|(A diary entry from years ago...)|
Gatwick Airport, Saturday morning, way too early.
A little too much 'Meze' the night before, not really in top form but off on holidays. There will be ample time to recover, if only we can get there.
The flight - a charter - is predictably delayed, reportedly because of the late arrival of the flight. What kind of excuse is that? The plane is late because it is late. We retire to a dim satellite television sampling area where the audience is snoring its way through a CBS exposé on crooked cops.
I reckon it's all a conspiracy. Flights are deliberately delayed so that you are forced to spend time in the Gatwick Village shopping tenement where the magazine shops have no real magazines and the chemist can prescribe nothing stronger than a six- pack of flavoured condoms.
Trish hovers over a magazine with a tastefully nude Sylvester Stallone on the cover. I warn her if she buys it I'm going back home. She plumps for one with Meg Ryan on - which I can live with.
I hide out in the toilet. A discarded tabloid bears the headline 'Virgin girl comes third in Miss Sussex Beauty Contest'. I'm trying to remember if I've ever been to Sussex. Then I realise the paper is an airport rag and that, in this instance, ‘Virgin’ is an airline and not a state of mind.
On the plane finally. I claim the window seat leaving Trish to deal with a round yellow old-girl with a blatant beige wig perched at forty-five degrees on her head.
She sprays her sandwich all over my wife as she pronounces her dislike of all 'Pakkies'. I ask her what she's got against camels anyway but she suffers from selective deafness.
Her partner in geriatric aviation harassment dawns over the back of my seat. She looks like Shirley McLaine devoid of her beliefs. The ladies order large Johnny Walkers to wash down their take-off boiled sweet then tumble into turbulent nasal sleep.
But now, suddenly, it's Majorca.
We fly in low over what is such a pallid landscape compared to the lush colours with which we are familiar. The hand that painted this watercolour appears to have added too much water to the paints to thin the hues. Of course, actually the opposite is true, it is lack of water which has made this portrait pale.
We glimpse windmills. A surprise.
Palma Airport is a jamboree of disorientated grannies wandering off by themselves through sliding doors and out into the afternoon sun.
The lager louts by the baggage carousel seem strangely subdued. Perhaps they sense that the great palm-rubbing period of anticipation of their holiday is now coming to an end. Now there is nothing left to do for the next fortnight except drink, read yesterdays Daily Mirror, and scrape sand from their tattooed arses. Never mind boys, it'll all still sound great when you tell the lads back home.
We make contact with our car hire lady outside the airport caff. Blonde, briefcased and businesslike with a line in patter straight from Len Deighton.
"Here is your car...here are your keys, map and papers...We will not speak again unless something goes wrong...."
We follow her outside. I nod and smile, hopelessly hyperactive, and instantly forget everything she tells me. Eventually she slinks off to her next dead letter box and we slink back into the shelter of the terminal to take a deep breath and prepare ourselves for the drive.
You just know it's a foreign country. The signs are there. I find a 'caballeros' and duck in to 'check my makeup'. While lined up against the wall with all the other guys, the door opens and a cleaning lady rattles in. She nonchalantly dips her mop and splashes it in and around our slightly parted legs. The others don't seem rattled by this. I study the ceiling and try not to add to her work.
We get on the road. Trish has carte blanche to remind me as many times as she feels is necessary that we should be driving on the right. She reels off the directions and they present themselves and are passed in the order they are written, which is always nice.
The phrase which I took to my heart from the directions in the week before we left was, " the city is now behind you, the mountains in front." Now here we are, thrown centrifugally from the Via Cingtura and off up the Valdemossa road, the city very much behind.
"Sit back and relax," I advise Trish, "It's going to be quite a run to Valdemossa."
Two minutes later we are there.