16 december 2019






school photos







           All original writing



2014, 2015, 2016,

2017, 2018, 2019

Ian McLauchlin


End of March 2019. After a gruelling 8 weeks of daily semi-torture, a good friend said it would be advisable, indeed essential, to get away, despite my natural caution. She was right.

Arrived at the airport. Maybe we could park here, it's not far to the Terminal. (Ever since the catheter, I've never liked that word.) Yes it says Dropoff, which was very apt as at 5 in the morning that's precisely what I wanted to do.

Someone said "You can go in front, we're not queueing, just waiting for someone". They had ears on.

They all had ears on, as did we actually. But theirs were bigger and more colourful. Turns out it was a hen weekend to Paris. Someone was due to get married and they needed to experience an extreme version of what not being married was like, just for the fond future memories you understand. And, apparently, the bigger the ears the better for that.

"Are those bags your hand luggage?"  Bugger, they're going to weigh them aren't they. I'd very carefully ensured that the overall size of the two bags was within the allowance but used up all my ensuring-capacity at that point and forgot to weigh 'em. They're both going to be too heavy aren't they. Only 5kg allowed. "That's the weight of two small rabbits" said someone.

"They must be short of rabbits in Lanzarote" said I.

Both bags heavier than two small rabbits, one heavier than three. Nonchalantly, and without carrots, they attached Hand Luggage labels and stroked their floppy ears, as did members of the hen party. I reckon they expect all hand luggage to be overweight, a bit, but not as overweight, a lot, as if they allowed many more rabbits . . .

"A Latte and an Americano. And that filled roll and that other filled roll, please.“

"Do you want them roasted?" I thought that's what they did with all coffee, but she'd said "toasted" and was referring to the rolls. I said "No thanks" when I should have said "Yes". They were bland and needed a good toasting. Live and learn. Especially since the whole lot cost an arm, a leg, four ears and a fluffy tail.

The Americano arrived quickly. The Latte took forever as they had to milk the cow . . . probably.

A toddler dominated a family at the next table and broke the land speed record at every opportunity. Mother was well practised at grabbing his trousers and mostly he was brought to a halt with trousers still in place. He was particularly interested in the Viewing Area. So, always willing to take a cue from the next person, I decided that I was too.

"What did you view?" said Judith.

"Well, a toddler, some toilets and three aircraft. There's a Flybe with jet engines, another Flybe with propellors and a stretched rubber band.

And Tui."

"How many Tuis?"

"Just the one Tui."

Before I'd seen the toilets in the nearby viewing area (no signs of course) I'd wandered down a corridor, round a corner, down another corridor, through air traffic control, past the Motorway Service Area and along another half mile of hard shoulder, where there were three toilets. One of one persuasion, one of another persuasion and a third for no persuasion at all, but very roomy and for the damaged. The first two were occupied so I looked at myself in a mirror and decided that I qualified for the third.

"Is there anybody in there?"

"Only a severely damaged, just about alive, apology for a weary traveller, this time without a catheter. "

Turns out it was an airport assistance official, with a wheelchair, plus sprightly occupant. Am I disabled enough?  Hormones (other persuasion), 8 weeks of radiotherapy, 3 excruciating years of brexit, wife in wheelchair, and juggling two cabin bags and suffering severe toryitis. Will that do you? Not sure how to react when someone feels dreadfully sorry for you . . . .

No scissor lift. There's a ramp up to the plane. Can she manage that? "Well as long as she doesn't have to put it in place and if someone pushes the wheel chair." I had to stop at each level too. Ramps aren't what they used to be. Nor me.

A cabin crew appeared wearing a 'face'. “Knock knock, is there anybody in there?” She offered to put the underweight hand luggage in the overhead place then had to sit down. She finally got it back together. "Can I get you any carrots?"

We were over the coastline of Spain, could be Portugal, at about 10am when a voice declared that the temperature in Lanzarote was 23 degC and there's snow on my artificial horizon.

