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Punch drunk Buggy off

Woe. Woe. Woe were we on Wednesday morning. I mean, I felt OK until I stood up, but Helen felt ropey from the moment she woke up, before even reaching a vertical base. "I feel poisoned" she said, repeatedly throughout the day.

Slowly, tenderly, more gingerly than the Dark & Stormy garnish of the previous afternoon, we showered and packed up. Much to my mild confusion and dismay, packing involved entirely unpacking the stuff already in each suitcase despite my protestations of there being plenty of space in them for our stuff. Further protests fell on deaf ears when my case was deemed the one in which all the dirty clothes should go. Bah!

Feeling ever more delicate, and odd to be wearing jeans, we were done packing way before checkout time. With basically no way to kill time, and 3 hours until our cab, we knocked on the landlord's door and left our stuff just inside his front door, then buggered off up the road to the Regis Palms, which got a much bigger thumbs up of recommendation than our originally planned trip back to Cuisine Spice Isle in the other direction.

At "Wine & Something", the bar at the Regis Palms, a lady standing next to a table covered in phones and paperwork, though attending to neither as she was eating some messy fruit, asked us what we wanted. As if it wasn't obvious, we'd like to sit and eat please. That's when we realised it was still only 1130 and obviously way too early for lunch to be ready. But she was happy to get us a water and a beer while we sat looking out over the sea, watching the flying fish put on a show beneath us while trying to avoid being caught by the various diving and skimming birds around.

There are no bad views around here.

Beer starts to make me feel a bit more human. Water, on the other hand, isn't doing much for Helen. But at around midday things look up, as we're told some dishes are now available to order. Curried chicken with rice sounds good, thanks.

It's nice - the rice in particular is fluffy and filling, though there could be more meat on the chicken bones. Once it's finished there's still 90 minutes until our cab, an awkward amount of time to kill if we have to go elsewhere plus it'd be 10EC just to get there and back, wherever "there" is – we've only 70EC in cash left, but there's been no menu or signs of any prices so right now we're guessing what state we're in.

Thankfully they take cards so my "fuck it, let's just stay here" opinion wins. A beer and a coke, then two beers, and our visit to the Regis ends up being a great success: we've killed almost all the time until our cab in a venue just a couple minutes walk away from Sea Glass Place, the bill came to 60 of our 70 EC, and both of us feel human again.

Back up the road, via a moderately perilous walk along the narrow pavement while giant lorries speed past us ferrying actual poison (according to the signs on their front), we're back in possession of our cases and are hanging around for the cab to the airport.

He arrives, having picked up another couple from some place in Port Louis. Conversation between us is short but friendly, basically "are you also on the BA flight?" and "are we sharing the cab fare do you think?". Predictably the answer to the latter is no, as at the airport the driver insists both couples owe 20USD for what is typically a, er, 20USD ride. Never mind.

There's some stuff going on in the queue for BA check-in but we side-step it to walk down to the First Class bit. We'd checked in on my phone but you can't get a mobile boarding pass here, not least because you have to hand over a departure card. I'd filled mine out while waiting for the cab, managing to get both my surname and passport number wrong in the process.

At the desk, our boarding passes are in fact already waiting for us, alongside an invite to the lounge. Asking how we get there, we're told to just turn round and speak to the smiley woman standing directly behind us. She gives us a nice welcome and informs us she'll be our driver today, because fuck yeah it's time for a private golf buggy ride to the restricted area up the way where there's a whole separate terminal for premium passengers like us.

FANTASTIC. This is an awesome way to get to a lounge. Entering the building we hand over our boarding passes, passports and invitations, then go through security. There's more staff here than passengers, since there's only two of the latter: us. Everyone is friendly and once we've put all our stuff back in our bags, belts back on, etc, our private concierge leads us through the corridor to the main lounge room. She points out where the loos are, the wifi password, and the self-pour champagne, and tells us we'll be collected when the plane is ready.

Well this is all rather excellent. I pour a couple of champagnes and get online to write up the drunken escapades of the previous day. Sadly, the lounge rapidly fills up over the next 10 minutes and virtually all seats are taken, including the four around us by a couple of couples who've become fast friends during their resort holiday. We're treated to their conversation for the rest of our time in the lounge, which is fucking mental, like sitting through a Caribbean episode of Duty Free except with the class tensions swapped for long drawn out sexist remarks punctuated with Sid James-esque wheezy laughter.

Not that I've got much to say about class, mind. I go change from my sweaty t-shirt into that of a grindcore band, and happily accept the offer of a rum punch from the lad who comes to tell us that boarding will be at 4.30pm. Other people come take our passports and boarding passes, returning with all formalities taken care of elsewhere. Guess my departure card was good enough.

