Wish You Were Here …? I’m no longer envious of Judith Chalmers

I’VE ALWAYS WONDERED how many passports Judith went-through during her time on Wish You Were Here …? I also wonder how many stamps from different countries they contained. I imagine Judith being greeted by all levels of airport staff … “Hello again Mrs Chalmers, where are you travelling to this time?”

Wish You Were Here…? The holiday programme that graced our television screens for many years on Monday evenings. The reason why I’m thinking about this holiday programme is because I’m currently sitting in the Inn on the Green public house in Acomb. It’s dark and drizzly outside. Also, it is Monday. At the beginning of this month, November, I was basking in 26-degree sunshine whilst holidaying in Crete. It was only three weeks ago, but, after a getting back into the swing of things at work, the holiday feels like it was six months ago. I need another holiday. As much as I love Judith, I’m jealous of her. Today, I really do wish I was there, somewhere hot, topping-up my tan, drinking expertly blended cocktails, meeting the locals, tip-toeing barefooted on the hot white sandy beaches, boosting my vitamin D intake – instead I’m sat here wearing a scarf; my Regatta raincoat is drying-off on the back of the chair and my walking shoes have kept my feet dry.

This is where my story takes a twist: there are aspects of jetting-off that flings-up a whole heap of uncomfortable questions – will the taxi driver taking us to the airport be friendly and helpful, or will they be grumpy and watch us struggle putting the suitcases into the boot? Did I lock the back door? Did I turn-off all the lights? Once at the airport, I am, and always have been, the person who looks suspicious and gets pulled aside for extra security checks. My security check attraction began at Gatwick Airport in 1992, and since then, it has become a laughable, stressful soap opera. Two memorable experiences come to mind:

1) I was just about to board a flight in Paris, when airport security suspected I had a false passport. I explained that the photo was in fact me and they have been mislead by my weight loss and hair growth. After the five members of security had finished their discussion to decide whether or not I was a fraudster, I was allowed to board my flight.

2) The second incident occurred at Bremen Airport. This was a strange one: having gone through all the security checks, I had just began to roam around the duty-free area. Out of nowhere, a plain-looking man approached me and said “Come with me!” I’ve never been inclined to just wander-off with just anyone – those never go with strangers videos watched during my primary school days have been a stern reminder throughout my life. The brief dialogue went like this: “Why?” – “Checks” – “What checks?” – “For explosives!” I followed the plain-clothed airport security man and was checked for explosives. No explosives found so I went back to duty-free browsing.

It’s not just the security aspect of flying, it’s also the limitation as to what I can force into my suitcase. My travelling habits have changed over the years and I now tend to travel light with cabin luggage only – this means 100ml maximum limit for liquids and creams. This rule has recently prevented me from buying some retro branded aftershaves that are not available in the UK: an edition of Denim and Old Spice. I was tempted to buy these, but I would have needed to ditch some toiletries already living in my wash bag. The bottom line was that I didn’t want another episode with airport security.

So Judith, I can honestly say that I’m not envious anymore. I’m actually feeling pretty comfortable whilst finishing-off my dessert of Chocolate Orange cake and ice cream. I’m even looking forward to filling-up my hot water bottle and jumping into bed. I’m afraid I don’t wish I was there. For now, I’m happy to stay in the hassle-free, cold, damp conditions that the beautiful island of England offers at this time of year.


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