1984 and the Textiliste and I married. So 30 years this year. Pearls apparently. I think she already knows the sort she’ll get getting… of wisdom.
This year there’ll be a bit of a do, some little treats, you know the sort of thing. Mostly it will be about the here and now, not so much of the looking back. That is… was the plan.
Until http://carrotranch.com/ and the latest Charli Mills challenge ‘In 99 words, no more, no less write a travel horror story’. And it all came flooding back.
The honeymoon. A few days in Paris. We couldn’t afford a lot, having just forked out on a flat and in need of stuff like a bed,we were doing thing on the cheap. I booked everything, as the bloke is traditionally meant to do (lesson soon learned for the newly crowned Mrs Le Pard). We were to fly from Gatwick to Beauvais which I was assured was Paris’ second airport but is actually in Wales or something, given how far the bus journey was.
That, however, wasn’t the real problem. No, it was the time. We arrived at Victoria Station with loads of the stuff to spare (back then, of course, security was a relative breeze; be at the check in thirty minutes before the flight and you would still be allowed on). We had a coffee. We caught a slow train, not wanting to fork out on the ultra expensive Gatwick Express. We watched the Sussex countryside slide past and I checked my watch. I then checked the tickets. And rechecked them. No, that wasn’t right. We had given ourselves plenty of leeway.
You know those moments, I’m sure, when a nagging doubt in the gut explodes into a sphincter-loosening certainty? It hit me the inevitability and ferocity of January’s credit card bill. I had read 14.20 as 4.20.
I ‘fessed up. She laughed. She always laughs at my admin cockups, of which there have been legion (the latest, just this week, when I double booked a trip to the Test Match at the Oval with our annual jolly in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival – I’m still digging myself out of that one.)
We ran from the train. The lady at the check in looked at her watch. You’ve ten minutes. Just run. We even carried our own bags to the plane which waited for us. We weren’t cheered on board but we did make it.
It had to get better. Surely? Well, all you need to know about the hotel was that the shower cubicle doubled up as the toilet and if you forgot to remove the toilet roll you were using papier mache.
But we were in Paris, it was our honeymoon. What more did we need?
Which brings me the 99 words themselves. See what you think and do give Charli’s challenge a go; she has (rightly) a growing following of devotees.
‘If you care, be there.’
She held out the note.
‘Check-in’s two hours before the flight.’
He glanced at down. City airport. BA desk. Friday.
He knew it was pointless, calling, discussing it. Too much water had been passed, as Sam Goldwyn said.
Friday. He smoothed the note and smiled. Two hours before; his timing was perfect. He approached the desk. ‘Flight 265?’
The attendant pointed at the plane taking off. The note said 4.20. He was on time. He narrowed his eyes. In the crease, a faint vertical line, like a middle finger, stared back at him. 14.20.