What I did on my Holidays…

…(two years ago). Same old same old, porting blogs from old site on to this one. This year’s holiday was a four night break at Butlintz, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Back in 2011 we rented a villa in Florida with my sister and my nephew, Alex, and did Disney etc. The following is the first of five blogs I posted on the topic, detailing our flights out…

Well despite the best efforts of hurricane Irene and the devastating effects of what I will describe for reasons of dramatic tension as amoebic dysentery I am home from Florida intact (externally, at least), as is the two yards of twittage I lovingly refer to as Benjamin, my son.

As we took off from Gatwick, me screaming with every wobble of the wings we had been so thoughtfully given window seats alongside, I smiled at Ben and asked ‘are you excited yet?’.
‘S’pose so’, he mumbled, ‘but I still think Disneyland’s for kids…’

This anti-Disney stance was something Ben had acquired from his friends, so I explained again the sour-grape reasoning behind their less than enthusiastic responses to his holiday agenda, asking if he felt Lewis (BFF) would really prefer his week in the lake district with his mum and his gran to 2 weeks in Florida or whether Jian’s (1st deputy friend outside of school gates) 6 week X-Box-in-his-bedroom-fest would be all he was cracking it up to be. I further suggested that had they been offered the alternative of Disneydom and freshly squeezed orange juice there would have been screams of agony as the agent proffering said tickets had his or her arms ripped from their sockets… jian holidays

The plane levelled out a few minutes later and the tannoy crackled into life with the announcement that the in flight movie would only be available to half the passengers, as the headphone system was faulty at various points down the planes length.  Guess which area we were in? We were offered a complimentary drink – beverage or soft, to a maximum value of £1.60 – by way of compensation for this inconvenience, but I couldn’t help thinking this was a pretty poor deal considering the other half of the plane not only got to enjoy Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Source Code’ but various other televisual treats along the way. Adding insult to injury, they were also included in the complimentary drink circulation because the staff didn’t know precisely which seats were affected and it seemed churlish (in their opinion) to ask.

Personally, I think those with working headphone sockets should have been forced to reveal themselves and we could then have played musical chairs over the tannoy system to win access to them. This, apparently, was ‘not practical’, but I think in reality the trolley dolly was just a bit miffed ‘cos Ben spilled his complimentary tea over her. I explained the inevitability of this, given the combination of cramped spaces, full cups, dyspraxia and ADHD but she didn’t really seem to get it. I pointed at the stains on my own clothes to reassure her but she seemed to misunderstand… Okay, the shorts I had on were a bit tight but she didn’t have to scream that loudly. To be honest, I thought it was quite rude of her to point me out to the other hostesses, and I resented the enquiries they continually made regarding my ability to ride a bike…

Thirty minutes into the flight I suggested to Ben that we could cheer everybody up by starting a singalong of ‘are we nearly there yet’. I’ve got to say his accuracy when giving dead arms is coming on in leaps and bounds. He plumped, instead of singing, for playing with his PSP while I elected to locate and read my book. I don’t know, some people get soooo touchy, don’t they? It was only a small rucksack and it only made glancing contact with the women in front as it fell from the overhead locker so I really can’t see what all the fuss was about. Okay, so I had failed to notice the seatbelts on sign and had missed the captain’s announcement regarding clear air turbulence, but there was no need for that sort of language! Just as well Ben had his headphones on by then…

Time dripped past slowly until “dinner”, when we were handed small containers of congealed gravy with occasional lumps of greenery and orangery (peas and carrots, we guessed) and a small rectangle of unidentifiable meat proteins. It looked like somebody had already eaten it. We were told, on asking, that it was chicken, but I can only assume this was the compressed beaks and bollocks left over after all residual traces of meat had been mechanically recovered from the carcass for the manufacture of nuggets. Or possibly a cake of boiled feathers. It was fingers-down-throating bad, to the point that even Colonel Sanders’ magic mix of eleven different herbs and spices would have been challenged to impart any flavour.

I remember many years ago a chain of ‘Casey Jones’ burger joints appearing briefly alongside London railway station buffets. The burgers actually looked quite nice; filled with lashings of lettuce and tomato as well as the meat patty in the manner depicted on the display boards, but not within the actual products of, other chains like McDonalds and Burger King, but when you bit into them they had no taste whatsoever. It was as though every ingredient had been carefully chosen to counteract the flavour of another, so eating the whole burger was similar to chewing fresh (well, stale, actually) air that had been imbued with the texture of a damp flannel. Given a choice between my airline chicken and a Casey Jones burger I would have happily plumped for the latter purely for its aesthetic appeal, but having skipped breakfast in favour of getting Ben out of the house in time I decided to give my beak/bollock/feather combo a go.

Now I can’t be certain regarding cause and effect, but about two hours after eating around half of this offering I became aware of some rather strange gastric noises under my t-shirt and an accompanying series of seismic shifts and ripples reminiscent of  those afflicting Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt) in the galley of the Nostromo shortly after his recovery from an attack by a freshly hatched face-hugger. Fortunately, the invading parasite(s) chose to exit my body by one of the pre-existing orifices (orifi?) rather than tearing me a new one, but even so it was not a pleasant experience in the cramped confines of an aeroplane toilet, either for myself or for the queue of my fellow passengers awaiting their turn on the throne of chrome. Mile high club? I’ll leave that one for the birds.alien

Ben, who ate the other half of my ‘can you guess what it is yet’ dinner along with his own, was not affected in any way (but he has a cast iron stomach anyway and could probably dine daily on raw rancid pork without any ill-effects whatsoever) and as far as I can tell no other passengers were similarly afflicted, so perhaps it’s unfair of me to level suspicion on the basic food hygiene practices of Thomas Cook’s cooks. Whatever the cause of my explosive nether, though, it is fair to say that this was but a minor skirmish in the forthcoming battle of the bilge that would punctuate the first week of my Florida experience, but not wishing to get ahead of myself I’ll draw a veil over that for now.

The rest of the flight, save one or two further noisy trips t’ut lavvy, was mostly uneventful. We read, failed to sleep, occasionally tried to follow the action from the silent tv monitors by lip reading, and wriggled uncomfortably for the duration. The little boy in the seat in front made us laugh when, on coming in to land, he asked his mother for a sweet to suck to ‘stop his eyes exploding’. I told him to keep them closed anyway, just in case, and that it would help maintain the correct internal head pressure if he put his hat on back to front and stuck a finger up his nose. His mum laughed and said he needed no encouragement in the latter department whatsoever, thank you very much.

We touched down on American soil safely and on time, made our way through baggage reclaim and customs etc and stepped from the air-conditioned airport into Florida sunshine. Coming round a few minutes later burnt, blistered, and awash in sweat we muttered those immortal words beloved by holidaying Brits the world over – ‘Ot, ennit?’ – and made our way to the car hire desk…

ot ennit


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