Don’t drink the water

The post-Christmas season historically offer us a plethora of travel ads.  It’s cold and wet in the UK, so travel advertisers are encouraging you to seek warmer climes.

Having been on the receiving end of much moaning from my mother, my father succumbed and booked us on our first foreign trip: we were heading for Majorca.  It was the summer of 1968.  If Frankie Valli had had number dyslexia he’d have sung a song about it.

My mother had previously been to Bognor, Brighton and Bournemouth.  Because she’d had little education through not going to school during the Blitz, she’d only really mastered the letter “B”, so her vacation destinations were alphabetically limited.

We set off from Luton Airport to Palma.  It was only when we stepped onto the tarmac that we realised my mother had a fear of flying.

Earlier we’d been delayed several hours; we’d all been given vouchers to the value of 2/6 (12 and a half pence in today’s post-decimalisation days).  Mother took mine and got herself more alcohol.  We had to walk from the departure lounge (less lounge, more outside toilet) across the tarmac onto a plane which wouldn’t have looked out of place during the Berlin Airlift.

Whilst my father was carrying copious bags of Duty Free, my task was to get my mother onto the plane.  In 1968, when I was 11, I was very slight and so weak I couldn’t even pick up a discus during school athletics, let alone throw it the required distance to avoid getting detention.  So getting a five-foot seven, thirty-five- year-old adult on the plane was an incredible feat.  Not blessed with the persuasive powers of the Brothers Saatchi I simply dragged her like a caveman brining a sabre-tooth tiger back for tea.

Several weeks before the trip we were encouraged, lest you caught Spanish Tummy, to take tablets with the snappy name of Entero-Viaform.  The packet did what it said on the tin as there was a cartoon man gripping his stomach featured on the packet.

Even with the preventable medicine, my mother still got ill. This had followed on very quickly with her contracting cow pox, having one too many of her “heads” and now she had Balearic Belly.  My father vowed never to take her abroad again.  He didn’t.  It was back to Bognor next summer, there was less chance of getting Bognor Belly there.

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