My friends, family, and those of you on Facebook who have been paying attention, should be aware that I recently took my wife to Budapest for a few days in half-term, as part of her 40th birthday present. In truth, she was forty in November, nearly six weeks prior to my own big birthday (so help me, I do like an older woman), but she hates surprises, so I gave her the tickets in November, along with a guide book to this beautiful city, in order that she could plan the trip with me.
And, since I seemingly cannot go anywhere without becoming embroiled in some sort of comical or embarrassing incident (I appear to be a magnet for the unusual, and bear in mind we didn’t have Isaac with us this time), I thought I would tell you all about it – in the form of a postcard home to my followers. Ok, we’ve been back more than a week, but when was the last time a postcard got back to the UK before you did? Exactly.
Monday 17th February 2020
In order to make my wife’s birthday trip extra special, I decided to book the ‘Escape Lounge’ at Manchester airport, where, for around £20 each (I had a discount code), we could relax in style before our flight to Budapest, with all the complimentary food and drink we could manage. And, yes, that did include alcohol, but, fortunately, I still hadn’t fully recovered from my own birthday celebrations the weekend before (psychologically, rather than physically), so there was no danger of my becoming too inebriated to board the flight.
Anyway, when I booked this special treat just a few weeks earlier, I was blissfully unaware that I would be receiving my own ‘special treat’ before we even reached the lounge, in the form of getting felt up by a security guard at the baggage check. Look, I have flown before (albeit, not for a few years), so I am aware of the standard procedure for removing one’s belt – and sometimes shoes – before being patted down by a humourless airport employee, but on this occasion the chap in question insisted on running his gloved hands around the inside of my jeans waistband and then boxers, and in doing so caressed one of his long latex-clad fingers across my chap.
Worse, not only did he fail to react to becoming intimate with my intimates (so I assume it was intentional, rather than accidental), but when I made the snap decision to lighten the mood by giggling nervously and saying ‘Don’t worry, that’s not a weapon’, his facial expression remained entirely stoic. I therefore opted against suggesting he should take me for dinner before touching me up again in the future.
Following my own personal ‘baggage check’, The Escape Lounge itself was very nice, and the lady who greeted us perfectly pleasant, but it soon transpired that they would do everything possible to prevent me from getting my money’s worth out of the unlimited food and drink. Not only were the plates for the breakfast buffet ludicrously small (I smirked to myself when recalling the scene from I’m Alan Partridge, where Alan takes his own ‘big plate’ down to breakfast), but after I had been up twice the food started to run out – much to the annoyance of our fellow passengers – long before the lunch service was due to start.
Then, when I made the decision that 11am was a perfectly acceptable time for a beer (at airports, time is irrelevant, so you can start drinking at 5am if you so wish), I approached the bar to see what draught beer they had on offer. Fortunately, the one beer available was acceptable, so I asked for a pint of that.
“I’m afraid we only serve halves, Sir.”
“But it’s unlimited, is it not?”
“In that case, I’ll have two halves, please.”
Soon after I had worked my way through a few halves of beer (not to mention eyeing up the recently served lunch menu at the buffet table, with less than half an hour to our flight), we went to our gate and boarded the Jet2 plane waiting to take a load of Brits to Budapest.
Obligatory plane photo
And, it would seem, a load of Brits cannot board a plane without entirely fucking it up, because not only did a group of people (I believe the technical term is ‘morons’), ignore the boarding procedure – leading to those in the front few rows holding up the entire queue while they fannied about loading their bags and taking their seats with no sense of urgency whatsoever – but shortly after my wife and I correctly took our seats (when instructed to do so), it quickly became apparent that there was an issue on the other side of the plane.
It later transpired, one couple had either accidentally or deliberately ignored their seat allocation (either way, I despised them), but when the passengers who should have been in those seats boarded the plane, they simply followed suit and sat somewhere else, rather than tell them to fuck off.
