Travelling light


Learning a new language is always a difficult challenge. My mother and father have begun taking Italian lessons twice a week and they are doing well, although they seem to find the various definite and indefinite articles difficult.


My mother has always wanted to learn Italian, but one reason they finally decided to start taking lessons now is because my mother will be trekking in Tuscany with a friend of hers, through the little villages and the orchards with fruit and olive tress, visiting churches and monasteries and staying in small hotels.


My mother and her friend will be travelling on one of these no-frills airlines, the ones that seem to charge you extra if you travel with anything heavier than a toothbrush. There is a check-in baggage fee, which allows you up to 15 kilos, with extra kilos being charged an arm and a leg each.


There is also a very small carry-on baggage allowance, which approximately allows you a single paperback and a packet of cigarettes. Infants do not have a baggage allowance, although baby prams can be carried free of charge. However, should you want to take a musical instrument such as a double bass or harp, you must check it in. Should you want to take a guitar, you may rest it in the seat next to you as long as you pay for its seat and fasten its seatbelt. Unfortunately, the guitar will not be entitled to a baggage allowance of its own.


The website of this airline, bedecked in garish blue and eye-straining yellow, also notes that a “delicious range of snacks” and a “choice of hot or cold beverages” is available onboard, as long as you pay for them. A cold sandwich costs five euros, a chocolate costs about one euro, a cup of coffee or bottle of water costs more than twice that. Alcoholic drinks are also served- beer costs four euros and for five euros you can buy a thimbleful of the spirit of your choice, packaged in a little plastic sachet (the kind that fast food restaurants serve their ketchup in). This is the “new range of super premium spirits”. Talk about luxury.


And in case you drink too much of your chosen “super premium spirit” (unlikely at the prices they charge) you can pay three euros for a couple of capsules of LifeLine, the hangover cure (whose website proudly notes is “made in Ireland for Irish drinkers”  whatever that is supposed to mean).


I suppose, in the end, nobody really cares about the in-flight service, the in-flight movie, the often terrible airplane food, though we often complain incessantly on the flight itself and for a couple of days after we step off the plane. All we really want is to get safely from our starting point to our destination, hopefully enjoy ourselves or get done whatever it is we came to do when we get there, and then get back home safely. That’s all that matters. This is why we’re willing to eat the overcooked pasta and stale bread rolls and put up with the occasionally unfriendly staff. And when you’re tired, even the lukewarm tea and coffee seem acceptable, although I think that one day I’ll be using a favourite quote of mine by Abraham Lincoln (“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea, but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee”).


And as for those LifeLine pills, I wonder if I can get the company to mail me a few packs.

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