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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Airport security laid bare – especially if you happen to set off the scanner!

Timewarp hit me a few weeks ago, when I was on holiday.

Our plane had just touched down at Larnaca Airport when a group of passengers in the forward seats all burst into seemingly spontaneous applause – a few cheers, here and there, and much frenetic handclapping.

I was more than a trifle gobsmacked. I know that it was a particularly smooth landing but the last time I heard such applause was when I was flying to Spain – some 50 or more years ago. But in 2012?

I was half expecting some drink-sodden fellow passenger to come round with a hat, making a collection for the pilot.

This little flash of timewarp put me in mind of previous holidays – a sort of haze of memories, many of them now almost impossible to put a date to.

And it was the same when my wife and I were sorting through our collection of holiday, and other, photos – some of them from a few decades ago.

Nowadays most photos which have been developed commercially are dated – but not in earlier days and a great many of ours were from “earlier days”.

Many of the really early ones were taken with rather basic cameras, the sort you’re likely to come across at car boot sales, probably in a junk box.

As I remember, many foreign “holiday” airports were a trifle basic and, perhaps, none the worse for being so.

When I walk through the glitz and glam of the really large airports of today, all of them seemingly aggressively designed to fleece us punters. I do sometimes hark back wistfully to simpler times.

I chanced to fly on the day after 9/11 – when security was really beefed up – when, seemingly, security relieved you of any metal objects larger than a safety pin. But when we were on the plane, come lunchtime, I was given the usual tray of food, with a stainless steel knife, fork and spoon.

It goes without saying that on the return flight all these were made of plastic.

Every time I fly, I do tire of the ritual of partial undressing before being scanned. Off go jacket, watch, mobile phone, belt – and, often, shoes – and, sometimes, if the scanner makes an inappropriate buzz, a swift body search. Not a good idea if one is beltless.

I well remember one security guard who, in his haste, managed to achieve my partial public debagging. But, I suppose, it was all in the interest of security.

I seem to remember that there was a time, presumably when the country was going through one of its many periods of economic downturn, when we were restricted as to the amount of sterling we were allowed to take abroad. It’s a dim memory. Was this £50 maximum?

I also remember a time when, before modern developments in banking, getting hold of money from Britain was difficult if for some reason you found yourself precariously financed – like the year, was it back in the 80s, that the exchange rate took a catastrophic tumble, all in one day.

Until the late 1950s most people took their holidays in this country. A week at a seaside resort, often staying at a boarding house – breakfast and evening meal included.

I was going to add that the use of the silver cruet set was extra, but I suspect that’s a bit of holiday mythology.

But it was a fact that boarders, in many such establishments, had to vacate the premises for most of the day.

This would explain why so many people were to be found, all wet and miserable, gazing at a grey and blustery sea, in promenade shelters.

One drawback of holidaying in Britain has always been the weather.

I wonder how long it took these boarding houses to change these rules when they decided to go upmarket and call themselves private hotels.

Coming back to these shores, I read that some Harrington folk want to go it alone.

I almost went into timewarp, because I remember thinking that they’ve been there before.

It was back in April 1934 that the then Harrington Urban District Council disappeared, when it became part of Workington.

The members and officials of Harrington UDC were not too pleased with this enforced change.

One informant told me they were so disgusted that they took all the council’s records and documents out of their offices – and dumped them in the dock.

It’s a nice story, but I suspect that it’s just another urban myth. Unless, of course, you know any different!

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