I recently returned from my honeymoon in Australia. How was it? Absolutely wonderful, thanks for asking. In fact, it was so wonderful that my wife and I were overcome with snotty weepiness prior to take-off from Brisbane Airport, when Qantas cruelly filled our personal TV screens with sweeping images of vast, red-tinged Aussie landscape, accompanied by a song that was so sad it was like injecting the final scenes of Pans Labyrinth directly into my heart.
I feared our flight had been commandeered by a team of X-Factor producers determined to yank at our heartstrings, and that the opening announcement from the flight deck would probably feature Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ playing in the background. The captain would then tearfully reveal that he was flying us back to Blighty to make his leukaemia-stricken cat proud, before pumping a looped soundtrack of anthemic Snow Patrol tracks into the cabin for 21 gruelling hours.
Thankfully, none of that actually happened (apart from the crying bit), it was just a way of bulking out the intro to this blog post. And the honeymoon was great. The only downside was other people. Dribbling idiots, all of them (well, some of them).
When I think about the perfect holiday set-up my mind instantly darts to the opening scenes of 28 Days Later, with Cillian Murphy wandering around a deserted London. Provided you did all your sightseeing before nightfall – to avoid being overwhelmed by excessively violent ‘Rage’ zombies, while posing for a photo at a key tourist attraction – it would be absolute bliss to wander around a holiday location without the presence of other tourists. Sure, the gut-wrenching smell of bins and lack of public transport would eventually take its toll on the holiday spirit, but those first few days without other people would be great.
Because when I’m surrounded by other people on holiday I can often lose hours of my life obsessing over their rudeness and baffling inconsiderateness. I also end up with a roll-call of identifying nicknames for the most annoying people I encounter, which often sound like members of a crap street gang. Subsequently, my wonderful honeymoon was frequently punctuated with grumbles about ‘Pink Shirt’, ‘Fat Samoan’ and ‘The Inquisitive Brothers’ – to name but a few.
Planes are particularly challenging, claustrophobic environments in which to sit shoulder to shoulder with fellow humans. For instance, there are those passengers who fully recline their seats roughly 20 seconds into the flight, which leaves your headrest TV screen so close to your face you can count the number of screen pixels in Bear Grylls’ eyeball (assuming you’re watching Born Survivor, like I was). I dare say these inconsiderate arseholes would also happily vomit on my Kindle’s screen and wipe their bum on my bread roll, anything to make my flight just that little bit more uncomfortable.
On a flight we took from Perth to Sydney I was driven to distraction by an overweight father of two toddlers, who wandered around the plane constantly – barefoot – like it was his own living room. He spent almost the entire flight doing circuits of the cabin in pursuit of one of his daughters, which was impossible to ignore on account of the fact that Boots Randolph’s ‘Yakety Sax’ rattled through my brain every time he and his daughter whizzed by my seat for the umpteenth time. I then spent the next few hours of the flight fantasising about garrotting him with the cord of my complimentary headphones, or fashioning a shank from the foil tray of my inflight meal; something strong enough to puncture his Hawaiian shirt and the outer wall of protective blubber in which he was encased. However, on the upside, my murderous imaginings actually made the flight pass quite quickly.
It’s also worth mentioning that the sound I associate most with the collapse of civilisation is the chorus of clinks at the end of a flight, when everyone unfastens their seatbelt before the seatbelt sign has been fully extinguished. (Let me repeat that: before the seatbelt sign has been extinguished.) Hell, why don’t we all just charge off the plane, smear shit along the walls of the jetway as we go, pillage each other’s luggage, and rut like stags in the arrivals lounge? Let’s revel in the total breakdown of order!
Unbelievably, I even found someone annoying whilst snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Someone actuallyannoyed me in the middle of the Coral Sea – at a breathtaking World Heritage Site. As I marvelled at the explosion of colourful marine life darting around beneath me, with a vacant expression of total awe – like a man wearing a snorkel mask dipped in paint thinner waiting for the Clown Fish to perform a routine with a bucket of confetti – the bellowing voice of a Russian constantly pierced the calm. I actually thought I was pretty clever shouting “shut the fuck up!” into my snorkel – until my ears broke the surface of the water and I heard my voice carrying across the waves, sounding like a Borrower hurling abuse from the bottom of bottle.
Thankfully, the Russian didn’t drown me or offer me a polonium-210-coated digestive on the boat journey home, and he eventually piped down and allowed us all to swim around without the commentary.
It should have been hard for me to find anything remotely annoying about the people at Byron Bay, as it’s sort of a mecca for inoffensive types, such as surfers, beach bums and hippies – but I still managed a tiny grumble (even though a bearded old hippie said my wife and I were an “attractive couple” and described me as a “strong man” for carrying a heavy rucksack. He was stoned, obviously, but that’s no reason to doubt his opinion). Basically, everyone in Byron Bay seemed to walk around with their bum out, looking lithe, sexy, bronzed, young and cool, while the surfers darted in and out of the tumbling surf as if they were running a giant thread through the waves in a bold attempt to sew up the ocean. The place has a ridiculously high rate of general attractiveness and effortless cool.
It wasn’t that I found the people themselves annoying, I think I was just annoyed at how old they made me feel. The average male surfer and beach dweller tended to walk around with their shorts sitting just below their Apollo’s belt, while I wandered up and down the beach with my Apollo’s bum bag concealed beneath a t-shirt and some sensibly hoisted cargo shorts. They were young and free, with their lives still ahead of them. Conversely, I could barely remember my youth and freedom, which means that I probably didn’t even know what to do with it when I had it. And now it was gone. I wasted it. That wasn’t the fault of those who’d flocked to Byron Bay, of course, I was just envious of them. It was annoying to think about.
Anyway, I thought I’d better wrap up this blog post by saying something positive, which is that the customer service we received in Australia was possibly the best I’ve ever experienced anywhere, and the vast majority of people we encountered on our travels were beyond fantastic. There was even a guy on one of our flights who retrieved everyone’s hand luggage from the baggage compartment and passed the bags to those who couldn’t reach. Whoever you are, sir, you briefly restored my faith in humanity. Still, me being me, I probably spent more time grumbling about the irritating and inconsiderate few that we came across, which my long-suffering wife will wearily testify to. I honestly don’t know why I do that? I guess I’m just annoying.