At 5:30 am I scuttled out the side of the house like a fur swathed Gollum. My face was obscured by my schnood, as I rolled two tyres towards the taxi. The driver looked too frightened to get out and I think he may even have locked the doors until I tapped on the window. I had had two hours sleep and was perturbed that I might sleep through the alarm and had a deluge of minutia flooding my brain, when I should have been in slumber land. “Must not forget or lose my phone,” repeated like some reverse psychology mantra, most of the night.
It’s amazing how many people deliver witty quips about wheels, when strolling through a terminal at Stupid O’ Clock in the morning. “Oh look the wheels have really come off that one!” “You don’t look like a girl with a spare tyre.” “ Are they wheely heavy?” It was quite clear that Bruce Forsyth had hidden himself in the airport and was subsequently dolling out hilarious comments for the great unwashed to direct my way.
My patience wore thin when I realised I didn’t have my Priority Pass with me. I would have to deal with no free WIFI, an absence of recliner chairs and actually pay for refreshments. How had I ignored the expiry date for so long? My inner Diva was awake (unusual because she never gets up at this time in the morning without a light misting of Evian water and a porcelain bowl of chilled strawberries with freshly torn, organic mint). I blame the fact that I was prudently wearing a lot of fur. Incidentally, getting stressed and wearing fur whilst lugging a massive suitcase around, with two tyres and a distinctly unchic backpack, does not make you look like Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago.
Still the lovely lady at Malev was good enough to check me in as a totally different passenger and then recall me from the other 5 desks I had to visit along the way. She then lightened my account of £175 for the excess and I managed not to lose my dignity like the people you see on airport uncovered. Ok, well I actually wanted to lie on the floor and scream, but thanked her very much (for leaving me impoverished) and had a brief chat about the weather. I am British, after all.
After rumours of delays, I boarded the very roomy Malev flight. Such a relief to get on an airline with proper leather seats and enough room between you and the next passenger to make you not feel like going for a check up after your fellow traveller has sneezed. It’s cheap and is owned by British Airways. If you must travel economy, a sad fact of my life, then you could do a lot worse than to fly Malev. No gaudy orange signs or demands that you should “Become a millionaire with Ryanair.” They do not try and sell you anything at all and the meal and refreshments are refreshingly included. I slept clutching my phone and using various fur items as luxurious pillows, waking only for water.
Trying to breeze through “Nothing to declare” with a jacket draped over two tyres is not easy. The border guards also had on fur hats, I looked one dead in the eye and smiled, as my trolley was desperately veering to the left under the weight of a huge suitcase and the tyres.
“Excuse me lady…”
“Are these new tyres?”
“Oh God no, look they are scuffed and still wet. “
I look at the gleaming tyres that have spent one night in the garden and bat my eyelash extensions with the vigour of Peneolope Pitstop, had she been arrested for ram raiding.
“They are for a friend here in Budapest.” For some unknown reason I follow this statement up with full eye contact, “I Love Budapest” vowel purr, hair flick, lash bat, hinting smile.
“Enjoy your visit lady.”
On arrival, my brother came to pick me up. He is a wilderness dweller and a great loather of cities. We packed up the van and despite repeating my mantra and actually having my phone in my hand to “put somewhere safe,” got distracted and left it in the trolley.
We drove round to some back street wheel place. I am sure they have a generic name, but couldn’t tell you what. The parting words from the mechanic who fitted the alloys were “There is a chance they won’t fit.”
Paul drove us back to the airport and no phone had been handed in, nothing.
We headed down to the lake where my brother is a fishing celeb. There was much chat about his appearance at some of their fishing tours, seeing as he is a champion and all that. “You write? “ enquired the “Independently wealthy, Eastern European businessman” who owns the lake.
“Yes,” I reply.
“Well then you should write a book about your brother.”
Sometimes it’s tricky being the fishing equivalent of Ray Mears’ sister. Ray Mears might however have been able to fashion me a smart phone out of bamboo and a key ring, though. I began to regret the third “phone gate” incident. Not least that my newly acquired boyfriend, might think that I had skipped the country and ditched my phone.
The drive to my brother’s log cabin in the wilderness was improved by the emergence of brilliant stars. Leftfield blaring on the stereo, some tyres in the back for the road trip and then the phone rang. “Wrong number” he says three times. “ What? Oh that’s my sisters phone!”
It’s the Hungarian airport police. The Hungarian airport we had revisited, that had no sign of the Iphone. The Hungarian airport that is 2 and a half hours drive from the log cabin.
So the long and the short of it is, that we will be driving back to Budapest and sadly, not travelling through Slovenia. We will instead be pootling down through Austria and then Italy and finally Spain. This means we will not see The Dolomites, but it still promises to be an interesting journey.
Tonight one of the wheels was put on in pitch darkness under the auspicious light of a headlamp and the other will go on tomorrow. I am up late as we waited for my Paul’s friend to cart back a dead deer in my brother’s usual vehicle, whilst the Discovery needed digging out of the hillside, as it had sunk. It also had a flat battery and my brother still hadn’t packed. Still, he had cooked up my dinner the night before, in a wild fit of organisation. As we sat with our headlamps on in the darkness eating vegan Thai curry with a formerly stray cat at my feet -I felt very much at home.
Quote of the day: Shall we take the inflatable boat?
“Does it work?”
“Only one way to find out.”
“Yeah, sling it in the back.”