John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Wednesday 10 June 2015

[Tuesday 9 June 2015]

Taormina Riviera — Catania–Manchester — Manchester Airport–Cleethorpes

Hotel Baia Taormina
11:20–13:50 Catania–Manchester
15:55–19:01 Manchester Airport–Cleethorpes
 Manchester Airport d  1555
 Manchester Piccadilly d  1620
 Stockport d  1627
 Sheffield a  1709
 Sheffield d  1710
 Meadowhall d  1716
 Doncaster a  1737
 Doncaster d  1747
 Scunthorpe d  1813
 Barnetby d  1827
 Habrough d  1836
 Grimsby Town a  1849
 Cleethorpes a  1901

Day 8
At the appropriate time a coach will return us to the airport to take our return flight home after a very varied tour.

Janet was up just after 5.30am, and I followed suit and used the bathroom after she vacated it. She’d packed one suitcase yesterday and did the remaining one now. We’d been instructed to leave suitcases outside the door by 7.00am to be conveyed to the coach (and it was suggested that we leave €1 on each of them for the porter(s)). We got that done by 6.30am. Janet sat on the balcony. “Even at that time of the morning it was hot…” she wrote. “The blue Ionian Sea was so calm it looked like a sheet of glass. There were a few yachts on the water. Wall-to-wall sunshine. Beautiful flowers and scenery. Birds singing.” I packed shaver, computers, etc., in my rucksack, and at 7am made my way down for breakfast. Janet as planned didn’t go, because she didn’t want in any way to be rushed. I had the freshly pressed juice of two oranges, some corn flakes (the milk was not sour today), and some so micro-thin bacon that it was translucent, with an unbranded sachet of tomato ketchup which nevertheless tasted agreeably like Heinz. I returned just before 7.30am, and as we left the room for the last time a porter was picking the coins off the suitcases and saying “Grazie!” The three lifts each opened to us without delay, and I handed over the key at reception. It was the shaved-headed guy who supposedly didn’t speak English who was on duty, but he understood well enough our request for an envelope (in which to put some £5 notes to give to Denise). We proceeded out to the waiting coach. It was before the 7.45am that had been specified for arrival there and for witnessing the loading of our own luggage into the coach. I think seats should be reserved with arses not baggage, so I sat in our chosen seat, while Janet, after depositing her bags in the rack above, went back out for her last sight, smell and sounds of the place, and to make sure our luggage went aboard. We all set off for Catania Airport at 8am. While everyone else waited in the long Baggage Check-in queue, we were quickly served at the “speedy boarding” desk, after which we proceeded without incident through the security check. There was a fast lane for that, but I ascertained from the official standing there that it was not for “speedy boarding” boarding-pass holders. We headed for “Gate 20” as the check-in clerk had written on the boarding passes, but found our way barred by the closed and unstaffed glass doors of Passport Control. After hovering there with indecision we found our way up some stairs to a café where we parked ourselves, took turns in visiting the loo, and had coffee (me) and Coke Light (Janet). Eventually we saw activity below, and proceeded through the now-staffed Passport Control and to Gate 20. We went to the front of the queue, for we were “speedy boarding” passengers, and were among the first to be admitted out onto one of two waiting shuttle buses. “Speedy boarding” is a misnomer and should be called “priority boarding”, for after entering a roped off section of the bus, we had to wait — and wait — for all the others to get on, on the other side of the barrier and on the other bus. (There were seats in their half of the bus as well, but not in ours! A year or two ago my feet were really tender and standing there would have been next to intolerable.) On the aircraft, I had a window seat in Row 11; a Scouse couple (who’d boarded the shuttle bus just ahead of us) sat to my right; and Janet sat across the aisle from them. We took off a little behind schedule at 11:35 CEST, but landed 15 minutes ahead of schedule at 13:32 BST. Just as on the outward flight, I had one of their £6 “Meal Deals”, only I paid for it in euros (€8) because that was all I had in my pocket. Outward, I’d had a can of Orangina, a bacon baguette, and some vinegar-flavoured crisps in a posey box; but this time, the bacon baguette wasn’t available. There was chicken and Caesar salad or cheese and pickle; and, not knowing what Caesar salad was, but suspecting that it might include something nauseating like eggs, I chose cheese and pickle. The cheese was agreeably much more mature than I expected. And I chose paprika-flavoured Pringles, because I rightly figured that their whole “hyperbolic paraboloids” would be more manageable than the fiddly, greasy crisp-fragments I had on the outward journey. On arrival we went down steps and across tarmac to the terminal building. Passing through the automatic passport scanner worked on the second attempt. There was a bit of a wait at the Baggage Claim carousel, and after it started we were annoyed that a small child on the opposite side was allowed to play with the moving carousel. Sotto voce: “Get your hands off our case, you little bastard!” After traversing the above-ground tubular piers from Terminal 1, we arrived at the railway station perhaps ca.2.15pm, in time for the train before the one whose times are listed above. We asked the TransPennine Express woman examining tickets at the station entrance whether our tickets were valid for the next train, and she said that they were. These then were the revised timings:

14:55–17:50 Manchester Airport–Cleethorpes
 Manchester Airport d  1455
 Manchester Piccadilly d  1520
 Stockport d  1528
 Sheffield a  1608
 Sheffield d  1610
 Meadowhall d  1616
 Doncaster a  1635
 Doncaster d  1637
 Scunthorpe d  1703
 Barnetby d  1718
 Grimsby Town a  1737
 Cleethorpes a  1750

That gave us time in the on-platform café-cum-waiting room to have a coffee (me) and Diet Coke (Janet). It hd the added advantage of being a through train, without the need to change at Doncaster. I read some more of Leaving Alexandria en route. We got off at Grimsby Town Station, because of the ease of getting a taxi from there. The taxi driver was a woman from Venezuela. There was a lot of mail behind the door when we got home…


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