Professional Yorkshireman Preston James Cragthorpe Whitham is proud to air his Yorkshireness at any time. Here, he describes how Yorkshire always travels with him...
The racing in WSB at Valencia was mega, but the journey there and back was among the worst I’ve ever experienced... even the time I was flown home from the Czech GP, on a stretcher, with a smashed pelvis, ankle and wrist seemed less stressful than this trip as I remember. Mind you, the morphine may have helped.
We all like the idea of really cheap flights. How many times these days do you hear a mate bragging that he’s just been off for the weekend and the flights, “Only cost me £2.50, blah, blah, blah... “ And all these budget airlines advertise ridiculously cheap fares in magazines and on bill boards. But when you go online to try and book one it’s never as good a deal as you first think.
For a start, all the really cheap flights are to Sarajevo, or Kalmar (?) or Minsk or fifty other places you don’t want to go to. And even if you did, once you’ve paid for the flights, the taxes, insurance, seating, the on board meals, priority boarding and paid to put your bag in the hold you’ve spent the same as it would cost to charter an executive jet for the weekend. A few weeks ago one of the budget airlines announced they were going to introduce a charge for using the toilet on the plane. Yes, the toilet.
Going to Valencia we were flying out of Liverpool on easy-jet. Speke airport has now been renamed Liverpool John Lennon International. But if he were alive today the former Beatle would be better off going on holiday aboard his yellow submarine than risk his sanity in this place. The queue for the check-in desks snaked its way right round the terminal and even though I joined the back of the line a full two hours before the flight was due to go I still had my doubts if I would make it.
Against all my principles and Yorkshire upbringing I paid nine quid extra for ‘speedy check-in’ and bypassed the angry throng. The queue for security was just as long and possibly angrier. So I paid a further three quid to ‘fast-track’ straight to an X-ray machine. It’s strange when you think about it. It’s actually in their interests for everybody working there not to do their jobs properly. The longer the queues, the more people have to pay to get round them.
The flight back was with Ryanair and every bit as bad. Because I hadn’t checked in online and printed off my boarding pass, I had to pay a 40 euro fee. I told the woman that I’d tried, but because the ticket had been booked and paid for by Eurosport, the system wouldn’t let me . “Oh-dear,” she said. “That’ll be 40 euros please.”
It’s not the first time I’ve had a run-in with Ryanair staff. A few years ago I was coming back from a test in Italy and my kit bag was 6 kilos over the limit. I would have to pay the excess I was told, which was a tidy sum. On hearing this the bloke behind me in the queue tries to help by saying that he’ll be at least ten kilos under the limit and I could use his allowance. The woman said that would be fine but I’d have to put the six kilos in his bag, which she could clearly see was full.
By now it’d got a bit personal and I’m determined not to pay. She’s digging her heels in just as hard. So I stripped down to my socks n’ pants in front of her desk, took the leathers out of my kit bag and put them on. I had a feeling that while I did this her hand was hovering over a big red button marked ‘security’ on her side of the counter. People walking through the terminal were pointing at me and telling their kids, “That’s what you’ll end up looking like if you don’t eat your greens.” In the end though there was little she could do. Without the leathers, my kitbag was well under the limit. I smiled smugly as she handed me the boarding card. I was less smug by the time I picked the bag up off the carousel at the other end. The plane cabin had been dead hot all the way back. By the time we touched down in Manchester I was stinking like a tramp. As anyone sat between rows 18 and 22 that day would probably verify.
Mind you. We should count ourselves lucky to be able to fly anywhere at the moment, after that volcanic dust-cloud covered half of Europe. But it’s an ill wind ’n’ all that...
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