The rum punch is fantastically strong, and alongside the couple of glasses of champagne I'm feeling particularly good about the flight now. At 4.30pm it's announced that boarding is ready, requiring a walk across the tarmac to our 777.

Up the front steps for us.

We're in row 11 today, the final row of business class. The booking had originally been in first class, but they changed plane months ago 'cos they're mostly getting rid of first class from "all a bit" Gatwick. As it goes this is Helen's first time in BA's long haul business class and its ying-yang seats, alternating facing backwards and forwards. I've got the backward facing window seat and she's actually quite impressed by the layout, so long as you're a couple.

Pre-flight champagne arrives, somehow elevating our already high levels of smugness.

Grenada's runway is on the very edge of the island, so once boarding is complete 'n that we taxi to the edge of a peninsular then pull a u-turn and take off. So long, Maurice Bishop International Airport.

As we climb it's time to properly (re)acquaint ourselves with these seats. One upon a time they were state of the art, but that time is about a decade ago. Don't get me wrong they're very comfortable and fairly spacious, but the TV is small and crap and our divider doesn't work. Helen's seat is covered in crumbs. There's no USB sockets to charge stuff. Things are a bit tatty. A bit Gatwick.

In the air there's no service at all, because it's just a 30 minute hop to St Lucia where, as on the way out, we're stopping to drop off and pick up passengers plus completely change crew, before the 8+hr leg to London. We're on the ground for an hour and are really quite hungry by now. Helen, in particular, is having her smugness diminished, until more pre-flight champagne arrives.

In the sky a second time, now dark, and midnight UK time, I've got nuts and champagne and an iPad showing a movie about wrestling fandom. It's alright, this.

We're handed menus and amenity kits. Hang on, this menu is excellent and so are the kits. I thought both would be a significant step down from first class, and how wrong I was.

With a kind of weird formal, friendly, yet matronly demeanour the woman serving our bit of the cabin – final row of business – keeps us well sauced and there's no problem getting our first choices of food either. I stick to the champagne which, when it finally does run out, is replaced with an even nicer cava. I'll drink any wine so long as it's fizzy.

The starter is a salad with bread plus, for me, the salmon and pineapple.

Main is a chicken breast with rice and asparagus.

Yes, I'll have a cheese plate, thanks. Even though it's a red-eye flight service is unhurried, and I'm kept on the booze. When this plate and tray are cleared away I'm asked if I'd like anything else. Sure, how about a glass of whisky?

Having finished the wrestling thing a while back I'd been watching Black Panther on the screen. After meal service the cabin lights are dimmed and everyone goes to sleep. I try vainly to fight against this (sensible) impulse but in the end do kip for 3 hours or so, waking up just before the crew turn the lights back on and start with breakfast.

Frankly, having drunk so much in cabin air I have no right to feel as great as I do. Despite appearances, Helen tells me she barely slept at all, though we both agree it's been a very smooth ride. Her impressions of the seat are largely positive, to the degree that paying (with miles or cash) for first class, at least from "all a bit" Gatwick, wouldn't be worth it in future. (Heathrow is a different kettle of fish)

Breakfast is fruit, a bacon roll, and a muffin. I approve

With not long to go the window blinds come up, enabling me to stare out at a bleak and grey southern England. We're almost perfectly on time, about to land just after 8am on Thursday morning.

It's a long walk through (all a bit) Gatwick South's corridors to immigration and once there, they tell the people queueing at automatic gates 11-16 that those gates are imminently closing. In effect, having joined the lines at 9 and 10, we've just queue jumped about 15 people. Oops.

With no bags to collect we're able to stride through customs and then make our way through the long corridor to the outside world, where Helen can go to the smoking area and have her long-awaited "I'm 12+ hours down on my nicotine levels" vape. Standing opposite the giant entrance to the South terminal a woman asks me for directions to the South terminal; back inside, someone else asks us for directions to the North terminal which is equally well signposted, but at least the latter had the excuse of being white-stick-blind so I'll let her off.

Being back in the UK, public transport isn't as fun as it was for the last 10 days. With no-one to kidnap us into a van we're left to the mercy of Southern Rail, whose parent company have the franchise at Gatwick because they're the most qualified to deliver visitors and residents alike a bona fide British experience.

It doesn't really matter. We get on a train that should have left half hour ago and yes it's crowded, but they probably all would be. At Clapham Junction just before 0930 we're on a much emptier train south to Surbiton, where hopefully a nice welcome awaits us.

I know how you feel, Buster. Did you miss us? Helen definitely missed you.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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