The holiday is nearly over but I don’t think I can come home. There’s something evil waiting for me in England and I’m not ready to face it. The longer I leave it, the worse it will be, but here on my sunlounger it can’t touch me.
It’s not work. I like my job, I like my colleagues (especially the ones who’ve recently found and liked this blog! 😘) and I’m actually looking forward to going to work tomorrow and seeing everyone again.
It’s not the death of the holiday or the fact that it will be winter when I get home. I love killing time at airports, and Lanzarote airport is one of my favourites. I like living in a country that has proper seasons and I’m looking forward to some theatre trips and firework displays when I get back.
I haven’t had a Shirley Valentine moment either. I may do all the cooking and cleaning at home, but Putney the hamster shows far more appreciation than Shirley’s husband ever did.
What I don’t want to do is get in my car. It’s going to be waiting for me at Exeter and it’s going to be furious.
Let’s rewind. A week ago today, the October half term had just begun. In true Cazmanian style I had been too caught up in the events of the week to have given even the fleetingest of thoughts to Lanzarote. So jam-packed into Saturday was: sleeping, packing, tidying, vacuuming, going for a meal with friends, having some quality nocturnal time with Putney and then setting off for the airport at 2am.
It was all going according to plan but when my friends dropped me home at 10:30pm, something extraordinary happened. Cazza the night owl decided she needed a nap.
I woke at 1:50am feeling rubbish. Poor Putney got only the briefest of goodbyes and I pulled into my Mum’s driveway at 2:20. Mum and I are polar opposites when it comes to the actual “going” part of “going on holiday”. I want to drive through the night, singing along to showtunes with the sunroof open. I’ll preferably be flying from Gatwick, meaning plenty of showtunes will have been sung by the time I reach my destination. I’ll have stopped at one of those proper motorway service stations, I’ll have parked in an airport car park so big that I’ll only ever find my car again by writing down the grid reference, and I’ll tuck into some overpriced overgreased airport pub breakfast before spraying myself with Coco Chanel Madamoiselle and having a shopping spree. For Mum that entire last paragraph is a nightmare. Ideally she just wants to magically wake up on a sunlounger by a hotel pool. If that’s not possible, she’ll put up with travelling as far as Exeter or Bristol, but if she can’t reach her destination from there, then she’s not going, and she really hates travelling through the night too.
With this in mind I deliver the next sentence as cheerfully as possible “Um…. I think I’m probably going to be sick at some point during this journey…. but I’m sure I’ll feel much better once I get it out of my system.”
And so we set off. Through the country lanes, through Braunton, into Barnstaple and over the bridge.
“Have you got a bag?” I ask as we head round the Moan Henge roundabout and I hope Mum realises that this isn’t a general enquiry about which of her pretty handbags she’s chosen to bring on holiday because soon after I ask the question, the first wave of last night’s meal comes up from my stomach and I can’t reiterate the question or add any urgency to it because I am too busy holding last night’s dinner in my mouth and cheeks, much like Putney the hamster, hoping that Mum is going to produce a bag in the next three seconds and that it’s not going to be one of her pretty handbags.
She’s certainly doing a lot of frantic rustling in the seat beside me so I think she’s got the message.
But it’s too late. Wave two is working its way up from my stomach with such force that it’s going to overtake wave one and send both waves tsunami-ing out of my mouth in less than a second.
You would think that at 2:40am I’d have the road to myself and would be able to pull over, throw my guts up and carry on with the rest of my life, but Barnstaple is uncharacteristically busy for such a time on a Sunday morning. I’m following an ambulance and there’s a whole convoy of cars behind me. There’s no way of stopping – not the car and not the tidal wave rising up through my body.
The tidal wave unleashes itself, all over the car. The steering wheel, the dashboard, me, my Mum. Nothing and no-one is spared. In the dark it’s hard to assess just how bad things are, and we still haven’t seen a layby so all I can do is keep driving.
Readers, how squeamish are you? I don’t want anyone to unsubscribe from my blog because I scared you off with my vile tale of vomit. My stories are supposed to make everyone laugh after all. Does it make it easier if I don’t mention the S word? Or if I referred to it as last night’s dinner? Which by the way was the most delicious beef lasagne I’ve ever tasted… maybe now isn’t the right part of the story to tell you that?
Anyway, it was as bad as you could imagine. Literally everywhere. I was wearing it, Mum was splattered with it, the car was full of it. The only good news was that my earlier prediction was correct, now that it was no longer inside me I felt a lot better.
Once upon a time there was definitely a brand new packet of wet wipes in the boot of my car. But not anymore. We found a couple of serviettes in the glove compartment but not enough to make any difference. I was going to have to sacrifice Grannie’s tartan blanket.
