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The Wandering Englishman


You know how before you hop on a plane people always feel the need to tell you horror stories and then make you promise not to fall from the sky? You know how if something’s going to happen it’ll happen to my family because we’re all fruit loops? And you know how, regardless of what the situation is, I usually find myself thinking; “Damn, this will make a decent blog?” Well, my friends, what a tale I have to tell.

For the most part, my recent trip to Istanbul was rather tame considering it was the annual family get-away. I had my first experience as an A-Lister because disabled people are apparently novelties -no exaggeration, I was asked for selfies. The street food was to die for. The city was quirkily beautiful. There were a hundred stray dogs and cats I wanted to bring home in my suitcase. I even made a friend at La Viola Shisha Café; his name was Mohammed and he applauded me every time I managed to smoke ‘correctly’. It was all going a bit too well, to the point where I actually started to reconsider the content for this blog because I thought it’d be too boring.

Friday morning came and it was time to leave what’d been our home for the week, Pera Palace. It was stunning, but very much a case of ‘how the other half live’ and I dread to think what it did to Dad’s bank balance. We haled a taxi and got to the airport three hours early. Plenty of time to get through customs, have a mooch around and catch our flight. We found a pub. We ordered drinks and then we sat there twiddling our thumbs. After some time, Dad sent me and Mum on a shopping trip with his remaining lira, his Debit Card and our boarding passes and passports.

The thing you should know about Istanbul Airport is that it’s a straight line and near impossible to get lost. The plan was to have a quick window-shop and go back to Dad. After an hour of weaving in and out of the shops with Mum stopping every thirty seconds and almost catapulting me out of my chair to ask me if I wanted a handbag, I decided it was time to make our way back. Now, Mum is scatty at the best of times, let alone when you take her out of Fiskerton, put her in a foreign country’s airport and leave half a bottle of Raki on the side as you’re packing.

At this stage, I’d like to introduce the word ‘beansprouts’ to replace all the instances where expletives were thought, whispered, said, or yelled.

We’d been traipsing around for a good half-an-hour before we called for assistance. The problem was that irrespective of how straight up and down the airport was, we seemed to find ourselves in front of the same pub, which wasn’t the one Dad was in. It also became increasingly obvious to me that when I told Mum to head to the end and take a right, she would do anything but. We rang Dad to no avail due to the lack of signal the airport had to offer. We collared hold of every passer-by and through the incoherent language barrier, blurted a scrambled sentence containing the words, ‘pub’, ‘father’, ‘flight’, and ‘lost’, but came away with beansprouts.

With twenty minutes until take off we rushed to the gates. When I say ‘rushed’, what I mean is we dawdled slowly whilst Mum made a last-ditch attempt to look for Dad. We made it with minutes to spare and were given the ultimatum of getting on the plane minus a passenger which would only dent Dad’s wallet slightly, in comparison to what it would do if he had to buy a whole new set of tickets. We boarded the plane and hoped for the best.

Hoping for the best lasted all of a few seconds as it wasn’t long after I was graciously transferred onto my seat that I realised I still had Dad’s Card. An image of a wandering Englishman with no money and no phone entered my head and with that, I told Mum she had to get off the plane and wait for him to find her. As our luck would have it though, beansprouts were blocking the aisles which meant that by the time Mum made it to the exit, it was too late. Thus began a four-hour heated conversation containing enough beansprouts for the whole world to feast on. Many apologies to all the passengers and flight attendants who were in the crossfire. If any of you are reading this, you’ll be pleased to know that divorce papers have not been filed and funeral arrangements have not been made.

We landed in Gatwick after the most tedious journey of our entire lives and immediately tried to contact Dad. With his phone still evidently on the blink, we carried on and clutched to the few strands of ‘hoping for the best’ we had left. To the assistance staff who came to the rescue with a wheelchair as Mum tried to drag me off the plane, it was much appreciated. Thanks for just nodding in sympathy when we told you our life story and for defusing the beansprouts which were flying across the airport, even if it was for just an hour. And at the point when Mum told the lost luggage department that she’d lost her husband as well as a suitcase, thank you for finding it as funny as I did when condolences were offered. You really saved my sanity.

Several beansprouts later and the only information we had was that Dad was not on our flight. As much as it’d have been lovely to have a family reunion in the airport, I was aware that tensions were at an all-time high between Mum and I. Homeward bound was the safest option. The travel assistance guy, who goes by the name of Monty, fiddled the system and helped us get on a train to St Pancras for half price. This meant I could just about afford to call every vaguely relevant number in Turkey to see if they’d come across a wandering Englishman. However, by the time we’d reached our destination, all I had was a crop of beansprouts and no answers.

On the train from Kings Cross to Newark we were upgraded to first-class on the grounds that I refused to wait for an ‘accessible carriage’ to become available. Somewhere amidst the quickfire beansprout messages I sent to the group chat, aptly named ‘It’s A Party’ and the conversation I’d had with my Godfather about how the hell to track a wandering Englishman, Mum had successfully managed to down two glasses of wine and was stress-puking in the not so soundproof toilet. This meant she had just enough time left of the journey to bring a Yorkshire lad almost to tears when she told him she needed another drink because she’d lost her husband in Turkey. I’m sure he’s since sent flowers and a card in the post.

Through the instruction of the British Embassy, on the last leg of our trip we filed a Missing Person’s Report. In turn, by the time we hit Lincoln, Dad was officially a tiny wandering Englishman with glasses and a rucksack. And Mum was convinced she was going to get divorced; becoming a tiny wandering Englishwoman with glasses and a bin bag.

There’s not much left to say other than ten hours after the ordeal began and less than five minutes after the report was made, the phone rang. Dad had made his way to Heathrow, albeit without the missing suitcase that Mum thought he’d miraculously have. Everyone is now home, safe, sound and living happily ever after.

1 comment (Add your own)

1 Tam O'Neill - Fri, September 27, 2019 @ 5:54 PM

Go Jo, milk it for all it's worth, it's certainly worth it's weight in gold. It's amazing how things look so funny in retrospective. I've no doubt the Embassy, High Commissioner, her Majesty's Constabulary, Etihad and the airport staff in Ataturk and Gatwick are all laughing their heads off! I expect you will by now, be banned form continental airlines and have your passport revoked. I've already written to the Scottish Parliament to have you all (the Tolley Tussell) stopped at the border and I expect they will rush through legislation before Boris tries to prorogue them as well!!

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