Now that I live here, time spent with my parents is extra precious, mainly because I can’t just call round on a Saturday afternoon for a cup of tea anymore or take an impromptu trip to M&S for some new bras (although I didn’t used to do this with my Dad – closest we got to this experience was when I was 13, Mum announced to him that she would be taking me shopping for my first bra the following day and would he like to come – he didn’t and he was never asked again). Now, when I do see them, we tend to do more exotic and grand things – like attend weddings in the South of France…
So, I am sat in Brussels airport, contemplating the previous three days and waiting for my connecting flight home after a weekend with my parents. I have left them behind in the French town of Aix-en-Provence, following a mammoth wedding of some close family friends. Rewind three days.
The wedding was going to be huuuuuge. It would be in the South of France (so chic!) and, according to my father, I would be ‘a fool to miss it’. It would be held in a beautiful and elegant French maison and there would be a lot of food, wine and dancing. Two out of three is enough to guarantee a positive RSVP from me. My father would arrange the travel for me – all I needed to do was to make sure I caught the flight. Now, having already had some problems (mainly my jealousy) with the French (read ‘New Kid on The Block’), I was tense about the weekend to say the least. As long as I didn’t eat any chocolate croissants or try to run anywhere, things would be fine.
So, outward-bound, I would fly to Brussels and then I was to catch the connecting flight to Marseilles – one of my father’s ‘brilliant’ money saving (certainly not time saving) ideas. So, I had a small window of opportunity that was 20 minutes to get from the arrival gate in Brussels to the departure gate for my flight to Marseilles. As I passed through passport control, call me paranoid, but I am convinced that the passport official actually snorted at me when I asked him where gate A44 was. I took from his ‘scoffing’ that I better had move my ass fast. Travel tip # 1 – always carry a sports bra in your handbag.
I arrive at the gate for my connecting flight looking like I had been in a fight. My neat pony-tail had shifted its way to the side of my head and it now looked like I was trying to resurrect a popular (but wrong) 80s hairstyle. My face was burning and even though I could not see it, I knew it was as ruby red as a plum tomato. My trousers had slipped down a bit and to top it all off, my fly was undone – I still don’t know why it was were undone and I had no idea how long it had been undone. Since Amsterdam maybe. Who knows who I could have been talking to with my fly open.
Whilst I readjusted myself, I handed my ticket to the Air France girl (she was a goddess called ‘Avaline’, I wanted to die). ‘Samanta?’ she asked, her big brown eyes blinked at me. ‘Yes’ I duly answered. She continued, ‘We did not tink zat you were coming so took ze bag off ze plane…’ Her voice trailed off as she saw the panic spread across my face as I looked down at my current clothing – would I have to look like this for the whole weekend? I had packed the perfect ‘weekend in the south of France’ 24kg wardrobe and now my dream was fading away and I was being left with no option but 3 days of wearing a chocolate croissant stained t-shirt (yes, I didn’t learn from my time before) and some sprayed on skinny jeans, which seemed to be getting tighter the more stressed I became. More attractive stewardesses and stewards – why was everyone hot as hell in this airport? – seemed to gather around her now, like I was becoming some sort of threat. I wasn’t a security risk – I just wanted to wear my new Topshop fringe-hemmed shorts in the South of France. Was that really such a crime?
‘Would you like to zit ‘ere and wait for ze next flight to Marseilles in five ‘ours wiz your bag or take zis flight now, wizout your bag?’ Hmmm. Both options were so tempting. Pah! Did I want to hang out with Avaline and the cast of the Prada S/S 2012 runway show for the next 5 hours and leave with my suitcase of apparel dreams or leave now? With no luggage. I looked at my phone – the battery had died. I had no way of letting my father know that I wouldn’t be on the flight and therefore he would be starting his two and a half hour journey to Marseilles airport to collect me. If I wasn’t there because I had decided to babysit my clothes…well, for a man who saves his jeans ‘for best’, I fear that my revolutionary stand for my clothing would not have been met with any sympathy.
Pretty reluctantly and with a sense of regret in my heart (Travel tip # 2 – always hand-carry at least ONE outfit), I boarded the plane to the sound of ‘tut-tut-tutting’ from the already seated passengers. What was happening? With a strong desire to tell the judging crowd what had just happened to me – i.e. my Olympic-worthy sprint across a Brussels airport in my 4 inch tan sandals and then being forced to abandon my luggage by Air France – I wisely opted to take my seat quietly and ordered a large vodka and tonic.
I found myself sat next to a softly spoken gentleman (looking back, he didn’t say anything at all to me), who quite frankly looked terrified when I ordered my 3rd vodka. I began to lament for my luggage and really delve into the meaning behind it. Were the Gods serving me up a helping of misfortune? Would my skinny jeans continue to get tighter? He became my in-flight therapist, albeit a very reluctant one with no pay. The straw that broke his back came when I grabbed his hand asking ‘do you think that I will see my cream Reiss silk dress again?’ His eyes told me that he wanted out of this weird involuntary relationship and, as if his prayers were being answered, the captain announced our descent into Marseilles.
I have never seen a man with such genuine joy in his eyes – small beads of sweats grouped together on his brow in celebration. ‘Oh thank god’, he murmured. For self-preservation, I will put his relief down the fact that he was probably a nervous passenger, but if I am honest he couldn’t wait to leave the Pity Party in seat 5C.
As I get off the plane, I turn my phone on to be met with the BEEP BEEP BEEP of my father’s 5 text messages and various answer phone messages instructing me where I should meet him in the airport. The messages ranged from the muffled and incoherent to the actually annoyed that my phone was switched off. Aviation laws were not applicable to him. By the time I walked out through the ‘nothing to declare’ section (I did have something to declare…MY LUGGAGE WAS MISSING) I was developing a headache (possibly a hangover) and was at the end of my frayed rope. My father was waiting on the other side for me, waving like a madman. “Hi, Dad,” I managed, weakly. He looked at me up and down, shaking his head. “You are going to be awfully hot in those jeans love – hope you packed something else,” he quipped casually. I calmly explained the situation to him regarding my luggage and it was then that he managed to confirm all my fears.
“Don’t worry, you can borrow something from your mother,” he announced. No doubt something green, linen and drapey. And green, linen and drapey it was.
So, despite me spending the weekend looking like Lynda Bellingham, I really would have been a fool to miss it.