​‘Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away … ‘  Somehow even Frank Sinatra couldn’t make the prospect of today’s air travel inviting.  Tempted to use that familiar phrase ‘I’d rather be staked to an anthill naked’ – the source of which I have little recollection now – but, to be honest, needs must.  If one wishes to escape then one must endure.  One piece of advice, however, which I have long considered invaluable – never choose a destination which requires flying to Palma!  That’s all I’m saying.
Once upon a time, flying was a luxury few could afford and of which most could only dream.  It held a mystique and was synonymous with glamour.  Pilots were dashing in their uniforms and the voice from the cockpit welcoming one aboard might just as well have been Cary Grant or Gregory Peck: a gentleman in whose hands one felt entirely safe. 
I think every little girl once dreamnt of being an air hostess.  The epitomy of style; a job filled with movie stars and far off climes for which one had to be a certain height and weight. If I remember correctly, one had to be a minimum of 5’6” so, failing leg extensions of one and a half inches, my erstwhile dream was shattered!  Fast forward to today and anything goes.  Such is life.
Our first family holiday abroad was in 1973 when I was thirteen.  Anything but the norm in those days, it was a massive treat and we knew how lucky we were.  We flew to Bavaria, the magic of which shall stay with me forever.  The mountains, lakes and fairytale castles; the beautiful painted houses with their wooden shutters nestled beneath snow-capped peaks, the cuckoo clocks … I still treasure my little clock and the momentos I brought back from that wonderful holiday.  I suppose it all reminded me of The Sound of Music, the film which was later to take us to Salzburg and St Wolfgang.  You see, Pop, there is a plan for every man!
I digress.  What a surprise!  My point is that it was unusual to go abroad and flying was very much glamourised.  Families holidayed ‘at home’, usually by the sea with the accompanying windbreaks and chitterybites to combat the British weather.  We were hardy in those days and knew no different.  Each family had its own favourite haunt to which it – I feel driven to say ‘they’ but ‘family’ is singular is it not? – returned every year.  The chosen holiday destination was usually that to which one’s mother or father had gone as a child and so the tradition continued.  Our place was Millport, a little island on the Clyde.  A mere ferry-ride across from Largs, we might have been sailing to join Robinson Crusoe we were so excited!  An Aunt, unrelated, had inherited her parents’ home on the island and it was perfect for family, friends and dogs.  A mere twelve miles in circumference, there were no cars on the island – or only those belonging to the residents – and everyone hired bikes and cycled.  It was safe.  The sun shone and I remember many summers of hose-pipe restrictions.  Rain or shine, however, it was a child’s paradise affording carefree days spent in the great outdoors; freedom.  Less than three hours from home, there wasn’t a ‘cattle truck’ in sight and we loved every minute of it.
We returned there with our children, in the early years, enjoying many happy times with their grandparents but that was then and this is now.  The world has shrunk, as it were, as air travel has become increasingly accessible and the traditional family holiday ‘at home’ has been consigned to photographs and old black & white cine footage.  Cheap air fares borne out of a competitive, multi-billion pound industry, mean that children today expect to holiday abroad whether it be, for most, in Disneyland, Florida, the Canary or Balearic islands.  Sun is non-negotiable being the most important factor.  Parents want to secure a sunbed and lie on the beach or by the pool all day content that their children are being entertained by hotel employees while they enjoy a well-earned rest – and suitably fry – in their all-inclusive resort before posting every last tiny detail on facebook!
Yes, prone to generalization – and a little exaggeration – I am merely highlighting the lapse of time and the expectations of an ever-changing world; an ever-changing world which has debased the experience of flying to that of taking the bus.  Silly me!  Flying does now, seemingly routinely, involve a luxurious bus ride before embarking on one’s plane.  Two modes of transport for the price of one – perfect!
I could liken flying to childbirth, I think: a necessary experience for the end result, the horrific details of which one, miraculously, manages to ‘forget’!  When I say ‘forget’, I mean one files away; however, they do remain, believe me.  I have many such delightful travel experiences in the filing cabinet of my memory, perhaps the most notable being a journey to Cape Town in 1995 with a six year-old and a two and a half year-old courtesy of Air Namibia!  Yes, twenty-three years ago now, I can still recall that sixteen hour journey involving three planes and a stopover in a Nissen hut in Windhoek, Namibia at 7am with elder child crying and throwing up, repeatedly, into a paper bag!  See what I mean?
