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Monday April 11, 2011

Looking a gift suitcase in the mouth


Now, I know I’m going to sound ungrateful and thoroughly undeserving but the truth is that there are times when a gift placed in my hands holds as much pleasure as receiving a grenade or possibly a starved piranha. Let me qualify that.

When, as an expat, I trundle back and forth from Majorca to the UK for work or to visit friends and loved ones, I always travel on what are fondly known as budget airlines that restrict passengers to 20 kilos of hold luggage. Woe betide those mortals foolish enough to try to beat the system or they could find themselves experiencing a bit of wing walking or at the very least paying a hefty surcharge.

Despite explaining about my luggage limitations, certain optimistic friends and family members seem to think that I can somehow bend the rules and that when making an appearance at Gatwick airport with an extra 50 kilos worth of chocolate, oatcakes, sides of beef and Cumberland sausages, the check-in girls are going to rush to greet me with open arms.

On my two recent trips back to Blighty, the gift challenges escalated to near Houdini proportions. Here goes: a 7 kilo stone toad, a side of salmon, towelling robe, set of six mugs, pair of well worn Wellington boots, gilt mirror (2ft x 20 inches), 3 kilos of honey and ten packets of Sri Lankan leaf tea, two large easter eggs, wrought iron bell, hockey stick, piggybank stuffed full of old coins and five hardback books.

When my face displayed a mixture of panic and dismay on each occasion, I’d receive that familiar chummy wink and the words: “You can squeeze that in the old case, can’t you?” What is a girl to say? After all, it would seem churlish to refuse the weird and not-always-so-wonderful, mainly used items off-loaded on me: things that these kind souls think are impossible to find in the Majorcan hills. So in cowardly manner, I thank them profusely and slope along to my little club in central London where I stow the non-food goods away in a bulging basement cupboard, full of strange and discarded items which have in all probability been dumped there by fellow members travelling on aforementioned budget airlines.

Each trip back from the UK I revisit the fateful cupboard and decide which lucky item will find its way into my suitcase. This time it was the wrought iron bell and the mugs. Oh, and a one foot tall chocolate Easter bunny.

Actually, as I waited to check in at Gatwick, humming the tune to “pack up your troubles in your old kitbag”, I decided the bunny had to go, so my son and I gobbled him up before we’d reached the desk. It was one way to lose – and put on-weight.

First appeared in Telegraph Expat





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