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Elaine Luscombe




‘Maiden Voyage’

Maiden Voyage

The long awaited annual holiday to escape the winter blues had finally arrived and typically on the day I was set to depart we were experiencing the warmest day of the year in a normally grey, sopping wet Britain. My normal vacations were far from adventurous or exciting and I was determined that this would be the year I broke the mould. Normally I would be forced to spend my hols with mum and dad by the coast, filling each endless day playing bingo and entering make a fool of yourself competitions at a holiday camp. This year I was going solo, travelling to foreign shores to experience Karaoke in a different language, wear shorts in the sun instead of a mac in the rain, and to replace fish and chips with paella. My destination Majorca.

This was my first package holiday abroad, and convinced I would forget a highly essential document I religiously began triple checking my case. Tickets…check… money English and foreign…check….passport…check God my photo was awful I looked like I’d been shot at and missed. Having never been abroad before I didn’t have a passport and getting the obligatory prison style pic was an essential part of travel. I decided to bless the local supermarket with my good looks for the shoot, but as I stepped inside the Tardis style cubicle it reminded me of a public toilet, a small seat in the middle with a hint of urine odorising the confined cramped space. The only difference was the flashing red light followed by an intense white beam and a blinding flash.

£12.50 later I had an array of exposures to choose from but none of the snaps were about to launch a modelling career. In fact the results were pretty depressing and only a couple of shots were passable. (Shots being the operative word.) The first three snaps just sported my forehead until I realised I had to spin the seat up to short ass level to get the rest of my face in. Unable to stare at the disasters any longer I resisted any further checks and placed the passport in the front section of my rucksack along with my money and ticket.

On mum’s recommendation I had also packed a few medical provisions, (despite being thirty and able to look after myself mum still insisted on dishing out advice by the large plateful.) In fact my case looked like it belonged to the St. Johns Ambulance. I had every type of clothing for every possible weather situation, hurricane, heat wave, tropical rainstorm or in the extreme an earthquake. I also had every type of electrical essential, hairdryer, toothbrush, shaver, and of course my favourite foot spa. (Well the guide book says it’s a mountainous country, can’t be too careful and my feet would be sure to swell at high altitude. Roughing it wasn’t my style.) Unable to make any further pre flight checks I plonked down on my suitcase and under the strain of my hefty bum cheeks it finally met in the middle. I grabbed my shades and soppy novel and left the house. I was ready to jet off to what I hoped would be a warm paradise and to soak up some welcomed rays of sun.

Airports! What confusing boring places! I located my check- in desk after staring at endless rows of television screens and eventually I was greeted by a manikin style stewardess who’s fixed conditioned grin failed to crack under the pressure of her plasterboard applied make up as she announced; ‘Unfortunately your flight currently has a five hour delay. Hope you enjoy your holiday with Gambio tours.’ Great! My quick guestimation meant I now had several hours to kill wandering around an airport. Having no experience of waiting in departure lounges my chocolate rations and my soppy novel were safely tucked away in my suitcase which incidentally was now disappearing down a conveyor belt. Great. Nothing to eat and nothing to read. The perfect start to my trip.

Four hours later…if I drink another cup of mud flavoured coffee from another plastic hand burning cup I’ll have a fatal caffeine overdose. (Although the complimentary food voucher was most welcome.) God I’m bored but I was not alone and most of the faces around me looked equally peed off and un amused by the delay. All around me families were desperately trying to entertain their rug rats and to pacify their whinging demands. ‘Please can I borrow 50p from next weeks pocket money, I’m still hungry I want another burger I won’t be sick I promise.’

I thought the brats were bad enough until I heard the hundredth repeat of an airport announcement. ‘This airport operates a no smoking policy. Please refrain from smoking.’ Addicted nicotine puffers were already climbing the walls without yet again being reminded through a loud speaker they couldn’t have a happy stick. Having survived the half term teenagers and the desperate smokers I finally made it through to boarding, but not before checking in my hand luggage. For some strange reason as I passed through, a beeping noise drew immediate attention to yours truly.

‘Excuse me madam but the screen is showing a pair of handcuffs in your bag.’ Taken aback by such an accusation and quickly turning a shade of pink I threw her back one of my icy ‘don‘t cross me looks.’ Well I was innocent; who did she think I was, Miss Whiplash on a porn shoot? ‘There must be something wrong with your machine. Perhaps it’s my tin opener?’ I could now feel my cheeks warming from pink to a deep glowing red as the security guard beckoned me to open my bag.

