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Sunday, 6 July 2008

US Diary #1

I've decided to do some irregular diary entries whilst in the US, a country I absolutely love. So, spurred on by Bill Bryson, here's THE FLIGHT.

Flying, for me, is like having a tattoo. I love the end product, but the process is painful. And, like having a tattoo (which is damn painful, and anybody who says it isn’t is just a plain liar in the same mould of those fake-tanned guys who wear t-shirts when it’s -2° outside), with flying you always forget the pain. Until the next time.

Early start, up at 4am, drove to Manchester airport and everything was going smoothly. Breakfast, kids behaving, tiny queue at check-in. Great. Then, approaching the gate for boarding, the whole gang were shuffled ¼ of a mile to a different gate where we sat for an hour, reaching and exceeding our flight time without any explanation, then moved to a barrage of many groans, all the damn way back to the original gate. Arse. We finally boarded amidst Monarch’s apologies (but as my good friend Jake would say, apologies are like arseholes - everybody’s got one) and took up battle formation in our four central seats. Me on one end, Sonia on the other, and our two bouncing boys in the middle Hmm. Should be a long flight.
Amusing flight anecdotes. Well, it was funny when Sonia took Olly to the toilet and he peed all over her foot. Funny for me, anyway. Also funny when Joe announced to half the Boeing 767 "I’m gonna be sick!" and we scrambled for the sick bags. Also funny when we bought the tiny monkey cans of coke, and proceeded to pour our own brandy into the glass feeling slightly like naughty schoolchildren at the back of the class, doing something we shouldn’t. OK. Here’s the deal with the brandy thing. It’s not a financial thing. Actually, it is, but more linked to principles. The airline states you cannot consume your own liquor aboard their aircraft for safety reasons. Oh yeah? Like... what? Despite the fact that they’ll sell you an unlimited amount of liquor in little comedy bottles, oblivious to yours or anybody else’s safety whilst doing so. What a joke. I bought a litre bottle of Three Barrels brandy in the airport for £8. On the plane, they were charging £3.20 for 5cl of same liquor. That’s £6.40 for 10cl, or, get this, an incredible £64.00 a litre. Profiteering? Monarch airlines? On top of my 2 grand plane tickets? Never. So, giggling like kids, me and Sonia chucked in our own brandy whilst giving the middle finger to profiteering bureaucracy in the process.

Happily jolly, the flight was going great. Only, I have a problem. The problem is a delicate constitution on flights. Apparently, on a flight all the gases in your body, i.e. your guts, swell up. This makes people fart. A lot. Normally, I’m fine on these long-haul flights. Unless I drink. Every single time I travel, I recite the mantra I will not drink, I will not drink, I will not drink. And then, like a comedy dumb arse, I drink. Thus, as night follows day, as man followed the dinosaur, as sexual deviancy follows appointed politicians, I proceeded to an upset stomach situation and spent too much time in the bog.

Spending my penance in the airplane bog, slightly drunk on prohibition brandy, I had time to reflect on Jeremy Clarkson’s claim of how to beat the airline anti-smoking policy. Now, I’m not smoker, but tell me I can’t smoke and I immediately want to. I know, dumb-arse obstinacy and sheer bloody-mindedness, but then I never said I had all my sanity, did I? Clarkson (fine toilet reading, by the way, not that I’m trying to insinuate I correlate Clarkson with crap) says you can smoke in an airplane toilet if you hold the flush and smoke with your head down the pan. Well, I tried this, and the toilet only sucks for a short period. Certainly not enough to disguise your smoking. My subsequent capture and interrogation by the plane’s captain was just a testament to how Clarkson needs a slap on the legs when I next see him. Or maybe I deserve the slap for listening to his rambling. (This is of course, a joke. I am not stupid enough to smoke in a Boeing 767 toilet, although I did crash a car once by driving into a wall at 50mph. My excuse was that I was 17 and stupid. The police turned up, used the F-word, and asked my mate who was in the passenger seat if he’d like to press charges against me. Charming! I have since had a deep distrust of the Five-O).

We landed, and US immigration really had their stuff sorted (unlike once, when we stood for a good hour and a half with lots of fat people from Birmingham). We sailed through passport control and customs (our smuggling, as usual, going unnoticed), got our luggage and car (a rather superb gay-blue Hyundai Sonata with soon-to-be broken boot hydraulics, a kind of retro-engineered ocean liner on wheels), and then headed off into the heat mirage of The Swamp.
The villa was cool, spacious and well equipped, the kids full of McDonalds, and after a quick visit to Publix (Pubix, ho ho) for some Budweiser and fine Chardonnay we unpacked and hit the pool. Then slept. Boy, we slept.

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