To combat the pain in Spain. Judith got out a handful of pills which then went over the seat, the floor, the lady next door's laptop, the drinks trolley and finally entered the cockpit and settled on the pilot's artificial horizon. The plane rolled a bit then registered the temperature in Lanzarote.

At 35000ft, and when your bladder's been through what mine's been through, when you've gotta go . . . .   Excuse me, sorry, excuse me, beg your pardon, “There's somebody in there". Bugger. Nonchalantly looked out at Portugal or was it Morrocco. Nonchalantly crossed legs. Then nonchalantly grabbed newly open door and sat down, fervently. Not much room. Not enough to swing two rabbits round . . . .

"You can buy a lottery ticket for £1.  . . . .  You can buy 2 for £2 . . .  (sounds about right) and then get one FREE! Do I look as though I want to get one free? (Brain starting to throb now.) "And remember, only last week a lady who flew from Exeter won a Rolex watch!” (Totally irrelevant. Today's lottery tickets know nothing about that, nor care.)

"And we're now passing through the cabin with fragrances at 40% off, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls." Oh no. "And soon after that we'll be passing through the cabin with wonderful cigarettes and tobacco, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls . . . well not Boys and Girls obviously . . . we don't want to severely damage the lungs of boys and girls at this time. We'll wait till they're older. And to avoid disappointment Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys . . . no not boys, remember to purchase your inbound cigarettes on this outbound leg. And remember too that this is a No Smoking flight and any smoking in the toilet will trigger a massive burst of suction and you'll end up in the drink . . . With a soggy dog end. Have a nice day.” Face cracked open . . . .

I'm waiting for the day when they pass through the cabin with mooring lines, garden tools, microporous tape and, say, frozen paella.

Are we nearly there yet?

At 10:20 they reduced the engine power so we're now on the descent glide for all those on board at this time, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. On your right is the sea. And on your left is the other sea. In 20 minutes, appearing on your left, as if from nowhere, will be Lanzarote, or maybe Madeira depending on the lottery ticket the captain purchased on board this Exeter flight at this time. Ah there it is, just below us, but we're a bit too high so it's Fuerteventura for us Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. (I may have remembered a different flight there . . . . . )

This is the same flight a week before:

The prevailing wind is from the north so the approach is from the south.

Yes, sinuses about to explode and head expanding, so must have lost height and gained pressure. And there on our right L and G, B and G, is Lanzarote, with its airport (luckily), its warm baguettes for breakfast, its César Manrique and its villa not occupied for ages and ages.

Shadow of plane on sea:                                  Approach to Lanzarote airport:


Last off as usual, as the wheelchair-bound have to wait for the scissor lift truck to appear at the other front door. It duly appeared and Judith got her second wind and talked to the other wheel-chair. "Ian where're we going?" Playa Blanca. "Oh yes. Ian, where have we come from?" Exmouth. Bless.

Found hire car in the dark underground (therefore cool) garage. Noted amount of fuel in the tank so I could make sure there was much more than I started with when I finish (I always err on the generous side - a lifelong failing).

Villa still where I'd left it but found new neighbours who'd sneaked in quietly while we'd been away. Had some very pleasant chats. They said they liked my jokes. They were probably lying . . . .

Did nothing. Did a bit of washing of bedding from last time. Did more nothing. Got some fresh bread from up the road and made fresh coffee for breakfast.

Did some reading in the sun. Had a lie down.

Did nothing again. Found laptop and switched it on. It shook itself Dulux-Dog-like and took all week to update. That gave me a chance to continue doing nothing . . . . Drove into town in order to break the monotony by doing nothing in a different place. Watched the ferries, drank beer in the sun.



Bought a bit of food in order to survive. And wine. Mustn't forget the wine. In order to survive. Went to the Marina market where Judith promptly fell over and cut her chin. Had a meal and some beer to help recover. Took lots of photos and posted them on Instagram. Had lots of likes. Which was nice. Did nothing. Then did a bit of something - fixed a shutter catch which had rusted off in the salt air and the sun. A bit more something involved chiselling out a gate catch to accommodate the other part of the gate catch which had dropped slightly in the salt air and the sun. Then did much more nothing prior to taking vicious prunings to the Punto Limpio (the clean point or in english the recycling centre.)


