Sunshine, blue seas and pistachio ice cream… it’s just getting there I can’t stand! JAN MOIR on the sheer hell of going on holiday by plane
Are you going on a lovely holiday this summer? No, me neither. I love the thought of sunshine and blue seas and pistachio ice cream — it’s just the getting there I can’t stand.
Especially from late June to September, which is peak bleak in terms of modern commercial air travel.
Instead, I like to stay at home, as London empties and a kind of dappled calm descends upon the capital. You can get from King’s Cross to Kensington in less than an hour, which is a kind of miracle.
You can eat an ice cream sundae in a booth at the Colony Grill without booking months in advance.
The roads are clear of school-run demented mums, mowing down pedestrians in the rush to make their 9.30am hot yoga class. And there are fewer children everywhere, always a bonus.
Recently, a 68-year-old man on a flight from Majorca to Exeter had a meltdown because there were no bacon rolls left for his granddaughter [file photo]
However. Next week, I have to go to America for work. It ought to spark a flare of excitement in my heart. Instead, I’m just thinking Heathrow in July, ugh. Queues, heat, cancellations, ugh, ugh, ugh. Fractious toddlers with full nappies, squidging along on their Trunkies. Couples bickering. Mandatory corporate passive aggression at the check-in desk. Depressing security clearance. Overcrowding. Delays.
Then hours of inhaling fetid, recycled air, squashed knees folded like a cricket’s, trying to eat a cube of rock-hard melon delivered by a scowling, underpaid, over-worked steward as the couple behind finish their duty-free vodka and start snogging.
Air travel is bad enough at the best of times, but in summer it becomes torture. Profit-hungry airlines haven’t helped by cramming us into increasingly smaller rows and meaner seats. There is less personal space. Everyone is in each other’s face. Cramp sets in. Tempers sizzle.
Recently, a 68-year-old man on a flight from Majorca to Exeter had a meltdown because there were no bacon rolls left for his granddaughter. In an eruption of air rage he demanded to see the captain — perhaps he had some rashers hidden under his epaulettes? — shouted at the cabin crew and was fined £230 by Exeter magistrates for his trouble.
Not much of an example to set to his granddaughter, but the stress of travel does funny things to people.
And if I am being honest, it is the passengers I fear more than airport crowding or flight delays. You can insure yourself against travel accidents, thefts or misfortune, but there is no policy that will cover you against the horror of other people.
Like the thoughtless brute in front who reclines his seat immediately after take-off. The arm-rest hogger. The fruity sneezer and the rasping cougher who don’t use handkerchiefs, plus the dread of assorted personal hygiene issues in an enclosed space.
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Did I mention idiots who try to cram fridge-sized cases into the overhead lockers? Or my irrational loathing of passengers in front rows who stretch their legs up the bulkhead space. Stop it! I’m beginning to frighten myself.
A man recently had to be removed from a flight in Poland for extreme flatulence. (Do you know, I think I have travelled with him before.)
And on a United Airlines flight, a woman removed her shoes and put her feet on the tray table while the man sitting next to her was trying to eat his meal.
In America, there is an increasing trend for passengers to bring ‘emotional support’ animals on board with them. Recent examples have included a pig and a peacock, although the former was ejected for being ‘disruptive’. What a farce.
The Civil Aviation Authority reported 418 cases of seriously disruptive passengers on UK flights in 2016, double the number logged a year earlier. Offences included fighting, being a nuisance, abusing cabin staff and smoking in toilets.
Some passengers tried to gain entry to the flight deck, while others attempted to open the aircraft’s door mid-flight. Seven in ten incidents were believed to involve alcohol.
This week, Ryanair cancelled 600 flights as cabin crew went on strike, leaving around 50,000 passengers in the lurch
And if the selfishness of other passengers doesn’t get you down, the cynicism of the airlines will.
Concepts such as customer comfort and brand loyalty — once highly prized — no longer seem to matter. Passengers, especially those in economy, are treated like cattle. And if something goes wrong? Tough.
This week, Ryanair cancelled 600 flights as cabin crew went on strike, leaving around 50,000 passengers in the lurch — all from an airline that penalises customers for not printing their boarding cards properly. And which once charged a surgeon £160 for taking an early flight home after he heard his entire family had been killed in a house fire.
Meanwhile, there are threats of a strike at Manchester airport, and dozens of British Airways passengers had to spend the night sleeping on the floor at Heathrow this week.
Thousands more were left stranded as technicians cleared the backlog after an IT glitch forced flight cancellations.
Summer flights are the nightmare that never ends — but somehow we have all got to put away our tray tables, put our seats into the upright position and grit our teeth until the light breeze of civility blows back again in September.
In the meantime, I’m going in. Wish me luck.