Older than me, Grannie’s tartan blanket had been a staple part of Gough family picnics since even before my Dad was born. In its youth it went on Great British holidays in Grandad’s Hillman Imp, along with hampers of sandwiches and flasks of tea. These days it lived in the boot of my car, sat on the beach almost every day in the summer and bided its time in the winter. The picnic blanket had no doubt seen a lot of things in its time.
But never before had it been used to mop up a huge deluge of sick. It wasn’t the most effective material for this purpose, but it was better than nothing. After it could take no more, I put it in a plastic bag (see I did have bags, they were just in the boot where we couldn’t reach them) and we drove on.
Any other night and I could have taken myself to 24 hour Tesco to clean up myself and clean up the car. But at 3am on a Sunday morning? I knew a couple of nightclubs would be open but they employed bouncers to kick out the people who were covered in sick, not to let them in. Besides we hardly looked like we were dressed for clubbing.
“We’ll drive to the first service station,” I decided. I’d buy some wet wipes, rinse out Grannie’s blanket, wash myself, change my clothes and buy one of those tree shaped air fresheners that people hang from their rear view mirrors. I don’t usually like them because – ironically – they make me feel sick, but under the circumstances, I decided it might mask the smell a little bit.
And so we drove through the night, sunroof and windows wide open. Once when driving back from the airport with the sunroof open, a bird clever enough to understand the science of how to land something on a moving object sent a stream of white pooh down through the sunroof and onto the gearstick and handbrake. It would really be the icing on the sick if that happened again tonight, but luckily for me none of the birds in tonight’s sky had got a GCSE in physics yet.
The Tiverton services – a Burger King and a Costa – are not open at 3:25 on a Sunday morning so we hit the motorway and kept driving. Finally we see the sign for services in 10 miles and in my head I’m working out the best order to do everything, and whether it would be overkill to buy several large bottles of water, throw them over the affected areas and hope England has enough half term sunshine to dry the seats out over the next week. Then, a mile before we get to the much anticipated services, the SatNav tells me to leave the motorway because the airport is looming.
And so we find ourselves in the car park, supposedly ready to go on holiday, except because we haven’t been to a service station I’m still wearing remnants of sick, I smell disgusting and there’s little pockets of vomit all over the car because using your Grandmother’s picnic blanket in an unlit layby at 3 o’clock in the morning isn’t exactly a foolproof method of removing all traces of sick from a Renault Clio.
There’s a super smiley, super efficient car park attendant. He’s even got shorts on, bless him, in the middle of the night in October. Clearly getting into the spirit of everyone else going on holiday even if he’s not having one himself. He wants the keys to my car. I hope for his sake he’s not planning to get in it or drive it anywhere. You hear about these airport scams where the people looking after your car take it for a joyride to Brighton accruing speeding tickets as they go, well I think we can safely say nobody’s going to be choosing my car for any illicit road trips this week. But this poor man might have to take it on a two mile trek to his premises in a different part of Exeter.
“We just need a few minutes to sort everything out,” I tell him brightly, and noticing a sploge of sick on the footwell carpet I cement the rubber floor mat on top of it. Out of sight, out of mind.
We hand over the keys and walk over to the airport, depositing the bag of sick serviettes as we go. In the airport toilets I get a first glimpse of my new look in the mirror. I am wearing jeans, and where some people’s jeans are fashionably bleached or faded down the middle of the leg, mine have been unfashionably sicked, with bright orange tracks all the way down to the knee, with plenty more on my hoodie, masking the brand name completely. The paper towels, push tap and hand dryer do little to improve my smell or appearance. I’m going to have to put on a whole new outfit. I don’t have any other trousers, I’m going to Lanzarote after all, but when I get back to Mum she’s already dug out her light weight turquoise three quarter lengths to lend me. And yes you’re right, turquoise is my favourite colour but I can assure you I didn’t plan to start the holiday covered in sick just so that I could borrow her trousers.
I root through my own suitcase for some clean clothes and Mum is astounded that in spite of everything else I’m hunting around for white knickers.
“Those trousers are see through,” I protest. “I can’t wear black knickers.”
“Lots of other people do,”
“I don’t,” I said, and headed back to the toilet armed with my new outfit.
We went through security, finishing up the last of the Tropicana orange juice from my fridge and then out into the metropolis of Duty Free shopping. Exeter airport has only two shops but my usual enthusiasm for perfume spraying and book buying had gone completely. I never sit and wait for the flight to be announced, I’m usually too busy darting around having fun, but today sitting and waiting is all I feel well enough to do, apart from a dash to the disabled toilet when it seemed that there was some lasagne left in my body after all and it wanted to make a hasty retreat out of the other end of my body.
