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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” ~ Oscar Wilde (Was it really him or is this just another assumption?)

Recently, despite the best efforts of the Fyra fast (assumption) train to the airport I found myself once again at Schiphol with an hour to spare. Did I go shopping, treat myself to some Duty Free, grab a tasty meal? Nope, I trotted (that’s what you do, when you really want to run but the suspension on your bra isn’t up to the job), to the mini spa for a fifteen minute massage. Fifteen minutes of excruciating pain under the hands of a misplaced Jordie in the hub of Europe’s busiest airport might not be most people’s idea of relaxation, then I’m not most people. Just this small taste of my old life as a massage therapist, or as someone once enlightened me – a prostitute (that’s another story), is enough to send me hurtling back in time to my life in Derby, the city I called home for a long time.

 With the misplaced Jordie’s question ringing in my ear I ambled to the gate:

 ‘How did your shoulders get so knotted?’  hummm I wonder how

              Previously I’d assumed everything about the Dutch would be supa efficient including their airline, so it was with eager steps I climbed aboard my first flight with KLM the Dutch airline.  That the airline operated the world’s most difficult self-service check-in and used Dinky toys to manufacture the planes couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. The plane was clean, on time, I got to stow luggage in the hold without extra charges, they gave me free food – a miniature pack of Pringles admittedly, but it was free. I had a trouble balancing the planes seating arrangement in my head - two seats on the left and three on the right. How did KLM plan to stabilise the plane? Looking round I noticed those seated on the left tended to be on the heavier side, surely KLM isn’t that basic? No of course KLM isn’t that basic, if it were I’d have been on the left side.  Moments later thoughts of seating plans flew out of my head and a hint of the old fear of flying came back to haunt me as the engines rattled like an antique washing machine on the spin cycle and the plane leap frogged it’s way through the clouds.

The well named City Hopper preparing for takeoff
            A fifty minute hop across the sea and the plane dropped into LeedsBradford airport.

            Searching for the Avis desk, I noticed a few changes from Schiphol airport. In LeedsBradford it is apparently customary to wait for the staff to stop speaking to each other before expecting to be served, the dress code for travellers could be flatteringly described as comfortable and everyone looks bored. Of the three people behind the Avis service desk, one man in his sixties was serving, and two women were eating and dropping bits of tuna mayo sandwich onto their keyboards, to be fair, most of the dropping came from the over excited, absurdly fidgety woman who blouse stretched uncomfortably over her coral bra. Waving my documents and wearing my best ‘I know you’re busy but please serve me smile’ I tried to make eye contact. When that failed I tried looking at my watch, making gentle coughing noises, and finger drumming the counter. Eventually the fidgety women looked up with an apologetic smile, a smile with traces of tuna mayo.
                ‘Sorry for the wait, he’ll be with you in a minute.’ She said, nodding towards the old chap grappling with a pile of contracts.

                I returned the apologetic smile with a glare, what kind of service was this? Why didn’t she stop jumping about in her chair and give me some damn keys.

Finally found the car
Fifteen minutes later the old chap finally turned his attention to me. The moment he spoke I forgot about the wait, and sensed a trace of a smile creeping onto my face. The man spoke with the soft familiar Yorkshire growl, his speech slow, deliberate and determined.  And he would whether I or he liked it or not, go through the full car hiring spiel. For once I didn’t mind, I just stood back and let the wonderful long vowels take me back to my years of working in Leeds. As I walked away clutching the car keys I realised, I hadn’t listened to a word he’d been saying and that the woman I’d assumed absurdly fidgety was suffering from a disease of the nervous system. Too ashamed to go back and ask for directions I gave myself a figurative slap round the face and trudged around the car parks for twenty minutes trying to locate the smallest car in LeedsBradford airport.

Raian and Richard
The rest of the visit flew by much smoother than my first KLM flight. I got to meet and adore my son’s beautiful girlfriend, Raian, spent an educational day in Leicester with the OU, celebrated Richard’s birthday in style surrounded by much of my lovely family. Driving back to LeedsBradford though the stunning countryside around Harewood House and listening to Ken Bruce host Radio two’s Popmaster quiz,  I was hit by a massive wave of nostalgia. This beautiful country, with its quaint village’s greens adorned with hesitant bunting is my home, it is the country where both my sons and my family live, where all my memories stem from, I understand how it works and have a shared history here. Just at that moment with the sun warming the car, driving through the stone villages I assumed nowhere else could ever feel like home.

So who was the grinning middle-aged woman trotting (not solved the bra problem yet) towards Dutch passport control a few hours later.

‘Why are you smiling so much?’ asked the passport control officer.

‘Because I’m home.’ Was my baffled answer.

Of the assumptions I've made this week, by far the worst was assuming this song (which I adore) was aimed at people like me:

Richard and Raian

Most of my lovely family celebrating Richards birthday

Johnny almost fully recovering wearing Richards birthday present

Is this really empty - again?

The hats back with it's rightful owner

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