Why Norfolk’s a hotbed of sex
Former Olympic showjumper Lizzie Purbrick used pigs’ blood to scrawl insults over her ex-lover’s London flat after she caught him cheating on her. One has to admire her pluck — that’s an offal joke.
In a story that out-Jilly Coopers Jilly Cooper, the couple originally met in Norfolk, where both have homes.
‘As they say, NFN — Normal For Norfolk. It’s a hotbed of sex,’ said Lizzie, explaining their initial attraction to each other. Yet it came to a sticky end.
The London home of her ex, Lord (David) Prior, was daubed with rude slogans and even a drawing of a penis, before Lizzie sloshed the rest of the blood over the carpets, causing £15,000 of damage.
The recipe? She got the eight litres of pigs’ blood from a friend who is a butcher. He didn’t ask any questions, perhaps presuming she was — oh, I don’t know — making a monster black pudding for a summer fete?
One wonders what kind of butcher doesn’t ask questions of a furious woman demanding buckets of leftover blood and a spray hose, but perhaps this, too, is NFN.
And in another Norfolkesque development, among the bloody damage, Lizzie also left Lord Prior a cheque for £1,000 to cover a bull she had taken from his field. Bull? Cheque? Field? What really goes on in the rural flatlands of eastern England is a mystery to us all.
In the end, busy Lizzie was spared jail for the attack and given a community order instead.
Wasn’t she pig sick? ‘No. I have loved every minute of it,’ she said of her court hearing.
What a bloody mess.
If Cheryl’s got the X Factor, surely Ayda has too…
Ayda Field seems like a right scream. The wife of Robbie Williams and mother of his two children, she’s a regular on Loose Women, ITV’s lunchtime gabfest. On screen, Ayda, 39, frequently dishes the dirt on Robbie, 44, to amusing effect. Is he good at home? ‘Are you kidding? If it was up to Rob, we would be eating Nando’s and Salad Cream, morning noon and night,’ she said.
She has talked of his stunted emotional growth, attesting that he is like ‘a 15-year-old boy, frozen in Take That time’. He didn’t know what a cucumber was when he saw one in their fridge because, says his wife, he’d ‘only seen one sliced up before’ and he went into a supermarket for the first time only two years ago. So far, so funny — but does any of this qualify Ayda to be an X Factor judge? What does this former actress know about pop music, apart from hearing hubs sing in the bath? Yet she will be joining Robbie, Simon Cowell and Louis Tomlinson on the panel. Some might think it an insult to the contestants, but as Cheryl once did it, you might as well have Tweety Pie in that seat. Does anyone even take the X Factor seriously any more?
Don’t all answer at once.
Ayda Williams was recently named as one of the main judges on X Factor
Mamma Mia! Lorraine’s rapture on the red carpet
Daytime television queen Lorraine Kelly was conducting interviews on the red carpet at the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again premiere in London on Monday night.
It is not an easy gig, trying to have a meaningful or significant conversation with the Hollywood stars trotting by. Thankfully, Lorraine didn’t even try.
‘You look phenomenal,’ she would bellow, as various stars stepped onto her podium. ‘You look absolutely amazing,’ she would shriek, over and over again. My favourite moment was when Cher drifted by, with those pale, waxen features conspiring to deny her 72 years on this cruel planet.
‘You look fantastic,’ Lorraine screamed in her rigid face. ‘How do you do it? I mean, just how do you do it? HOW DO YOU DO IT?’
Lorraine, if you don’t know Cher’s secret of eternal youth by now, you are the only one who doesn’t.
Cher and Meryl Streep speak with Lorraine Kelly as they attend the “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” world premiere at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith
After the fun and glory of the World Cup, it is back to greedy football reality. Manchester United have angered fans with the extortionate price of their new home strip. The Adidas kit is £182.85 for the full adult version, while a child’s shirt, shorts and socks costs £91.85.
For a few scraps of ghastly synthetic material and a sponsor’s logo! Gah. This shows exactly what is wrong with football — and it’s the poor parents who must stump up who deserve our sympathy. It’s not easy to say ‘no’ when all the other mummies and daddies are saying ‘yes’.
Cave boys are my heroes
No, I’m still not over the Thai cave boys and their miraculous, wondrous escape. Now out of hospital, where they put on 6lb apiece and cried when they left the medical team who had nursed them back to health.
‘I think I love you all,’ said one of the lads, by way of thanks.
The boys seem composed, happy, grateful, full of apologies for what they put everyone through — a miracle in itself. And now we have learned a little more about their amazing resilience and optimism in the cave.
They survived by licking water from the walls. They tried to dig a tunnel! The littlest one fainted from hunger, but tried not to think about food.
Some now want to be Navy Seals when they grow up.
And all say they won’t take life for granted, whatever happens. Bless them, each and every one.
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