It’s a 4am check-in at Gatwick which means I leave Bromley at 3am. Which means I get up at 2am, wondering why I ever went to bed. The airport is a hideously timeless place wherein vast crowds of folk are shopping in the middle of the night. I am disorientated as I wander around Boots. On asking for my preferences – I’d prefer not to be here – I request a seat near the front of the plane and find myself next to Ursula and Anne, opposite the toilet. Those two aren’t happy about their proximity to the facility but they’ve been traveling from Cardiff since 5.30 yesterday evening so aren’t happy full stop. It’s very warm on here and proceeds to become hotter and hotter. It’s about 45C. Something has gone wrong with the air conditioning and the captain, who only ten minutes ago said we’d be departing early, now informs us that we must wait for engineers to come aboard. In lieu of the outside temperatures at Gatwick, and in preparation for our return, we three are clothed in winter woollies. An hour and a half later, when the cabin temperature has dropped to minus 20, all those dressed for Sicily are complaining.
Some weeks later, or so it seems, we arrive at the Hotel Kaos in Agrigento which is sort of shabby-chic without the chic. Most of our party go straight to their beds but the weather is too nice to miss a chance to drink Campari poolside. It’s a very nice pool and has a splendid view of the closed-down cement works. Anne arrives and I say she must feel quite at home: like watching the sun set over Port Talbot.
I close the loo lid in my room and it comes away in my hand. Apparently, it was held on with the paper hygiene label as there seem to be no screws in evidence. I’m too tired to care but the next morning I leave the room early to report the situation and discover a flood in the corridor. The ceiling is leaking from a dangerous looking crack. Still, it means I now have two things to discuss with my new friend, Pablo the night porter. Pablo and I go upstairs to look at the ceiling and he makes a note on the extensive list of hotel defects before deciding to open the bar and make us both coffee, so strong that the spoon stands up in it without support. ‘One for you and one for me’, says Pablo who informs me that the death of the cement works is a crisis: ‘nothing else for people to do here’, he reports sadly. If he was French, he’d say, ‘meh bah’, but I’ve never seen anyone look more Italian, especially at 6.30am.