While the anticipation of travel is as exciting as ever for me after more than three decades, there are still things that can turn me from a mild mannered dreamer into a screaming, psychopathic horror with almost effortless ease. Things that rain on your parade before the soldiers have even marched out of the barracks, as it were.
If you have to travel any distance by car or coach to your departure airport, then odds are that, somewhere along the line, you will be helplessly sucked into one of those black holes of fiscal morality known as a motorway cafe.
If Dante’s Hell truly does have an antechamber, I have always suspected that it would be one of these motorway cafes. Their ghastly elevator music, combined with brain numbing lighting and over priced eateries guaranteed to have both your cholesterol and wallet whimpering helplessly in unision, are among the most soul less and unpleasant places you will ever see.
They crouch like so many neon suffused, concrete carbuncles along all the highways of the land, including the famous route from London to York once ridden by Dick Turpin, who would no doubt also have thought that their prices amounted to highway robbery. And, unlike those responsible for these dreadful places, at least Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.
It would not be quite such an abrasive experience if the quality of the food and drink in these places was equal to the torrent of money siphoned like free flowing petrol out of your bank account. But no; instead we have bacon so hard that it could be used to rebuild the Berlin Wall, beans that bubble and hiss, and mushrooms doing their very own Jack and Rose impression, swimming desperately in an ocean of grease. The sausages can often double as submarine torpedoes, and no doubt to devastating effect,
The coffee usually has the consistency of Bunker C crude oil, and all the good taste of a Charles Manson reunion gig. Yes, it is hot, but it is often only marginally less painful on your tongue than carefuly applied, red hot pincers.
These places are simply blatant, unashamed rip offs from first to last. In terms of sheer grubby, grasping obscenity, they are perhaps matched only by the foreign exchange bureaus to be found in most regional and international airports in the United Kingdom. You actually feel dirty and abused after leaving one.
Most people with an IQ approaching double figures swerve past these ghastly little outposts of robber baron-ism like the flourescent pestlience that they are. With an exchange rate often ten per cent lower than high street banks, post offices and travel agents, they are flagrant, unashamed assaults on the wallets- and intellect- of their victims. And, like as not, there will always be one or two poor souls that fall into the trap of needing some last minute currency there and then, come hell or high water. As a result, these awful places make a killing, and it is high time some kind of legislation was introduced in the UK to make them offer the same rates as high street outlets, no more or less.
OK, rant over. Avoid if you can, dear readers. Approach with suitable awareness if you absolutely must.