Narrowly avoided doing any painting and the temptation to varnish did a vanishing trick.

For the record, here are some garden photographs:

Soon it was time to stop doing nothing and come home. Replay all the above backwards. Beer glasses filled, bread reassembled and put itself back in bakery, car returned to dark underground garage. Exceptions: Laptop didn't un-update, neighbours didn't move out, wine didn't refill . . . .

Wheelchair assistance came early, just before I'd returned clutching duty-frees for Cate. The plane was standing on the apron, and so we couldn't board using the usual tunnel straight to the plane door. Wheelchair down a ramp, and another ramp and another, till we were outside at ground level. Worn out. Well I was, not being in a wheelchair. Lifting lorry to the plane door. "Ian, we’ve had a good time haven’t we." Yes, an excellent time.

About to charge down the runway

Just after charging down runway

Leaving Lanzarote

Plane eventually took off, using female pilot and differential pressure above and below the wings. Lots of photos taken and then settled down to do nothing for a few hours. With intervals of reading, and sleeping. After an indecently long time, we started to descend. Oh look, there's Salcombe. And Dartmouth. And there's Totnes, where, in the early hazy morning before a long sea voyage navigating yacht Reveillier, I once took one of my favourite photographs which, unaccountably, failed to win a prize in the village photo competition.

You lose some, you lose some.

And that must be Exeter, with its river, Cathedral, M5 junction and airport approaches.

And efficient aircraft handling. We taxied to our stand but we had to wait half an hour while a Flybe with propellors whirring, blocked our way while the pilot finished his ice cream. Finally we were waved to a halt by members of the local table tennis team. We then waited and we waited, while other members of the team tried to get the ramp up to the aircraft front door.

First forwards, then a bit backwards then sideways. "This is your Captain speaking. We're sorry for the delay. Ground crew are making a pigs ear of positioning the ramp so none of us can get off." He may have said 'disembark'. I may have said 'oh bugger' and others may have said something similar but worse.

After trying every combination of positioning the ramp at the aircraft door and failing miserably (they've clearly never tried before, it being their ramp and their airport, oh and their expertise . . . . ) they gave up and went and had a fag.

I phoned to say we'd landed but it'd be a few more hours before we could get off (trans: disembark) due to problems with the ground crew.

Finally, someone had the bright idea of finding some steps and a scissor lift truck with wheelchairs. A pleasant wheelchair-pusher installed Judith and we approached the Arrivals door. A man in a peaked hat signalled that we should enter via the other Arrivals door some distance away and got his second rosy glow of the afternoon. It was never clear why they couldn't open the first door as, after we'd entered, we came past it after a couple of hundred yards that way then this way. Then we were in Passport Control, with its queues, its suspicions and its unsmiling jobsworths.

He looked at my passport. He looked at me. He looked back at my passport. "You must remove your hat, SIR."

With and without hat. Could be completely different people, couldn’t they.

Unable to resist a bit of fun in the face of officialdom, I stepped forward theatrically, grabbed my hat and ceremonially doffed it, shouting "Ta Daaa", bowing exaggeratedly. The queues applauded, the wheelchair assistant laughed. The Passport Control man didn't know what to do and a glimmer of a smile passed his lips but was quickly extinguished, according to protocol.  

While struggling to think of a good reason not to let me back into the country, Brexit having failed to do the trick this time, he eventually gave up and waved me through. Let the country deal with this lunatic, I'm having a hard enough day keeping a straight face as it is.

And there was daughter with car, pairs of hands, and friendly smile. And an account of how she and grandson had bought bread and milk, watered plants, vacuumed the house, changed the beds and washed the bedding and all was right with the world.

We were home. It was cold, all the clocks needed moving forward and I needed to remember the old routine and prepare an evening meal. I know, while I wonder what to do, let's open a bottle of wine . . . . .