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The Joy of Travel

I love to travel.  It’s the traveling I can’t stand.

M and I are off to the United States on Thursday – to Florida, Arizona and California – and instead of looking forward to balmier climes and seeing old friends, I’m fretting about the tiresome check-in rigmaroles, the demeaning security checks and, after recent experiences, the maddening inconvenience of delayed or cancelled flights.

Then there’s the dread prospect of manhandling the luggage.  Not mine, my wife’s. 

She’s what you might call a contingency packer.  That means we lug around enough stuff to accommodate just about any climatic eventuality – admittedly these days a crap-shoot.  The three states on our itinerary usually enjoy at this time of year comfortably warm temperatures, but eccentric weather patterns this winter have produced cold, damp weather in Florida, snow in Arizona – last week a golf tournament in Tucson, our destination, was delayed by a blizzard – and frosts in southern California. 

Our friends were kind enough to send us emails warning us to expect abnormal conditions.  Thanks a lot, guys.  Obviously you meant well, but the result is that M is now busy unwrapping overcoats and thermals to go with the shorts and the swimsuits.  That means taking four cases instead of two. 

But I shouldn’t be blaming friends, because the fact is, whether we’re going to Tierra del Fuego in January or Turkey in August, we always seem to end up with four suitcases, plus a couple of hefty carry-on pieces that often need three men the size of Bulgarian weight-lifters to wrestle them into and out of the overhead racks. 

To be fair, one of the cases is reserved for gifts for our various hosts.  It’s only right to take presents to people who are saving us thousands of dollars in hotel expenses, but we made the mistake of asking them what they’d like.  The result: three enormous amphora-like containers of Branston pickle, two jars of Piccallily and a sack of what appears to be a lifetime’s supply of Brooke Bond PG tips.  That’s before we get to the assorted house gifts of various improbable sizes and dimensions.

All this leads to unintended consequences, most of them expensive, notably the class of rental car required.  On our last excursion to the US we were obliged to select a vehicle so capacious it could have transported an infantry battalion into battle – artillery included.  And still we only just managed to fit everything in.   Furthermore, it turned out to have a mileage rate of about five to the gallon.  By the end of the trip, filling the tank just about emptied our local bank account.

Then there’s the business of telephones.  We have at least a dozen of them, which means I struggle to work out which one I’m supposed to be using, and what the economic consequences might be, like whether it carries roaming charges.  The shock of finding out usually hits me when the bill arrives three months later.  And of course I’ve no idea what number to give to the various people who might need to contact us.  

The bad news for the handful of avid readers of this column is that I won’t be ranting on-line for the best part of three weeks.  I could, of course, file copy from some portable device, but the technological dexterity involved will almost certainly prove beyond me.

So, I’ll resume in mid-March.  Meanwhile, enjoy the daffodils and the sex scandals.


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