage, bringing with them half a packet of biscuits, last night’s socks, three spoons, a maverick pair of mens underpants and the shoe that wouldn’t fit in the hand luggage.
Next, arrival at the Enchanted Gate. Quite possibly the most perverse piece of kit in the whole place, this is able to reliably detect and squawk about things which are simply not there. I am not certain whether the officials on the other side of the great gate are actually human, or robot but I know without any doubt at all that they will stop me. Will I be patted down, or have the air around me swept with a thing like a Hoover? Will I have to stand there while the official concerned waves a bat device all around me like I am the object of a weird Feng Shui ceremony?
Maybe, as once on a flight leaving a major UK airport, I will have my knicker elastic pinged, or if I get really lucky, a dog in full uniform will be led over to sniff my bag. But that was Canada…
Whatever, since the Other will derive huge entertainment from this performance, I distract myself from the humiliation by praying that his belt will set off the alarm and he has to take it off and his trousers will descend round his ankles.
Finally, I will be rewarded for providing the cabaret by being granted permission to enter the Kingdom of Boredom aka the cattle pen called Departures.
Herein lies the surreal experience of being forced to sit on the edge of a hard orange plastic chair for three hours and twenty minutes , or until madness forces us to experiment with experiences like buying 250 ml of diet coke for £4.75.
Around six hours into the whole ordeal, I might seek mental respite by wandering bag-faced and pig-eyed out of the cattle pen called Departures and into the toilets ( which, incidentally, always have metal pans) Here I will be greeted by a terrifying hag in the mirror, a vision of someone who has died and whose funeral face was put on by an evil craftsman who learnt his trade at the paint counters of B&Q.
One cannot change the unfortunate fact that the Alps are not conveniently placed in the Midlands. Therefore, in the interests of time and economy the aeroplane beats the car hands down.
One cannot change the even more unfortunate fact that the aeroplane and all his winged mates live in soulless compounds in the back of beyond, and that to gain access to him one must pass through ranks and ranks of ranks of uniformed po-faces whose very mission is to make you blush with the guilt of some transgression you never knew existed.
One cannot change the reality that unless one wants to pass entire summers and winters unable to tell whether it is August or Christmas Day, it is necessary to find a way out from the shadow of our National Cloud, and go somewhere where you can see the sky. It’s a basic fact of emotional wellbeing , of keeping a sense of humour….
“So… none have been handed in then? No senses of humour? Thought not – you probably wouldn’t recognise one anyway, not even if it leapt out and bit you on your liveried bum. You would probably toss it into the big transparent bin with all the sad confiscated tweezers and plastic bottles. Never mind.
Maybe it’ll turn up when I unpack. It’s quite dark , so it’s easy to miss sometimes.
Except in bright sun and snow. And against dazzling seas, and under overdriven moonlight , and the other joyful places, and almost always on the far sides of airports…..”