It’s been a funny holiday. Coming out I was holding my breathe for fear of something cropping up that prevented us going. (I was more laid back last year but this one saw me heading out only 5 weeks into a new job).
A number of things ell in our favour this year, including an enlightened manager who rang me to reassure that of course I could take the holiday I had saved for in the preceeding year. For a few years the best price for flights that we could find was with the now defunct XL airlines. Monarch actually proved to be the cheapest this year and, with flights that enabled our friends to collect and return us to the airport with minimal disruption, became our airline of choice. First of the favours, we did not pay by credit card and our travel insurance did not cover for airline failure, (tip: Googling will show you a company that, since the start of October, will insure travellers now for £ 5 each way), we would have lost money if booked with XL.
We had a brainwave that made the start of our holiday the best sort, we stayed with best friends in Surrey the night before the flight out. We don’t see anywhere near enough of them and so it was a delight to be able to turn up and go hang out for the night and have breakfast together, (admittedly with only one of them as I baulk at rousing myself at 5am,particularly when not hitting the sack at the other end till the wee small hours). The staying was due to their generosity and we were further feted by having the delicious evening meal cooked from scratch, thank you very much, (you know who you are).
On reaching the airport we had a simple process to follow, dump bags at the express checkin; online checking in suits me as I am wired and have a gorgeous knew printer – photos etc when I get home but the extra motivation to do so was to prevent queuing at the airport, just my luck then that there happened to be 3 ordinary checkins empty and available at the same time as our dropping our bags. The next step we had planned was to go from checkin and get signed up for the retinal scan that means a very quick throughput at passport control when returning to the UK. Last year we were flying at the wrong time to get scanned, this year we started to get a little tense and skipped this to go straight through security and go and eat.
The Flying Horse (as I recall) is a Wetherspoons pub and is on the upper floor of the South Terminal departures area, accessible once one has passed through security. For once Cathy was patted down as well as me at the gates; I get chosen because I normally wear walking boots when travelling and the metal lace holders get picked up by the detectors. Once through security we headed for the Wetherspoons to get what I felt would be the best value refreshments and, as ours was a scheduled flight, we felt flavour on the ground beat bland in the air. The pub was spacious and had plenty of room. I particularly enjoyed the bookcases that formed the walls 2/3 of the way in to the pub and which, I later discovered, screened an area that had a large television showing the news and a live departures screen.
The books were shelf fillers, bought mainly by the box load for the purpose of filling shelves with books that looked old. I perused as many titles as were in reach and would have made an effort to read if we had more time, but this one I photographed (see left) as its title had resonance for me. I also got to thinking about all the people who might have previously owned the books in the shelves, I was assuming many owners given the wide range of genres, fiction and non-fiction, on display. I may not have been the best of company while doing this but Cathy did her best to tolerate it, knowing that I was in my element and the pull that books have always exerted on me.
Quite a surprise and a delight for the waiting bibliophile.
The trip to the gate went well and we go a seat in the departure lounge. The only slight minus was that we found that the seats we had chosen previously online were far enough down the plane that 2 other groups were asked to board ahead of us. That apart we got settled and enjoyed the trip out. The flight was a little over 4 hours and passed relatively quickly. Cathy watched some of the on board programmes and read a little. I tried to watch some BBC programmes on the iPlayer that I had downloaded but only managed an episode of the BBC Click show before I felt tired and couldn’t concentrate.
We arrived and were pleasantly surprised to see that the buses and steps for the plane were waiting nearby when the plane came to a halt, in fact we were through check-in and outside with our bags within 25 minutes of touch down. Our friends we actually just coming across the car park as we came out, we were that fast. Being in the tourism business they are well experienced in the timings for arrivals and said that it was easily the fastest they had known for landing to stepping outside.