I’m technically on holiday for the next five days. Yet I’ve brought some work with me – not because I have to, but because I want to get my plan finished and into action quickly. However, we’re 40 minutes into the flight and Vesper has drawn me away from my work and into my blog. Again.
Or is it British Airways which has drawn me away? Or the chap two seats down from me? Or the curious couple in the front row? Or forgetting to do my eyebrows before I left? It could be any of the above, but they all deserve pen time, so here we go.
After a bit of a do at home last night (riverside barbie with two Aussies, a South African, a girl called Peter and tales of a hot but somewhat dopey American), I started packing at about 10pm. Having spent the past three weeks planning my itinerary (including the tubes in London, metro in Milan, boats around lake Maggiore, Trenitalia to Genoa and the mountain train to Switzerland), you’d think such organisation would’ve included a list of what I’d be taking in my suitcase. But no. On the contrary, the comfort of knowing I have extra baggage allowance (flying business class) means I’ve paid little attention to this, instead airing on the side of ‘just take everything’. So with very little contemplatory head scratching and perhaps a few too many pairs of flip flops (is 3 too many for a 5-day trip?), I set my alarm for 4am and fall into bed at about midnight.
It’s 20 minutes later than last time you looked at the clock
As you do when you know you have to be up early, and can’t sleep in, I wake up every 45 minutes thereafter, looking at the clock and wondering if I’ve packed the right things. I also have the usual mental list on the go, of things I know I’ve already forgotten to pack (and will undoubtedly forget to throw in). So by about 2:45 I give up trying to sleep and get up.
I dig out the linen trousers (both pairs) and try them on, only to decide the blue ones are too long and can only be worm with heels, and the beige ones are too short, having apparently shrunk in the wash? They go back in the drawer. I go back to bed.
Why I bothered getting back into bed I don’t know – I get straight up again and pack Vesper’s power cable – that would have been seriously annoying, to have Vesper and no power. I throw in the black heels (having remembered the LBD) and in go the GHDs for good measure. (I’ve changed – never travelled with heels or hair straighteners before… fiver says they both come home unused!)
By 3:59 I’m in that all-too-familiar position of bending around my suitcase, holding it shut with one hand whilst trying desperately to pull the zip round with the other hand. I’m almost there when my alarm goes off and the whole house is welcomed into Wednesday morning by the opening riff of INXS ‘All Around’. I dive across the bedroom to get to my phone before Michael Hutchence ‘Sees the rising sun’, my suitcase lid flies open, and the GHDs snap at my little toe on their way to the floor. Eeeeek…
In the end, I have no idea what has ended-up in my case. My oh-so-neatly folded contents are now forced in regardless and the zip is shut. I shower and dress and head out for the airport.
Can you take tweezers on a plane?
Despite my somewhat sleepless night, random packing and inelegant departure, my journey to Milan is business class. So I arrive at T5 and head straight for duty free, stock up on Coco Madamoiselle and head for the BA lounge. All seems lovely – I settle into the leather armchair, read the paper, log onto wifi, post my #tubetunes to Hootsuite and enjoy a spot of breakfast. It’s only when I go to the ladies, that the tranquil picture is once again disrupted.
When I looked in my bedroom mirror this morning, it was obviously too dark to notice the somewhat scary appearance of my eyebrows. Having not been plucked for a few days, they’re in a less than acceptable state of tidiness for the world’s style capital. Right, mission: tweezers.
This strikes me as weird. You can’t take a bottle of water through security, as it’s considered a potential terrorist threat to take over 100ml of liquid into the cabin. Yet once through security, you can buy liquids in far larger quantities. Indeed, you can even buy lighters, knives, enough electrical equipment to make a small incendiary device. But can I find tweezers anywhere? Nope. It would seem that, contrary to most decent shopping areas, T5 has a wealth of designer boutiques; Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Paul Smith, Tiffany’s, Harrods, but I haven’t seen a Boots since before security? I give up and decide the Milanese will just have to put up with my scary brows. The app on my phone buzzes to tell me my gate has been assigned and I should head to A8, that’s the one opposite Boots J I dive in, grab a pair of tweezers and whip over to the gate.
Croysunts, turns-ups and espadrilles
Today’s flight isn’t full. So I’m on row 2, with two empty seats to my right and three more across the aisle to my left. After a few minutes, a young lady parks herself by the window across the way and I’m almost getting excited at the prospect of having not one, but three business class seats all to myself… until Albert turns up.
Albert is in seat 2F by the window. So I stand up and let him through. He must be in his 70s, is traveling alone and has a small satchel in his arms. He doesn’t seem at all phased by the experience, is probably a seasoned flier, and a worldly-wise gentleman, I’m thinking. That is, until breakfast arrives.
