Green plastic hair bands with plastic shamrocks attached to the hair bands by springs so that the shamrocks quiver at every movement by the wearer of the hair band. To contrast with the shamrock green, the wearers of the hair bands are all wearing rugby jerseys, in the scarlet of the Welsh national team.
At a fare of €16.96 (plus €29.99 for my bag), it is hard to complain at being surrounded by bobbing clover. There is consolation in the spring movers being sober.
Once, I was on a Friday evening flight from Liverpool to Dublin where a group of women had bought litre bottles of vodka in the airport shops. Having bought a bottle of Coca Cola from the trolley on the aircraft, I was urged by the young woman sat next to me to drink some of it so that she could top the Coke bottle up with vodka. I thanked her for her generosity of spirit and politely declined the offer. A few minutes later, one of her group, sat a few rows behind, was violently sick. I wondered at what pleasure was to be derived from being so drunk.
To be honest, once aboard the flight, the worst of the experience is usually over. Bristol Airport is always a far worse trial than that which may be imposed by a low fares airline.
Bristol Airport is bad from the moment of arrival. To be dropped at the airport costs £5. The airport have provided a ‘waiting zone’ a shuttle bus ride away where passengers may be dropped. However, the waiting zone is not actually where the shuttle bus picks you up, no, you have to walk along a road and through the car hire area to reach the bus stop. A sign announces that any driver who stops anywhere other than the waiting zone is liable to a £100 fine.
It is all a nonsense. Bristol Airport is not actually at Bristol at all, it is on a Somerset hilltop called Lulsgate Bottoms. It is some miles from anywhere, and is nowhere near a motorway or a railway station. The charges it makes are not because there is a lack of space, there is countryside all around, the charges are simply gouging by the airport owners.
The bag drop Ryanair is usually a quick and efficient process. It was not so at Bristol where the automatic belts were closed off and everyone required to queue for an encounter with either a staff member who processed two bags in the twenty minutes for which I waited, or with a woman who told me I needed a passport for going to Ireland (I suggested she look up Common Travel Area, and walked on).
The security checks are conducted with the leisurely pace that one might expect of a village cricket team on a Sunday afternoon. One woman tells you which place to go to for your plastic tray, and a man seemed chiefly engaged in pushing the trays along. At no point was there any instruction about what not to take through. Failing the scanner, as usual, I was instructed to go and stand in the body scanner, around which stood three staff in a desultory sort of mood.
The terminal building was chaos, a string of flights had been delayed or cancelled (notably, not the Ryanair ones. Passengers for a flight to Toulouse were told that their 1730 flight had been delayed to 0730 and that they should go to Gate 2, in order to be ‘decontrolled.’
With a bag of mints and a biography of Robert Graves, I tried to shut out the cacophony that surrounded us.
Why fly? The simple answer always is that is cheap. While there is much truth in the song ‘Cheap Flights,’ there remains the fact that a few hours of unpleasantness saves a lot of money.
A red jersey wearer tells me that her group nearly didn’t make it at all after their bus from Swansea broke down on the M4 motorway. Now, the hard shoulder of the M4 motorway at Newport would make Bristol Airport seem like Nirvana.