It is an inconvenient truth of package holidays that one must, of necessity, travel with one’s fellow Brits. I know it won’t win me many friends, but I’ve got to say that it’s, at best, a mixed blessing.
I don’t mean to be all snooty about it: I’m sure many Brits would voluntarily trap their genitals in a gin-trap rather than spend half an hour in my company. Nevertheless, it always seems grimly inevitable that my wife and I are forced to hope beyond hope that certain of our fellow travellers will a) not be seated next to us on the plane, or b) not be booked into the same hotel as us, or, indeed, any hotel anywhere near it.
It must surely be a statistical fluke, but it’s frightening how many times we have been let down by cruel Fate in this respect. Let me illustrate with what happened as we sat in Gatwick North, last month, awaiting the early evening flight to Tenerife. The thought occured to me, as it so often does, that we would be singularly unlucky to share intimate plane space, once again, with cretins. Which, of course, made it all the more galling when, with the flight already called, two self-evident pains-in-the-arse appeared out of nowhere: one, a great big ruddy-faced bear of a bloke, wearing a Chelsea shirt; the other a small woman who looked like an extra from “Prisoner Cell Block H”. To protect their true identities, I shall call them Bellend and Fuckwitta. Or, succumbing to the modern mania for portmanteau names, Bellwitta.
The gate announcer had very specifically required that only those seated in rows one and seven should make their way to the plane. Bellwitta, having failed to comprehend this simple instruction ~ possibly because it didn’t easily translate into Estuary Essex ~ presented themselves at the gate. The gate attendant pointed out that they lacked qualifying seat row numbers. “Fucking ‘ell,” said Bellend, with all the quiet discretion of Brian Blessed in Panto, “wot is this? The fucking Gestapo?”
“Fucking shut up!” said Fuckwitta, although whether to her other half or to the gate attendant was not entirely clear.
What was entirely clear was that Bellwitta had availed themselves of Gatwick’s hospitality with missionary zeal. To put it mildly, they were steaming. Their general demeanour was that of people who had swallowed a few dozen speedballs washed down by an amphetamine chaser. Twitchy and vociferous in equal measure, they made the worst possible travelling companions; I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I was destined to spend the flight in close proximity to them.
To her immense credit, the gate attendant forebore to smash Bellend’s nose down his throat with a single secret-ninja punch, as most of we onlookers were secretly hoping. Instead she led him and Fuckwitta, both effing and moaning, back to the departure lounge.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell,” Bellend proclaimed to the rest of us. “It’s a fuckin’ police state.”
“Fuckin’ shut up!” hissed Fuckwitta.
“Yes, fuckin’ shut up!” we all willed, telepathically.
“Don’t listen to ‘er!” commanded Bellend. “She’s fuckin’ Welsh!”
It transpired, as we awaited further boarding calls, that Bellend was something of a conversationalist, in the very broad sense that he was inclined to strike up a conversation with anyone who wandered into his frame of attention. Skewed as it was by alcohol, and possibly mind-altering drugs, his frame of attention was pretty catholic, encompassing the entire departure gate.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell!” he would say to a randomly-chosen stranger. “It’s fuckin’ good here, innit? Don’t mind the missus, she’s fuckin’ Welsh.”
“Fuckin’ shut up!”
“You fuckin’ shut up, you fuckin’ Welsh bitch! Har har!”
Every now and again, just to show how fuckin’ close they were, Bellend would lean over and punch Fuckwitta forcefully on the upper arm.
“Fuckin’ shut up!” she’d yell. “Just fuckin’ shut right up!”
You could see the desperate calculations going on behind nearly every pair of eyes in the vicinity. Chances of ending up adjacent to these clowns during the flight: dangerously high. Which, coincidentally, was a pretty good description of Bellwitta themselves.
We boarded to find, to our complete lack of surprise, that Bellwitta were billeted in the seats immediately in front of us. I prayed that some deus ex machina would intervene, but deep down inside I knew we were doomed.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell!” said Bellend, clocking my despairing face. “You two look like a pair of fuckin’ MPs.”
I guess he was right. MPs must get that same haunted look, having to spend so much of their time listening to complete wankers spouting egregious toss, without any means of escape.
Bellwitta whiled away the time until take-off by exchanging blows and engaging in spirited badinage: “Fuckin’ Welsh!” “Fuckin’ shut-up!” “Fuckin’ ARE!”. After ten minutes of this mindless by-play I was sincerely wondering if they might fortuitously murder each other. No such luck. As the plane took off they were both headbanging, “Wayne’s World” style. At least, I thought to myself, there’s no way on Earth these two are going to get sold any more alcohol.
Bellend’s opening gambit when the drinks trolley came round was to ask for six cans of Stella. I awaited his come-uppance, but, much to my dismay, the stewardess settled on just the three cans and a cheeky Jack Daniels, citing “fairness to other passengers”. It was obvious she had not yet realised the kind of person she was dealing with. Even when he wasted ten minutes of her time trying to negotiate a bulk discount, and then attempted to pay using his Chelsea season ticket card, she just laughed it off. How much more evidence did she need that Bellend was, in fact, a prize tosspot and probably a psychopathic serial killer to boot?
Later in the flight she had to have more than a few admonitory words with him about his tiresome behaviour. “Oh yes, missy,” I thought. “Too little, way too late.” If I’d had my way, he’d have been trussed and sedated long before take-off. I guess that’s why I’ve never been entrusted with running a major airline.
As we landed in Tenerife, an arduous three hours later, Bellend was living in the moment, shouting “Easy tiger!” every so often as the plane rocked and rolled, and, finally, “DROP THE WHEELS NOW!” as we touched down.
The last I saw of them, Bellend was at the baggage carousel asking if anyone wanted to share a fuckin’ taxi, whilst Fuckwitta was asking a customs guy if the large green EXIT sign he was standing under represented the only way out of there. “Yes, except for the secret tunnel,” he didn’t say. It would have been a good line, but, like Fuckwitta herself, entirely wasted.
By then it was a few minutes short of midnight. A taxi awaited, ready to transport us to the Hotel Buena Vista, Playa Paraiso. Tomorrow the holiday would begin in earnest. Hopefully, without Bellwitta.