Yesterday I flew to Faro in Portugal from Gatwick at the crack of dawn (actually possibly even before it) in order to spend a couple of days with my son Barry.
I’m a keen people-watcher but don’t particularly enjoy crowds, which makes travelling via a low-budget, hair-shirt, airline something of an acquired taste.
What beats me – in the scheme of a country apparently fed up to the back teeth with the effects of austerity and queuing at food banks three times per week [I’m talking the UK here, not Greece] – is how about two hundred of Britain’s great unwashed can happily cram together to answer a boarding gate call at 0545 hours on a Tuesday and jet off to the Iberian peninsular for a holiday break in February. The airline’s operation had an air of vague chaos about it from start to finish. Once we were all on board the plane’s seats were so close together that even relatively short 140-minute flight was the kind of experience someone like me would normally do their utmost to avoid, but for one reason and one reason alone – this brief return trip is costing me precisely 120 pounds sterling!
Barry is occupying a four-bedroomed villa in the hills behind Lagos (pronounced ‘Lah-gosh’ by the locals) whilst his yacht is undergoing a refit in a local port. People like me naturally tend to regard anyone who works abroad, mostly in warm climate countries, as having a pretty ‘laid-back’ time of it … largely because when I go off to such places that’s what I tend to do … but in fact Barry is working ten to twelve hour days supervising the work being done and/or ‘managing’ his yacht’s owner. The latter is currently on business far, far away but still quite capable of nit-picking on every item of expenditure despite half the time not knowing what he is talking about.
It was much to my advantage that Barry was keen to show me around the local sites of interest in between his phone calls and a visit to the boat yard.
I sensed there was a degree to which, although living in relative luxury, he welcomed having a visitor stay with him. Occupying this place solo for weeks at a time must leave him rattling around like a pea in a cake tin. When I put this point to him out of fatherly concern (after his visit to the local gym and our evening meal) he responded by saying that – on the contrary – living anywhere on land, especially after two years and more of living permanently cheek-by-jowl in bunk beds with four or five others to which he was boss, tutor and unwitting father figure/confidant on all matters from personal relationships to tax, was actually akin to dying and going to heaven.
The villa gets damned cold after the sun goes down – it is still February after all – so we relaxed and talked upstairs in the drawing room overlooking the bay in front of a roaring glass-fronted log fire that made things very cosy indeed. Retiring to my bedroom late last night I set the temperature control to 26 degrees Centigrade and snuggled down to rest my by-then weary head.
Today will be another day.