The cabin attendant asks him what he’d like for breakfast. Given there is only one row in front of us, it’s unfair to suggest it’s unnecessary to make her repeat the options, even if she did utter them to three people only inches in front of us only moments before. Nevertheless, he may not have heard. The attendant starts her list again for the fourth time in two rows. Interestingly (if you’re bored on a plane), I’m impressed at how she does this – rather than simply list a load (and there are loads) of options, she kind of offers each component of the pre-packed breakfast trays, as if it were an a la carte menu from which would could pick and choose. In fact, and perhaps the downside to what I’m seeing as a more friendly and less production line approach to in-flight meals, Albert does think it’s a pick and choose job. So he asks for “just a croysent please”. Now, I know exactly what he means. I may not pronounce it in the same way and neither, I suppose, do the French. However, the attendant either doesn’t hear or doesn’t understand, and asks him again. God bless uncle Albert, he repeats “just a croysent please”. Is he uneducated? Not bothered? More knowledgeable than the rest of us? Who knows, but he gets his solitary continental pastry and picks at it for the rest of the flight.
Meanwhile, I’m becoming increasingly entertained by Rupert across the way. Sitting in seat 1B and 1C are a couple, about my age (maybe a little older), and I can’t decide if he is just over excited or whether he knows the crew? Before we took off, he had a word with the cabin attendant and was subsequently ushered the few feet forward into the cockpit, shaking hands with the pilot and his chum, and taking photos on his iPhone. Scurrying back grinning like a Cheshire cat, Rupert then proceeded to share his snaps with his companion beside him, bless.
During the flight, Rupert appeared to be looking at EVERYTHING on the plane. For most, this could be a subtle review, but the downside of sitting in row 1 is that you have to turn around to see anything, making it blatantly obvious that you’re having a look, again, at breakfast, at what everyone else had, at the duty free trolley, was anyone buying anything?… As I sit here evaluating Rupert’s appearance and actions, I suddenly realise he’s doing a me… he’s reading (and trying to fathom the controls for) the entertainment screen! Yes Rupert, we’re at 37,000 feet, traveling at 538mph, somewhere over Southern France.
Still trying to decide if I think he’s a friend of the crew (which could explain how he was able to get photos, the hand shaking, and perhaps even the seat choice), I realise Rupert is actually the chap I clocked in security, noticeable by the delightful elbow pads on his jacket, the decidedly creased state of said jacket, and the size of the turn-ups on his jeans – his companion actually let him go out like that?! Maybe he thinks he’s Tom Ripley? As we land, he produces a trilby from the overhead locker and his look is (debatably) complete. Relieved not to hear him break into a verse of Americano, the doors open, it’s 10:45 local time, 24 degrees and I can smell Italy… buongiorno!
Aunty Shee on a Saga trip…
I walk into the Ladies’ at Malpensa airport. There are three or four ladies waiting in front of me, one of whom seems to be what the Wallins would call an “Aunty Shee”. With no reference to gender reassignment, (although in today’s world, if my brother was still with us I’m sure he’s debate this, purely for entertainment value), an Aunty Shee is a comparison to a friend of my grandmother’s, who regularly appeared at family gatherings and was no relation whatsoever, yet still went by the label of ‘aunty’.
Anyway, the comparison here is the fact that Shee had a presence about her, which meant that even if you couldn’t see her, you just knew she was there. Similarly, here in the Ladies’ at Malpensa airport, is a Shee-like figure, giving (questionably) helpful direction to the other ladies around her, who are of a similar age, fashion(less) dress sense and they’re all American.
It’s only when Shee turns around and I see the badge on the lanyard around her neck. The former being about A5 in size, roughly laminated, and bearing the words “Magnificent Lakes of Italy tour”, along with her name and a badly pixelated image of what could be a lake. The lanyard is blue and holds a strapline which I can’t clearly make out, but it includes the words ‘Milan’ and ‘2013’. Having clocked this, I look around me to realise that I’ve potentially become mixed-up in an American Saga trip around the Italian Riviera – leave Rebecca, quickly!
Enough! I’m not done yet!
A quick one, albeit, not as quick as the Italian women must be… Why is it, whenever I sit on a toilet over here, it flushes, whilst I’m still sitting there?! Talk about chicken and egg; I think I’m done, prepare to leave, the toilet flushes, meaning more tissue / drying required, which then triggers the flush again… Enough! I’m not done yet! Will someone please invent an automatic flush which is triggered by the lid being lowered, or the cubicle door being unlocked (like the French public conveniences do in Bezier) rather than by movement in the vicinity of the toilet seat. Whoever thought it’d be good to trigger it whilst you’re wiping? Rubbish, or even crap design! I’ll leave you with that delightful though…
Ciao Ciao x