Suffice to say, our recent trip to Rome epitomised the experience to which one resigns oneself today when one books a flight, cattle – sorry, economy class.  I now know why my brother used to say he would only turn left when boarding a plane.  Sadly, however, on most of these budget airlines that would mean he was the pilot – God forbid!  Anyway, flying at some unearthly hour in the morning, sleep is inevitably sacrificed in the bid to pack one’s entire wardrobe in a case which one virtually checks in oneself.  Well, no, I mustn’t forget the expertise of the person who has the power to condone or veto the weight of said case before giving it a helpful push along the conveyor belt having identified one according to one’s passport photo and stuck the correct sticker on said case!  Years of training …
Then there is negotiating security.  Much as the importance can never be belittled, it is an experience requiring of courage and endurance!  Having first established the correct way to scan one’s passport in order to gain entry, one must then leave one’s respect and dignity behind as one joins the masses in all but stripping off and depositing everything into trays.  I never make it through without being scanned and searched – all that is missing is the mug shot!  Relief.  Time to get a coffee and a book or magazine – or not.  Inevitably, the gate is in Glasgow – well, certainly the other end of the airport – and one must first negotiate the self-service checkout.  Utter chaos.  Why?  A dearth of humans requiring employment, of course!
Never mind, at least we have paid for Priority Boarding so we can relax.  Don’t be ridiculous!  Most people have as it is a requisite for taking one’s handbag on board.  The queue may be slightly smaller but all futile in the end.  With one’s barely touched coffee removed, one gets through the gate only to be faced with a bus onto which we are piled like cattle en route to slaughter.  Priority?  Squashed against Joe Bloggs the doors, of course, open on the other side of the bus and one is last off as everyone races to climb the stairs …
With rows of seats now where leg room used to be, the most one can be thankful for is a seat belt and a fold-down tray for that complimentary drink and nibbles …  How I used to love my brandy and ginger ale; the start of my holiday.  No more.  Instead one pays for cheap wine resembling paint stripper which goes some way to anaesthetizing one as the flight attendants endeavour to flog scratch cards and cheap perfume! 
On landing, the masses jump from their seats queuing for an age in a bid to be first off the plane into the inevitable waiting buses transporting once ‘intelligent life’ to the terminal.  In the darkness of our return journey, we were packed in and driven for miles past tin huts and concrete buildings.  I don’t know how to write this without sounding disrespectful but it did cross my mind, the jews being transported to the concentration camps … 
I could go on – purely for my own enjoyment, now, as I doubt I have any readers thus far – but one gets the picture.  I have deliberately not named the airline in question but, then, there is no need; it is obvious.  Suffice to say, though, said airline should be held accountable for what we witnessed on our return journey: notably, an old lady bent over and supported by a zimmer frame having to get onto the bus, herself, at Ciampino which then took us to the plane.  In the darkness, as we waited in the throng, I shall never forget the image of that frail old soul struggling to negotiate the steps to the plane – unaided!  She did the same on arrival – two hours late, I might add, having been stuck on that germ-infested plane with no valid explanation or apology. 
In the words of my friend, Tom – that’s Cruise, not Odell nor my new drumming teacher – aka Jerry Maguire,  ‘It’s a cynical world …’.  It sure is; a world driven by greed, now aided and abetted by technology, which has lost sight of what is truly important.  Debasing all to the lowest denominator merely serves to relinquish standards; values and, thus, respect.  The thing is, how does one turn back time?
I mentioned, some time ago, The Sound of Music and how it led us to Salzburg and, then, to St Wolfgang.  Obsessed with the film as a little girl – and having happened upon St Wolfgang on their travels – Pop told me that I must go one day.  Surrounded by locations for said film, we visited them all on a holiday we shared in 2001.  The stories I could tell involving towering mountains, harepin bends and photoshoots and the memory of Pop’s face …  All worth it as it afforded him one of his best-loved lines:
‘Thank God her favourite film wasn’t Scott of the Antarctic!’
The past has been bottled and labelled with love …
This is Trish, signing off.