John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Wednesday 20 July 2016


10:26–13:34 Cleethorpes–Manchester Airport
16:35–20:20 easyJet EZY1919 Manchester–Olbia
Le Palme Hotel & Resort

…Did this and that, then realised that I didn’t have much time to shave and assemble the stuff I needed to pack. I made the last-minute (almost) addition of The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. The taxi came just before 10am and took us to the station. The sign as usual said “Preparing”, and we confidently predicted to an older couple nearby that it would change to “Boarding” but we’d nevertheless find the doors still locked till a very few minutes before the scheduled departure time…. However, moments later we were proved to be wrong, when people waiting by a door opened the same and boarded. It was hot outside, but the air-conditioning on the train made it draughty and cold within. Some of the fields by the Stainforth and Keadby Canal were red with poppies — though not solidly, but rather with an effect like a pointillist painting. I read some of The Problem of Pain, quite difficult prose. The train got very full en route, with people standing at times, and when we retrieved our suitcases from the luggage rack on arrival at Manchester Airport, there was other luggage standing in the doorways. We went down the long tubular pier, but at the end the level of Terminal 1 was an escalator flight down from our level. We therefore had to use the adjacent elevator, but there was no indication on its sign which floor Terminal 1 was on. There were something like “Check-in A” and “Check-in B”, which were meaningless to us, but no mention of “Terminal 1”. If we’d known which floor-number we were currently on, we could have selected that number minus one. But someone else selected a floor number, and it was the right one for us. Because we’d paid for extra legroom seats, we had “speedy boarding”, which meant also that we didn’t have to queue for luggage check-in or for security checks. Check-in was automated: we had to put each piece of hold-luggage on one of the weighing machines, put the boarding pass in its scanner, and attach the label that it then printed around the handle of the piece of luggage. Then we had to place each piece of luggage on one of the “feeders” to the conveyer belt, which also weighed it again and scanned the label, and press a button to send it. Having done that we went through security, and went air-side, through the (always, to me, incensive and execrable) maze of duty-free shops, to the gate area, with shops, bars, restaurants, etc. As for getting lunch, …in the end I got a large beef pasty from the Upper Crust stall (much as I would when waiting to depart from Kings Cross station after appointments at St. Thomas’s and later Guy’s), and an Americano coffee (incensively and execrably weak — damn the fucking Brits for their weak coffee!). Janet got herself a Pepsi Max from Boots using points from her loyalty card. Then we seated ourselves in the central lounge-area to wait — “Boarding in 40 minutes”, “Boarding in 35 minutes”, “Boarding in 30 minutes” — for our boarding-gate number to come up. I dislike it when Janet goes for a wander before the boarding gate number is due to appear on the departures screen, but she was back just before it did so. We made our way to Gate 6, and were second in line at the “Speedy Boarding” position. When we were let through, there was a wait at a locked door at the bottom of the stairs; and when we were let through that, we still had to wait on the tarmac at the foot of the boarding ladder. The fellow in front of us, a British resident of Sardinia, was recommending places to visit. Interesting at first, but we were glad when we parted company on the aeroplane. Janet and I had booked aisle seats in the extra-legroom Row 13, where two of the emergency doors are. (It was an Airbus 320, with one centre aisle and 3 + 3 seating.) And no-one came to sit in the two seats to Janet’s left and the two to my right; we had the whole row to ourselves. When the refreshments trolley came by, I had a little bottle of red wine and Janet had a Diet Coke; and we had the same again a little later. I read some more of The Problem of Pain. We put our watches forward one hour. I saw craggy mountains out of the left window — we appeared to be going parallel to a coast; they rose out of the sea — then we were descending. It was about 8pm, local time. I’d anticipated being able to use the loo before landing, but now I couldn’t. Because we were early there was a delay before they provided shuttle buses and we were allowed to disembark. And when the bus deposited us at the “Non-Schengen Arrivals” building, there was a large crowd waiting to filter past two men checking passports. I went to the toilet and when I came out Janet had the suitcases with her. There was a smart-looking man with a sign saying “Cooper” and he led us to a large black Mercedes car, opened the doors for us and loaded our luggage. The journey from Olbia to Hotel Le Palme took some 35 minutes. The western sky was yellowish from the setting sun, and when the sea came into view to the east there was a great yellow full moon just above the horizon. It was perhaps 9.40pm when we arrived and checked in at reception. We were given a card, signed by “Santiago”, the TUI rep.

“Dear Mr & Mrs Cooper,…
I will be at Le Palme Hotel on Friday at 6.30pm (Reception).
Regards, Santiago.”
Disappointing, because we wanted to get some excursions booked!

Because dinner ends at 9.30pm they provided a cold plate of meats including rare beef, strong hard cheese, and salad including rocket leaves, after we went first with the porter up to the room in the elevator, then down to the restaurant by stairs. We had difficulty initially finding a second set of stairs to get us down to reception, and thence to the floor below, where the restaurant was situated. (The rear of the hotel is at a lower level than the front.) We ordered drinks and got a tiny Diet Coke and a tiny Sardinian beer. They wanted us to sign for these without giving any indication of the price; indeed, we were hard pressed to make them understand that this was what we wanted to know. I think it was €10.00, which we thought iniquitous! We went back to the room; Janet unpacked some stuff; I worked out how to adjust the right balance of hot and cold water for Janet to have a shower; and we were in bed just before midnight. We’d asked the porter how to turn off the air-conditioning, because the room had felt a bit cold. So we went to bed with the sliding door to the balcony open, because of the cool breeze that afforded (braving the sounds of Caruso and Volare from the entertainments going on below).

[Thursday 21 July 2016]

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