I hastily rummaged through and soon felt the cold steel chilling my now sweaty hand. I pulled out the offending item praying it would be the tin opener, but to my horror there before me were a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs. I wanted the ground to swallow me up I wanted to die! My sister, already an experienced globetrotter had said she would pack me a few essentials for the trip, things I would be sure to not think of. Bitch! How could she smuggle pornographic gadgets into my hand luggage! This must have been her idea of essentials or some warped joke. I hoped the queue that had formed behind were oblivious to my predicament and I thought I might get away with it until a smirking baggage handler shouted for the whole airport to hear, ‘Sorry madam but you won’t be able to take your handcuffs, you’ll have to collect them on your return.’

With that a return claims form was thrust in my face and the handcuffs placed in a plastic see through bag. Exhibit A. I hurriedly scribbled my details down on the form why I wasn’t sure. Did I really want them back? I retrieved my rucksack and scurried off to the departure lounge like a scolded schoolgirl caught for smoking behind the bike sheds. Surely no other compromising incidents would be bestowed upon me before I reached my destination. Within an hour I was invited to board the plane by a lady with a clothes peg over her nose and now feeling quite excited I pushed the incident to the back of my mind and began focussing on the next hurdle a head The flight itself.

I’d never had a fear of flying, probably because I never believed I would be in the position to worry about it. The fast approaching journey in the sky sent waves of butterflies crashing against the wall of my stomach. I tried to think positively and convinced myself I would be sure to be sitting next to a friendly experienced flyer who would soon eradicate my novice fears. Now feeling positive I found my seat and my in -flight companion. However, it rapidly became apparent that friendly banter and light hearted chat would not prevail.

Squeezed into the window seat was a rather worried middle-aged flushed purple face staring back at me. We hadn’t taken off yet but already he had the paper sick bag on his lap. I smiled reassuringly at him now pretending that I was in fact a seasoned traveller. I took my seat next to the quivering blob just as the captain stepped out of his boardroom to give what I thought would be a short welcome.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen on behalf of Gambio tours I would like to apologise for the delay. Unfortunately we have experienced problems with the engine’s main computer. This has now been rectified and we will shortly be making our way to your holiday destination. I hope you enjoy your flight and your holiday with Gambio Tours.’

Enjoy your flight! Christ! This guy had single handedly frightened the crap out of 250 passengers! The plump middle-aged potential heart victim next to me had now turned a murky grey colour, even if the plane made across the Pacific I’m sure he wouldn’t. I decided the best solution all round would be to take a snooze and hope I awoke a few thousand miles or so later alive and well and minus a coronary next to me.

Before I had a chance to relax the caffeine contents in my stomach erupted up into my throat like a gush of burning lava as the plane rocketed down the runway. The heart attack victim sank his sweaty palm into my thigh as we rose high above the airport leaving the specks of the city below.

One plastic chicken dinner and a few lagers later we were touching down in Palma Majorca. The plane’s computer had not malfunctioned and my rotund companion had survived. I stepped off the plane into the black foreign darkness and with no real impression to form I trekked through the mile long airport to get my luggage. All went smoothly this time at check in and within an hour I had been dropped at my apartment. Basic, but clean and tidy, and for a late break not bad. I flopped down on my bed and shoved the suitcase underneath. Unpacking could wait until morning.

Within what felt like a millisecond morning had arrived. Bleary eyed and unsure of the surroundings I aimlessly wandered around the apartment attempting to get my bearings. Attracted by a slither of light exposed by a gap in the curtain I soon found my self leaning over my balcony admiring my requested pool view, a must holiday fashion accessory along with the obligatory white plastic garden furniture. Beyond the pool the view was pretty bog standard and what you would expect from a foreign country with the majority of the population at this time of year made up of holidaying Brits.

The idea of towering skyscrapers being home for two weeks was not exactly my initial idea of paradise, but as I scanned across the skyline peering through a small non-tourist gap I could see a beautiful deep blue sea set in a palm tree backdrop, the perfect scene to ponder over a welcomed fresh orange juice.

My bum soon numbed under the hard B&Q style furniture so I decided to get off it and get out of the apartment to explore the island. I opted for the simple look. Putty coloured baggy shorts T-shirt and a safety jumper for later. Most other Brits strolling around had opted for the ultimate holiday attire. Union jack shorts and ‘I love Man U’ T-shirts. Great Style. As I strolled along the pretty seafront I found myself getting deeper into the town as the shoreline dissolved and merged into the skyline. Soon every other building was a leather bag shop or a bar.

Every bar was competing with the next for business and all were trying to lure you in with their varying promotions. Premier football matches were a must, accompanied by a pound a pint and a basket meal. The final straw was a poster staring out at me saying ‘EastEnders four nights a week don’t miss it.’ For Gods sake! Beers and soaps were not what I had come to experience I’d already decided to take in a few sight seeing trips and watching soaps over my Sangria wasn’t one of them.

