Once upon a time, a short break to somewhere nice in Europe, or perhaps even North Africa, was a doddle. Even New York or Boston were doable three or four night getaways. There were plenty of cheap flights and hotels. Pack a small bag, double check you’ve got your passport and toothbrush and off you go. I have spent decades mastering the art of the shoestring short break.
Those days are gone, for now. Short breaks are still possible, of course. But they’re not the doddle they once were. As I type this, I am aboard a RyanAir flight from Bournemouth to Malta for a five day holiday. I have a window seat on the left hand side of the plane. A window seat is the best. It gives you a window on the world, tens of thousands of feet below. Or, given that we are still in U.K. airspace, a view of the sunny side of the constant cloud cover.
A holiday in 2021 is far from the easy, stress free process of yore. The good old days do seem so long ago that we can refer to them as ‘yore’. The aggravation starts with the raft of new rules and regulations. Do the Maltese require a Covid test for entry? Most countries do, but happily Malta are one of the exceptions. If you’ve been double jabbed then come on in. They are strict on jabs though. No jab, no entry.
I do have to wear a mask in the airport and on the flight. Five or six hours of mask wearing is a bit tiresome. But it’s not an entirely unreasonable request, nor is it a great hardship. But it is a little annoying. You’d not wear one for fun. But it’s a small price to pay for a view from a window on the world. Are those the Alps I can now see? They must be.
I had to complete a Maltese digital passenger locator form, to be both submitted and printed. I’ll have to do the same when I come back for U.K. Border Force. And despite being double jabbed, I will need tests to re-enter the U.K. one just before we fly back and another within two days of landing. It’s a farce, probably designed to put people off travel as much as it is to prevent spread of Covid. The cost of the tests? A total of £160 for the pair of us. The return flights could be had for £29.99…
There are other types of stress to cope with in the run up to the trip. Hard stares have been dished out to everyone and anyone who has dared to sniff, sneeze, cough or snort within my presence for the last week. By ‘hard stare’, I do of course mean a look that clearly conveyed a sincere wish that they were dead already. Then there’s the matter of my own health. Is that a headache I feel coming on? Is that just tiredness from the run of early shifts at work? Or is it.….you know.
But one must keep things in perspective. Mrs P and I have our health and we are getting a trip away, and we are grateful for that. It’s third time lucky for this particular holiday, originally booked for March 2020 and then rearranged in vain for October of last year. It’s a year and a half late, but better late than never. The new queues, bits of paperwork and whatnot will be suffered with a smile.
It’s nice being able to look down at the world from an airplane window once again. We’re over Sicily now, little more than a half hour away from our destination. I’ve already read my digital paper so I shall now watch the second part of a new National Geographic documentary on 9/11 on my iPad. It’s a further reminder that no matter how inconvenient things may sometimes seem, they could always be worse.
Nearly twenty years ago, a whole load of people with their own window on the world, and a whole load of people in the Windows on the World, had it much, much worse. The captain on my plane has just announced we land in ten minutes. The plan is to do so using the landing gear and a tarmac runway, which is always my preferred method.