‘Welcome onboard this bus to Gatwick airport,’ announced the driver of the bus from the long-term car-park to the terminal. ‘We’ll be travelling at an altitude of zero feet, I hope you have a pleasant journey’. I was flying from London Gatwick to Verona early on a Thursday morning. Too early quite frankly, I’d have rather still been in bed. I was kicked wide awake in unusual fashion as I walked from security to the departure lounge. The path cunningly weaves through the duty free shops and a salesman asked if I wanted a whisky tasting.
I rarely touch the stuff before 7 o’clock – but that was five minutes ago. So it was that I was one of the first men in Britain to drink whisky that cold, foggy morning. I was happily discussing the finer points of red wine casks and toffee finishes with a man I had never met before when I remembered I had a plane to catch. An early morning whisky is a remarkable thing. I hope I haven’t just become an alcoholic.
My flight to Verona was with Monarch airlines. Monarch is not the first airline you think of when someone says name three British airlines. However it has existed since 1967 and carries over 6 million passengers a year. It operates charter flights to holiday destinations and also flies scheduled flights to 30 destinations.
The airport was foggy which caused the flight to be delayed, but once above the clouds everything was bright and glorious. I presume that boffins are working on creating cities above the clouds, but if they’re not, why not? It can’t be that difficult, I’ve just made some preliminary sketches on the back of an envelope.
We boarded the Airbus A321 on time and I sat in seat 34A, looked out of the window at the fog and wondered what sort of fellow points a plane into the fog and presses go? The pilot must have some sort of computer helping him out. Monarch’s colours are purple and yellow. That sounds bright but they do work together. Owing probably to the early departure time the flight was not full. Even so the girl in the window seat opposite me was sitting in someone else’s seat.
‘I think I’m here,’ a woman said to her.
‘No, I think it’s me,’ said the girl, looking at her ticket. ‘Oh no, I’m 34A, but there’s someone in my seat,’ she said, looking across at me.
I almost cried out at the injustice. I nearly said ‘No, I’m 34A’.
The woman took the aisle seat and started reading a novel.
I checked my ticket and I discovered I was 35A.
‘Cabin crew doors to departure,’ intoned the captain. Doesn’t that just mean lock the doors? I think I might start saying, Doors to departure every time I leave the house. It makes life more dramatic. I watched the cabin crew go through the emergency procedures and then we were away. I couldn’t watch the take off owing to the fog, so I read the on-board sales brochure instead. I thought that the language used to describe art could get a bit fruity, but just listen to this: ‘A lusty floral fruity fragrance…bound to surpass all norms and standards. A top of craziness with tears of belladonna…’ it went on, but I switched to another that brought the ‘ultimate expression of femininity. For women who live by their own rules.’ In case you’re not sure they were descriptions of perfumes.
Monarch’s inflight magazine is called Passport and is a good read. The issue I read included a visit to Hotel Cipriani in Venice, coverage of Bordeaux wines and Spain’s sherry triangle, a fashion shoot in Tenerife and a cover feature about cycling in Mallorca. Disneyland, Danny Devito and music festivals around Europe also featured along with reviews and attractive, fluid illustrations by Sarah Maycock.
‘Do you dream in Spanish?’ Someone asked someone else behind me.
‘No, but I used to,’ one of the someones said.
We landed at 11.45, behind schedule thanks to the fog at Gatwick. In Italy it was raining. It wasn’t even doing that in England.