Having sussed out a few local bars and some potential trips I made my way back to my apartment to make things a bit more homely by putting my favourite perfume on the shelf and hanging a few bits in the wardrobe. It seemed centuries ago that I enjoyed some old fashioned sun so I made the most of the next three scorching days laying beside the pool with my book, enjoying the warmth against my skin which eventually turned a soft lobster shade of pink. Luckily a few cotton wool clouds blanketed the next day’s sky so I concluded that this would be the perfect day for a sight seeing trip.

At 9a.m sharp that morning I boarded the bus ready to visit The caves of Drach. As I stepped up onto the coach every pair of eyes turned in my direction and I got the distinct impression my chosen outfit that only exposed the tiniest amount of pink flesh still met with majority disapproval. This was not surprising judging by the average age and attire of most of the coach.

Most of the day-trippers were sixty-five or over and despite a couple of clouds they still had their woollies on. After some twenty miles the stench was unbearable, an old people smell combined with bottom stench reeked through the coach. For the next half an hour I discretely tried to muffle my face into the pages of my book and to think of sweet smelling flowers. As the coach doors hissed open the smog lifted to reveal the fresh air that my lungs had longed for.

I stepped down off the coach and joined the queue for the caves. Relations of mum’s came here every year and she insisted I came along under their recommendation in order to give a detailed and accurate report on my return. I was basically here out of family loyalty, well actually guilt and the wrath of Aunt Enid should I not complete the mission. What could possibly be exiting about a deep black hole? The queue soon reduced and I quickly found myself venturing below sea level to find out. The air was damp and the deeper I went the dryer my throat became, I felt as though I was baking in a sauna as my throat constricted with each deeper step.

Above me hung thousands of spindly ivory spikes of all different shapes and sizes, stalactites the guide informed us, a geological term I’d be sure to forget. Although once you’ve seen a thousand stalactites you’ve seen them all really. I’d secretly hoped to soon reach an exit but just then the path took an unexpected turn and I found myself stood in a massive opening that looked out onto a natural lake that had formed within the cave.

Here we were invited to take a seat in a manmade auditorium where we were then left in silence and pitch-black darkness. All sorts of thoughts began to circle through my overactive my mind. I knew this would happen to me! We were about to become the victim of a mass kidnapping and at any moment Majorcan pirates would surprise us from behind steal our jewels and then drown us in the lake, thus destroying any evidence of our presence.

Before I could work myself up into bigger hostage frenzy my nerves were eased by the sound of peaceful yet haunting classical music that had drifted into the cave. As my eyes adjusted to a flood of light, there making its way gracefully across the lake was a small illuminated boat and on board a classical quartet. The errie strings of the violin echoed through the caves as the boat made its way to the other side vanishing as mysteriously as it had first appeared. Plunged once again into darkness there was pause before the main lights rose and a thunderous applause filled the cave. This had been inspiring visit trip but it didn’t end there.

Instead of tracking back through the cave we were invited to step into boats that were to take us across the lake, this was a popular choice and as always one that you had to queue for. Slow on the uptake I had been left to share a boat with those that no one else wished to. My sea faring companions were perspirating Germans who’s cheesy odour somewhat marred the journey, but my imagination took me away from the offending smell and back to a magical world of piracy and smuggling.

As we made our way deeper into the cave I felt like a smuggler anticipating a secret rendezvous with other pirates to exchange our loot, but stepping off the boat I was transformed back to reality. I had to admit to Aunt Enid it was a worthwhile trip, it was an exhilarating experience.

Back in my apartment I began to reflect on the past week. I’d seen the sights and baked in the sun, the same as thousands of tourists do every year, I was now a deep pink in colour rather than a pale lily white and this could only be a bonus. Tonight was to be my last supper and I decided to dine the last chomp in traditional style. Paella and Sangria. I delved through the array of colours in my dish and picked out each different but complimentary flavour and loved every mouthful. savouring the holiday I suppose.

I’d enjoyed my first package holiday and picked up many novice tips along the way. Silly things like reserving your sun lounger before 8a.m with a beach towel, not drinking the tap water, and making a note to next time bring a more extensive and better stocked medical kit. Tablets for a sore Sangria head and something to deal with a dodgy tummy. I found myself unable to go to the loo for four days and not being able to stop for the other three. This was apparently all part of the abroad experience. Despite constantly moaning about the British weather, dreary, grey, and wet, it was familiar territory and despite enjoying the culture of another country there is no place like home.