We got on the plane and I hoped my body would behave until we were in the air. It’s probably okay to be sick once you’re airborne but if they caught me throwing up before take-off they might tell me I’m not fit to fly and chuck me off the plane. Learning from my earlier experience, I try to be prepared. There are no sick bags in the seat pocket. So I lean over to Mum. “Have you got a bag?” I ask, instilling a terrible sense of déjâ vu in her.
I’d paid £11 to sit by the window and another £11 for my Mum to sit next to me. “You shouldn’t have bothered,” she said when I told her earlier in the week. “I don’t mind where I sit.” Now though I was supremely grateful to have paid the money. When you’re throwing your guts up on a plane it’s much better to be sitting next to your Mum than a kindly but clueless couple from Clyst Honiton or even worse an angry unforgiving lady from Umberleigh.
We had 20 minutes in the air before the first wave came. The Tropicana orange juice, why did I ever think it was a good idea to drink that? Up it came and I promptly deposited it into the Duty Free bag Mum had procured for me earlier. Wave after wave came, surely I hadn’t drunk that much orange juice? Mum pressed the button so that the cabin staff could come and watch too.
They were great. They came forth with bottles of water and giant plastic bags. Who knew being sick had so many silver linings? Free bottles of water, no mention of a 5p charge for a carrier bag. No chance of your car being joyridden whilst you’re away, and the unexpected opportunity to wear your mother’s turquoise trousers.
Which were currently being spattered with sick. Along with my white hoodie, the only other warm piece of clothing I’d brought with me. I’d brought it because I like to think that white shows off my suntan and blonde hair after a few days in the sun. If I’d known it was going to be covered in sick before I even got to the sun I would have made a different choice.
The rest of the journey was not a lot of fun. It was cold in the air, far too cold for a pair of turquoise three quarter lengths. I wasted the window seat by sleeping for much of the time, waking every 20 minutes or so to quench a horrible thirst, shiver, and make insightful remarks such as “my hair smells like parmesan” before falling back to sleep again.
Eventually all of the free bottled water collecting in my stomach decided it was time to revolt and soon I was wide awake and throwing up into one of the lovely big TUI plastic bags that the cabin staff had given me. Whilst it was an intense and prolonged moment I wasn’t so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the two teenagers in the seats in front turning around and shamelessly filming me on their phones. “That really is sick,” my Mum quipped when I told her later.
“Are you actually for real?” I wanted to ask the teenagers, but I was too busy being sick to be able to address them so instead I gave them my best teacher glare whilst throwing up which no doubt just made for even better viewing.
Imagine, I spend all this time writing stories and trying to make a name for myself and in the end the thing that makes me go viral is two nasty teenagers and a sick bag.
There is nothing left in my body to come out so the rest of the journey is fine. We get to the hotel and I pass out on the nearest sunlounger for the next 3 hours whilst Mum lunches by herself and attempts to find Aunty Jean who arrived on a different flight.
It’s an all-inclusive hotel but for now the only thing I want to eat are those biscuits that other people get with coffee (I don’t drink coffee, so I never get them, but luckily they are unlimited and free to everyone here, not just coffee drinkers).
My clothes spend a night in the bath and the next day I send them to the hotel laundry. I got pretty familiar with using the washing machines at Australian backpacking hostels a couple of years ago, but sending my clothes to a hotel laundry is not something I ever imagined myself doing. Two T-shirts, two hoodies, the jeans, the turquoise trousers, the white knickers. It costs €25 and when they are returned to me, crisply ironed and smelling like fresh sheets, all I can see is the patches where the sick was. Like Lady Macbeth and her invisible blood, I am so traumatised by Lasagne Gate that I will forever be seeing tracks of sick on my no longer favourite jeans and hoodie.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to wear any of the clothes yet. They remind me too much of last Sunday’s drama. And I gave lasagne a wide birth when they served it in the restaurant on Tuesday night. I’m lucky that after my traumatic Sunday I had a very early night and woke up on Monday feeling fine and ready to start the holiday. It’s been a great week. We’ve had a lovely time.
So what kind of fool would voluntarily choose to leave their sun lounger, put on their jeans with the invisible sick tracks and fly back to England to get into a car that’s been festering for a week. I’ve seen the weather forecast for England at the moment. It’s not exactly sunroof weather.
So you see, I can’t possibly come home. I’ll just have to stay here.
Perhaps I’ll get a job as a Sun Safe rep.