‘I am sorry, senor, your bag ees too beeg, eet well have to go in the hold’. ‘Wotyotalkinabaht – that’s the same bleedin’ bag I came wiv – ah canitbetoobig?’.
Welcome back to Ryanair, I thought to myself as I snootily passed the objecting oik with my correctly-sixed little rucksack. I found my way aboard the early flight to Bristol, quickly nabbing a perfect conversationally-challenged window seat. Eh? What French Air Traffic Control strike? I sent two texts, one to my abandoned wife (just for a few days), and the other to my son who was hopefully meeting me the other end.
Soon all we strangers were settled on board – and then a calm, smooth voice came over the intercom.
‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen: my name is Keith Hughes and I am your captain for this Ryanair flight. At the moment we are delayed for two hours by French Air Control, and hope to get our take-off spot then, so I’ll keep you advised in two hours time’.
Charming – but what can you say? Strangely enough all those around me found plenty to say, as we individually compared notes as to how important our own personal journeys were. I told the lady in the next seat I was flying to the UK to take my final Open University exam the following morning. She trumped that because her sick Dad in Cornwall was ‘on the way’ – to heaven, presumably. But then she had to be back in Spain shortly, as it had been sold: 15/30 to her…
Just then an unwelcome development occurred with a young West Country lad travelling in the seat in front. Apart from a loud fear of flying he owned a large tablet PC, and was busily loudly imparting unwelcome travel information from it.
‘Oi don’t loike to worry you folks but it says ‘ere that eighty-six Ryanair flights ‘ave ‘ad to be cancelled today and… ooh look, it mentions Alicante’s affected.’ The rest of us didn’t want to hear that last bit, and a new burst of nervous chatter swept round our seats.
Now, when all else fails in such situations I am admitting something very personal – I resort to prayer. I have to say, he up-there has done some sterling work on such projects in the past, but in addition I remembered something strange family-wise recently. My niece, a lovely but somewhat organisationally-challenged young lady had recently flown to the States with her boyfriend – without visas.
On reaching America there was a stand-off at the airport, and some urgent faxes and texts were whizzed off. Nutty-niece nipped off to the loo, and earnestly prayed to my late Mum, her beloved Nana to help her. Well, it worked. When she returned from the ladies her boyfriend said all the necessary paperwork had just come through. Hmm…
In panicky preparation for my forthcoming exam I was carrying a last-minute revision kit, which I was poring over in my now sweaty seat. The kit included a photo concealed inside: I’d accidently come across it recently. It was of my lovely Mum, taken when well into her seventies.
She was beaming out of the window of her battered old Mini one morning, just before she set off to voluntary work at Oxfam. This she did four mornings a week, confusing and irritating other drivers en route. She never had an accident, bless her, but boy, she caused a few (sorry Mum).
Prayer is not a spectator-sport, is it, so my fervent words went silently something like this: ‘Please Mum, I hope it’s good where you are and you’re happily with Dad. It’s just I could use a bit of help down here…’. After finishing my exhortations I continued to revise hard. Just as we were all re-checking our watches for the four-hundredth time, cool calm character Keith soothed into:
’Well, ladies and gentlemen, we should be starting our engines in about five minutes. On behalf of Ryanair I’m sorry for the delay, although it wasn’t our fault…’. Agreed Keith, anyway I didn’t care – we were off – so it had all worked!
My newly-bearded son was dutifully waiting, and soon in Swindon we were picking up his lively four-year-old ginger-nut son Cole from play school and later greeted my grand-daughter Emmie from school. She very generously let me sleep in her bedroom, which was very pink and Cinderella –like, while she had to endure sharing with her little brother.
The next morning I was ferried safely to and from the exam near Reading by Matt. I always knew he’d come in handy one day. The next day, Saturday, he and his wife had organised a family party for me at their house, and my siblings, their partners and my other nephews and nieces all came, which was wonderful as I hadn’t seen some for a while.
After yet another fun-filled family day on Sunday evening Matt dropped me back at at Bristol airport, and we sadly said goodbye. I’m so proud of him and how he’s turned out, despite having a father like me. All we Ryanair fans and moaners alike boarded our Alicante flight early (hooray), took off early, and arrived a full thirty minutes ahead of schedule.
I was soon tucked up in bed with my lovely wife, regaling her with all the eventful happenings. What an unbelievable four days it turned out to be. So don’t let me hear you slagging off Ryanair to me – just do as they ask and you’ll be fine, trust me. Oh, and all thanks to Mum of course, who I firmly believe put in a word to sort it all out for me.
P.S The exam? Yeah, passed it thanks, got my degree at last – BA to you (no suggestions for what that stands for). Well, you don’t want rush these things, do you?