Worse, Brits being Brits, all the remaining passengers then did exactly the same, rather than create a scene, which eventually created a scene anyway, as the final couple to board could not sit together – let alone anywhere near their original seats.
One poor flight attendant then had to make a quarter of the plane stand up and switch around, all because of the original couple who, to my horror, were not then thrown out of the fucking door at twenty-thousand feet as a punishment. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why I would not make for a good flight attendant (indeed, any public service position requires at least rudimentary patience with the public, and I generally hate people at the best of times, let alone Brits going abroad).
Thankfully, this incident only slightly delayed our flight taking off, and we actually landed ahead of schedule, thanks to the tail-end of Storm Dennis (shit name) getting behind our tail-end, escorting us on our way across Europe a little faster than expected. Bless ‘im.
Upon arrival at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt airport, the passport check was mercifully brief (aside from a plane load of confused Brits all questioning whether we should now join the EU or non-EU queue), and having collected our bags, I managed to purchase two travel passes for our three-day visit, as well as tickets for the airport shuttle bus to take us to the city centre. Thankfully, most Hungarians speak excellent English (far better than most of the Brits on our plane, as it happens), otherwise I might very well have found myself conjuring up a mime for ‘bus’, which is a situation I was happy to avoid.
Once we had checked in to our hotel (which was lovely), we then decided to brave the city for dinner and a few drinks.
Having taken advice before leaving, one place I was keen to check out was ‘Szimpla Kert’, one of the very first (if not the first) ‘ruin bars’ in the city. It was essentially an old factory, which had been transformed into a network of tiny bars and eateries (some without a roof, such was the dilapidation of the building), and having wandered around for a bit, we stumbled upon a tiny alcove bar serving burgers and other bar type food.
Having pondered the menu and our new ‘funny money’, we ordered, and then took our seats on a shared table with a few other couples.
Sadly, soon after taking the first few sips of my Hungarian beer, I realised the couple to my left were also British (I realised this, because they were extremely loud southerners) and, having caught my eye, the man decided to bring me into their ‘discussion’ over some of the artwork on the wall.
“Awight mate, help me out ‘ere, will ya? That picture up there, it’s a fackin’ man, right? The missus says it’s a woman.”
“Sorry, it IS a woman.”
“Well, it’s not my fackin’ fault I can’t see properleeeee. That fackin’ barman gave me some fackin’ Plinko, dinne, and now I’m fackin’ pissed out me ‘ead.”
Turns out, he was half right. The drink he had previously been served (apparently around 2pm, and by now it was nearly 8pm), was actually Pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy (of sorts), but he was quite correct about one thing – being pissed. Annihilated, as it happens.
In fact, he was so drunk, at one point he knocked over his empty pint glass but failed to realise, and then a full ten minutes later accused his wife/girlfriend (who was also drunk, but not to his level of inebriation), of spilling it. She then pointed out he had finished it some time ago, before knocking the empty glass over himself, and he decided on that basis it was time to leave.
And not a moment too soon, either, as the group of pleasant Hungarians to my right were clearly starting to think we knew this couple, and were travelling as a foursome, so I wanted to distance myself from them as quickly as possible. Besides which, I had a very strong feeling he was probably a Chelsea fan, which only made me dislike him all the more.
After dinner and a few drinks in Szimpla Kert (where I, rather annoyingly, discovered some of the currency I had brought with me was no longer legal tender, and I would need to change it at a bank), we wandered back to our hotel, passing a curious looking Indian Restaurant called ‘Bum Bum Hole’ on the way (it was actually called ‘Bum Bum Bole’, but I was by now a few beers warmer myself, so I misread the sign, and Bum Bum Bole is nowhere near as funny).
Having enjoyed one further drink in the hotel bar (and realising, retrospectively, that I had accidentally tipped the barman around 25p, as I had not yet got to grips with the exchange rate), we retired to the room where I found some German football channel on the TV (the only British channel appeared to be BBC World News, which was all doom-and-gloom).
And, rather amazingly, the German for ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’, is apparently ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’. Who knew?
To be continued…