Many years ago, when jetting off on foreign holidays, I was totally paranoid about the airport losing my luggage and/or it being stolen by some dodgy miscreant in baggage reclaim. People in my party often seemed to lose their luggage. That wasn’t a good sign. So I would stick multiple address labels on to my hold baggage and worry endlessly that somebody would mistake my suitcase for a similar one. Upon arrival at the destination airport, I would drive my friends mad by elbowing everybody out of the way as I raced to the luggage carousel, where I would stand nervously at its mouth, biting my finger nails, making absolute sure that nobody could grab the precious case which contained my prized, umm, dresses and sandals and possibly a cheap bottle of plonk if it was a return flight.
OK, so my behaviour was two shillings short of a pound. And why would somebody want my worn sandals and swimwear anyway?
A decade and a few dozen flights later, my paranoia turned to apathy. Address labels long abandoned, I would chuck my bags on to the conveyor belt at check-in without a second thought for anything other than “will I get away with that extra 10kg of ‘free shipping’ without an excess charge”. When the flight landed, I’d wander over to baggage reclaim without a care in the world. I’ve even carelessly discarded the baggage receipts along with my boarding passes. And as for travel insurance, nah, that was for tourists and wimps.
However, as stated in my last blog entry, pride comes before a fall. Before a recent flight from Malaga to Newcastle, I was far too smug about my baggage: how well I’d selected a delightful “capsule wardrobe” that coordinated with itself and would please the likes of Gok or Trinny and Susanna, how I’d decided not to transport the damn kitchen sink for once in my life and then – oh, clever me – how I’d guessed the weight contained within my big, pink bag to within half a kilo of the 22kg allowed by budget carrier, Jet2.
On the day of the flight, my terrible toddler twosome (aptly nicknamed “Ronnie and Reggie”) and I duly arrived at Malaga Airport – a stressful experience at the best of times. I was thoroughly annoyed that Terminal 2 now shares its security zone with Terminal 3, forcing us to do a half-mile “Guiri* walk” from the Jet2 check-in to security then back to the gate. The British budget carriers have been consigned to the old terminal and, in my opinion, making certain passengers stroll so far is a little bit rude. However, judging by the proliferation of typical British tourists in the airport, I could see why the Spanish might find a Guiri walk so appealing...
Anyway, I digress. As the bag containing the belongings required for my family to spend a week in Newcastle and Scotland disappeared along the conveyor belt, my one concern was that I’d forgotten to include a bottle of delicious chilli sauce made by Allchillies.com . But perhaps I had a slight premonition of what was to come as, just after we boarded the plane and I was about to chuck the boarding passes into a handy sick-bag, I suddenly glanced at my baggage receipts and made a point of stashing them safely.
The flight progressed and R&R were hell-bent on looking for someone/something to terrorise. By this time, my “watching the Brits abroad” activities (i.e. concerning the other passengers) were in full swing. The tolerance level to lively infants looked variable. Out of devilment and irritation, I ran through the plane’s safety manual with the boys, using a mock-cheery tone of voice. “What are those people doing, Mummy,” said Ronnie? “Oooh,” I cooed. “The plane has crashed into the water, just like the plane that crashed into the Hudson River. The people are putting on their life jackets, sliding down the wings, forming a circle in the water and trying not to drown...” This went totally over Ronnie’s head but the unfriendly-looking passengers in the row behind were giving off negative vibes.
The flight dragged on. The snack trolley took 40mins to arrive at our seats, by which time Reggie – bored of trying to break his empty plastic food tray by climbing on top of it - had escaped into the aisle in the hope of raiding crisps or sweeties. Three hours is a long time for toddlers to keep still in a confined space, I kept telling myself. This was interspersed with “my mate Pam would kill me for forgetting their toys”. An equally bored Ronnie decided to check out the other passengers and stood up on his seat to survey them. The bloke sitting behind Ronnie piped up: “How would you like it if a child was standing on his seat and looking at you?”
“Oh sorreeee that my child is looking at you,” I retorted. “I challenge anyone to keep toddlers still in a space this size for three hours,” I voiced aloud, with a haughty tone. He piped down. I thought about adding “my son is used to Spain where people actually like children” but decided against it.
“Oscar, do not look at the man behind us,” I loudly repeated several times during the rest of the flight, just to ensure the man definitely heard. I then resumed my fascinating discourse about plane crashes.
But – aha – bad flight karma was about to get me. Although the boys had persistently mauled the passengers’ seats in front and behind us and my “Ronnie and Reggie” jokes hadn’t gone down as well as expected (ahem!), when the plane finally landed at Newcastle Airport, the unfortunate couple seated in front of us helped escort my errant children into baggage reclaim. And that’s where it all Started Going Horribly Wrong.
We stood at the carousel for Jet2 reclaim. Reggie’s buggy appeared but my large, pink, 22.5kg bag didn’t emerge. Dozens of people left with their cases. R&R, fed up with the airport experience and excited about seeing their grandparents who were waiting outside, constantly tried to stick their fingers down the side of the conveyor belt, oblivious that little digits could be chopped off if it started suddenly. Mummy became increasingly agitated with the boys’ finger-endangering behaviour. The luggage for an Easyjet flight from Barcelona emerged. All the passengers picked up their bags and left.
Eventually, we were left standing in an empty room beside an empty conveyor belt. The boys were still trying to stick their hands in dangerous places. It finally dawned on me with the stereotypical sinking feeling: the pink bag was not going to join us... not now and possibly never.
I wanted to throw myself on the floor and have a tantrum like Reggie. I kept thinking about my lovely new sundress procured from a Spanish shop that has a name similar to “sewage”. And my favourite sandals, which could be in Amsterdam for all I knew. I started squawking and flapping like a deranged pigeon. I enlisted some helpful chaps to take R&R out to meet their grandparents and filled in a lost baggage form amid much screeching about “going to Scotland with no clothes and my bag isn’t insured against loss”. It dawned on me that I wasn’t covered for inconvenience either.
And what was the upshot of my smugness and lax behaviour re “I never lose my baggage”? I had to foot the bill for an entire set of holiday clothes for me and the boys - otherwise a family stay in a civilised Scottish resort hotel would have been attempted in a mini dress and some ill-fitting jeans while the boys would have worn swimming trunks daily. Thank heavens for charity shops where I managed to wangle an entire wardrobe strong on Karen Millen, Ted Baker and, um, Matalan and Primark, as well as some Next boys’ shorts for less than the price of one new Karen Millen coat. Just as I was completing my purchases, the Swissport baggage handling lady at Newcastle Airport phoned to say that my bag had turned up in Leeds but it couldn’t be couriered to me until early the next week, when we’d be in Scotland.
Before travelling again, I will bother to complete the form for the free travel insurance that comes with one of my credit cards. Travel insurance clearly isn’t just for paranoid package tourists. No siree! How pigheaded to think that lost bags won’t happen to me. Pride always comes before a fall. And, clearly, ranting on about plane crashes just for fun will send you or your bags to Coventry... or Leeds.
*Tourist who stands out like a sore thumb.