The decision to take a family holiday was a non-event this year. The older boys not even sure if they wanted to join us unless of course we are going somewhere hot, abroad and within close proximity of Magaluf or Ayia Napa. One thing was assured by the summer the whole family would need a break and a get-away to enjoy maybe a hint of guaranteed sunshine. Deciding where to go to suit a whole family of individuals with needs and desires of their own can be a long and onerous task and the more people inputting requests would mean a long and arduous battle of wills resulting most likely in another year without a holiday, if we could not agree. I knew what everyone wanted so I alone trawled the internet for something to fulfil my stringent list of criteria. Sexy Sporty Dad cast an agreeing look over the 5 shortlisted destinations and then unprompted selected my preferred choice. Booked and paid for before he or anyone had second thoughts.
So I find myself surrounded by the excited hub-bub of the check in queue at Gatwick Airport; already hot, stressed and tense. Note to oneself – do not fly on a busy Friday evening in the summer. The world’s largest car-park; the M25, lives up to its fictional name. Having done the same journey up and down for work two days earlier, I could not believe it took us over double the time to reach the airport this evening.
We reach the front of the queue and a check-in desk becomes available. The girl checks the clock behind her before calling us over. The downcast shock flashes across her face as she realises I am not alone and that there are five of us to be checked in; she glances swiftly at the clock again. She begins to rush us through asking questions in her heavily accented pidgin English. I am not sure I understand so despite the scowl I ask her to repeat herself on several occasions. We are so close; the very last case is being weighed and sorted when her system goes down.
She taps repetitively becoming more and more insistent – the system ignores her aggravation, then we notice other check in operators are having the same issue. The whole of Gatwick’s check in system has hiccoughed. The operators not programmed to deal with stoppages are baffled and look at each other blankly. One or other tried to get back in intermittently with no luck. No one came along to guide these youngsters, or even to explain to them or us what was going on. It didn’t occur to her or any of her colleagues to walk over and find a supervisor or even to explain to the ever growing queue. We luckily were at the desk we knew what was happening but anyone in the ever building emotional and stressful queue could just see all these young operators shrugging shoulders and blankly staring at screens or jabbering quickly in a multitude of differing languages.
With nothing better to do now was the time of polite conversation, I mentioned how busy the airport already was, she agreed with me saying there were a lot of flights this evening. What time did she work till? About 20 minutes ago – she was now late leaving but could not go having started checking us in she had to see us all through.
With the same silent swiftness it went down, 10 minutes or so later it came back up; no explanation, no apparent issues. Having to log back in again she offered slight concern that the baggage already loaded would be separated but hoped it all reached the same destination eventually. As did I, pondering what essentials were packed in the separated case. It crossed my mind that it could be the other cases that could go astray and that would be just as catastrophic.
Heat and noise within the airport rose in direct competition with the excitement of boarding the Magaluf express. Parties of already celebrating girls adorned with shorts or mini skirts revealing previously tanned long legs; some in tops so skimpy some not going that far and just in slithers of so called bikini tops. Groups of young lads staring; eyes out on stalks, not sure if they were the luckiest people in the world or terror they were about to be drawn into a web spun entrapping the more powerful drug of lust.
The groups of lads were not the only ones harbouring contrasting feelings; as a mother I tussled with tug of war emotions – lots of older teenagers for my boys to be entertained with their own ages. Against the predatory knowledge and memory of girls released from the confines of their stringent home rules to the freedom of being on holiday. Further memories of the programme Sun, Sex and Suspicious parents flashed through my mind as I watched the groups circling each other. I offered a silent prayer of thanks that although we may be travelling across with them we were passing Magaluf for the North of the Island.
We touched down amidst a powerful and spectacular lightning storm. I suspect the thunder was there but the noise of jet engines and tired emotional children at a local time of 2am overshadowed any rolling or clapping the thunder could muster. Another note to myself; am I getting too old and tired for this night-time travel?
A flood of endorphins re-entered my system knowing the family had all survived the flight; mainly asleep so were unaware of the chaos of the battle raging outside. Our luggage arrived in fits and starts but was all there and with relieve we retrieved it and found our way to the car park; to start our few days of sun, Sangria and sleep.