So near, but yet so far. That has been the phrase to sum up my Christmas journey. They say that all bad things, and quite possibly good things, come in threes. Whilst I am far from superstitious it would appear, at least from my recent experience, that there is some truth in the tricycle of bad luck. If my Christmas adventure was a novel, it would be entitled The Trilogy of Disaster.
“I'm driving home for Christmas, oh, I can't wait to see those faces,” was the opening line by Mr. Rea. And this year’s driving home for Christmas started with a flat battery, yes not the best way to start the long drive home, and as my car was dead in Kupari, or around 2,500 kilometres away from my final destination, the writing was already on the wall. My car was less than important for the whole festive period so it was left, silent and helpless, by the side of the road in Zupa until 2020.
“Yes, we opened the Duty Free Shop just for you, oh sorry I mean your flight,” joked the familiar sales attendant at the airport. She might have said it in a joking tone, but the sad point was that she wasn’t lying. In fact, the British Airways flight to London was the only international one of the day, so yes we had the shop to ourselves, we had the whole airport to ourselves to be more precise.
Much more oddly the same would be the case at the other end of our flight. Whilst largely uneventful at the beginning the BA flight made all the passengers and crew dizzy by the end. “Is it me or have we been going around in circles for the past twenty minutes,” said my wife as we glanced the Gatwick terminal out of the starboard window for the sixth time. We weren’t going mad, as the pilot announced, “Sorry for the delay but we were forbidden from landing due to a drone flying over the airport,” stated a clearly annoyed pilot. How frustrating that a $100 drone can pretty much close down a busy airport.
There was a slight silver lining to our cloudy flight, being the first flight to land after the “drone attack” the whole passport control was empty. I took the opportunity to solve a mystery. “You name is relatively common and is therefore linked to a number of terrorists and international criminals who have the same name,” explained the border control officer. I was questioning why every time I tried to pass my passport through the automatic control it was rejected. “So should I change my name?” I joked. “I will change the indicators on your passport so it shouldn’t raise red flags the next time you use it,” he smiled and wished me a Merry Christmas.
“Top to toe in tailbacks, oh, I got red lights on the run,” yes Mr. Rea was spot on. I haven’t seen so many red lights in many a year, all four lanes of the motorway were basically a parking space. Yes, we were in a rent-a-car and really driving home for Christmas, and yes Mr. Rea’s hit was on every radio station we tried. Mariah Carey, Wham and The Pogues must be rubbing their hands in glee at this time as the royalties come rolling in. Six hours of driving were in front of us, even more if these traffic jams continued, and we were dutifully following the GPS. Off the brighter motorways and into the dark and wet country roads of the English countryside where our third, and most traumatic event, was waiting for us. Fog, rain and dark shadows, in looked like the scene of a Sherlock Holmes movie as we peered out the car windows. Within just five miles of my mother’s house, yes, so near and yet so far, an ear shattering boom, like a bullet smacking into the car, as we hit the deepest of potholes.
The wheel basically disappeared down the hole and ripped off the tyre. We were in the middle of nowhere, slap bang in the darkest, wettest place on the planet and were in a car with three wheels, and we weren’t driving the Trotters yellow van. “Driving home for Christmas, with a thousand memories,” yes Chris but none of these were memories I would look back on fondly. Christmas in England was getting off on the wrong foot. There was no spare tyre in the boot, almost no signal on my mobile phone and it was so dark I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face. And to add insult to injury I was in a muddy farmer’s field with one tyre literally smoking.
It was challenging to raise Christmas spirit in a muddy, cold field but as my mother’s headlights sparkled through the chilly night I soon regained the warm glow of Christmas. As the legendary Burton Hillis once said, “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”