Sunday, September 19, 1999

The itinerary is as follows

The itinerary is as follows: leave airport, crash plane, avoid death narrowly, then proceed as usual to the hotel pool and bar

What amazes me about last week's Britannia Airways crash in Spain is that so many of the passengers seem to have decided to stay put and continue with their holiday anyway.
On Friday, a couple of dozen were reported to have flown back home, but the rest, it seems, are still out there. Some of these, no doubt, are hospitalised, and others may be quivering in their hotel rooms at the mere thought of having to board another flight home. But a fair number, I guess, have decided to plant themselves by the swimming pool as planned, despite the unfortunate circumstances of their arrival. If that isn't the bulldog spirit I don't know what is.
"How was your flight over then?" people will ask. "Oh well, the landing was pretty rough," they'll say. "Didn't you think, Fred? But it was worth it. Definitely worth it. We really needed this holiday. The people have been so nice. We don't mind in the slightest having escaped from a hideous death by a mere whisker. The end is never more than a heartbeat away anyway. The fact is, we're here now so let's just stay and make the best of it."
I don't know whether to admire this attitude or not. It reminds me of those stock British characters who get served flies and maggots and cockroaches in their soup but then decide to eat them all up anyway because they don't want to cause any unpleasant situations with the scary- looking waiters.
But on the other hand, anyone these days who can possibly emerge from a plane which has just broken into three pieces, and go on to resume normal life almost at once (by walking into a bar on the Costa Brava and telling everyone that they've got this unbelievably brilliant crap-flight-story to tell, for example), strikes me as a highly commendable individual.
After all, this is an age in which the attempt on the life of a mouse by a cat can provoke human witnesses into seeking urgent psychological help. If the attack happens somewhere within the confines of a holiday resort, the chances are that it will become a legal matter as well.
In fact, complaining, I thought, was all part of the great British holiday. The terrible food. The stupid receptionists. The slippery floors. The uncomfortable seats. The stale coffee. The wilting flowers. The hot weather. The barbaric children. The noisy neighbours. The incessant road-works. The delayed flights. The faintly dirty marks behind the washbasin which you can see if you look carefully when you are sitting on the toilet.
But crashed planes? Hey, no problem! Take it easy! Just sit down and stop getting so worked up about nothing! (And if that is how British holidaymakers are going to respond to near air disasters, I suggest that a good old plane scare might be the secret for getting people to appreciate their holidays.)
But I don't know. I suppose it helps that the flight was outbound rather than inbound. I would certainly view the breaking into three pieces of my plane during a landing back into the UK as excellent grounds for not coming into work for several weeks, or indeed months or years, into the future.
Sitting down by a swimming pool in Spain for a couple of weeks with a cold towel on my head, on the other hand, might be just the job to help me recuperate from my nasty little trauma.