Friday, 26 February 2010

Slapping the Gift Horse in the Mouth (or How The World and His Dog Will Eventually Have His Day)

I am currently sitting in Belfast International Airport waiting for my flight to Edinburgh. From the moment this weekend away was suggested to me I just knew it could only end in disaster – only time will tell how disastrous.

It all goes back to Christmas. Despite the World and his Dog being against us we manage to fight our way through the snowy motorways on Christmas Eve to my mum’s house on the north side of Edinburgh. It was like driving through a montage of picturesque Christmas card scenes with children walking up the snow drenched hills pulling sledges behind them, families of fern trees huddled together glistening proudly in their new white winter coats, emergency service vehicles pulling battered people carriers out of roadside hedges (okay the last one you probably won’t find on a Christmas card).

Despite the warnings on the radio to not drive unless you had to (who listens to them anyway – certainly not the family now in the hedge) we arrived late on Christmas Eve. The following morning arrived with an excitement level I hadn’t experienced for many years – mainly thanks to my 2 year old son, who for weeks had been singing Santa Claus is coming to town to now realise his singing dreams had come true (it was also his birthday – a fact he isn’t so aware of at the moment but I’m sure in the years to come he will hate with every feigned smile as he accepts another present that is “for your Christmas AND Birthday”)

Anyway, during our usual exchange of gifts my brother presented me with a card. I had been forewarned that this gift was an ‘experience’ rather than a traditional physical gift. The vagueness of it all added to the excitement. As I began to force open the envelope I could feel the eyes of everyone in the room fix on me. Out the corner of my eye I even saw a faint smile appear in the corner of my brothers lips. I pulled out the card and everyone leaned in close to capture the joyous moment as the details of this mystifying gift were revealed.

My first indication that something was wrong was that the card had a Manchester United badge on the front. Having been an Arsenal fan for most of my adult life I gave out a little chuckle and thought This is just my brother playing one of his little practical jokes. I read the inside of the card and it said I’d be going to watch Manchester United play West Ham at Old Trafford. Well at this point I KNEW it was a practical joke.

I was aware that my brother was talking at me but I didn’t hear what he was saying. My entire brain function was trying to work out what the actual present could be – were there hidden clues within the text. Eventually, deciding that my brother wasn’t clever enough for that game, I looked up. The expression cast upon the gathered crowd was one of total confusion; to which my mother responded “Look, he’s speechless!!!”

I appreciate now that the first words you say after receiving a present are fairly important. Popular responses have included the classic lines: “Wow, that’s brilliant. You shouldn’t have” or “Wow, how did you know I’ve always wanted one of those” or even the simplistic chic of the timeless and at times much underated “Thank you!”

After much consideration I realise now that my dead-pan “Is this a joke?” response was never going to win any awards. I didn't want to seem ungrateful but I just couldn’t see what the present was. It’s Manchester United for crying out loud!!! One of the teams I despise most in the world (Second in fact, right behind Hibs).

Once the initial shock of the gift and my subsequent response had passed I was able to find out that yes we were going to the match but we’d be sitting with the player’s wives and injured players, we’d get to go into the player’s lounge maybe even down on to the pitch. Even I had to admit that it would be a pretty cool day out.

Anyway since that moment nothing has gone right. United managed to get into the Carling Cup Final meaning our match would be postponed. With the flights already booked my brother suggested watching Hearts take on Aberdeen in the Granite City instead (which excited me more than watching United, Hearts actually being my first footballing love). Now with 2 days to go before the match Northern Scotland receives a severe battering of snow grinding Aberdeenshire to a halt (I knew it was bad when the first thing I heard on the radio this morning was that 30 Schools in Aberdeenshire would be closed today). So it’s looking more and more likely that the game will be called off. At least I’d still get to spend the weekend with my family I foolishly thought to myself unaware that the World and his Dog I’d so sneakily avoided on Christmas Eve would be conspiring with even greater menace this weekend.

I’ve been at the airport for over an hour now (hence the longer than usual blog), and the notice board is still flashing those hateful words ’DELAYED - RELAX AND SHOP’ almost mockingly.

I should just call it quits, turn around and go home but why miss out on the ever-exciting adventure that is travelling with Easyjet! What else could possibly go wrong!

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