En route to London, The Slog encounters bad English, appalling Englishmen, English abnr syndrome, and the ultimate English Spoonerism

Do you ever dream of riding in a horse-drawm carriage? If so, your life’s ambition is only a short flight away in Bergerac, where horse-drawm carriages are all the rage…as the ad in the Bergerac Airport lounge promises. I warn you to steer clear of those old-hat horse-drawn carriages, and suggest you warm instead to the idea of the altogether better horse-drawm experience. ‘Sod the norm, it’s nicer by drawm’; ‘Bergerac, where the carriage rides are truly drawmatic.’ No wonder Bergerac is such a draw.

Bergerac airport is the world capital of howler English spelling and bizarre, accented announcements. Shortly after the terrorist attack on London in 2005, for example, a lady announced over the Bergerac pa system that all passengers ignoring the baggage announcements would be taken away and destroyed in a controlled explosion. I’m all for taking a tough line in such matters, but that struck me as extreme under the circumstances.

It is also – and this is a Dordogne tradition going back forty years at least – the preferred airport of the pugnacious middle class English family returning home following a summer break.

The middle class well tailored casual en famille groupe anglais is always visible there, and for some reason, more often than not there will be one pot-bellied husband, three strapping boy,s and one mousey, downtrodden ma-ma. The four men all wear striped polo shirts, bright yellow shorts, all-leather deck shoes, and an air of insouciant entitlement.

They jut, these people. Very few have the chin for it, so they use the nose for the jutting. They jut noses at ill-mannered douaniers, casual waitresses, machines that contain biscuits and candy bars, announcements of late aeroplane arrival, and beautifully made hand luggage that won’t fit in the overhead lockers.

As we boarded our flight, the Dad I’d encountered started with something I recognised as a Brown’s valise, and his jut became ever more pronounced as he pushed it at the plastic orifice. He pushed at it very hard indeed, while extending his jut menacingly until he was almost jutting the valise into the locker with his nose.

“Harrumph,” he said, before thrusting the bag at his cowering wife, and adding a growled “Under the seat”. Wifey was obviously used to this odd verbal morse code, in that she complied immediately (with the bag, not herself). I imagined their home life consisting of staccato exchanges like “Dinner, best room”, “Shirt, green, where?” and even “Time for fourth child, dick ready, horizontal, bed”.

He held the whole complement of passengers up while his brood jerked and jutted at myriad obstacles requiring considered thought in order to make them function. Then he settled down to read an inhouse magazine I recognised as that of a large Whitehall Ministry. At which point, the picture was complete.

The Flybe plane was indeed late. Flybe used to call their inhouse magazine ‘Unplugged’, which always struck me as disconcerting – suggesting as it did that one had boarded a glider. Now it’s called ‘Uncovered’, which makes even less sense unless you hope to have a sunroof while in flight. They should call it Flybe Corporate Publishing Bollocks. I’d read an inflight mag called Flybe Corporate Publishing Bollocks.

“Sorry about our late departure today,” the captain drawled, “but I’m afraid we inherited it.”

I laughed out loud and caused several people (including Sir Humphrey Jutnose) to swivel round. I found such an outstanding example of all blame/no responsibility syndrome absolutely hilarious, but I was clearly on a lone, personal wavelength re that one. It set my mind running in several directions: “The sign of a true English aristo flying ace is that he even inherits his delays” and so forth.

The Flybe safety announcement, by the way, has been been amended since I last flew with them, such that the tone of the addendum has upped the aggression content (probably in a fruitless attempt to get people to watch or, at least, listen) as follows:

“In the event of an emergency disembarkation, you MUST leave all your valuables behind”.

I know this is me and my odd mind, but I had visions of sufferers flying to an autistics’ convention having to ditch in the sea, and delaying the rescue procedure by straining to remove diamond solitaire rings, emptying wallets, or pulling frantically at their gold teeth. The visions got sillier until I eventually drifted off into sleep.

But it continued to be one of those surreal days. I won’t go into the train ticket machine experience after landing, because we’ve been there before; so I will merely give you, verbatim, the second announcement the driver made on the way to London from Southampton:

“As there is a short platform at Shawford, could I ask all customers alighting there to make their way to the five cunt froaches”.

I would normally censor such words at The Slog, but I think an asterisk in this case would do the hilarity of the occasion scant justice.  So I decided to call a froach a froach. Every passenger looked at every other passenger and then spluttered. All except a lady of great age across the way from me.

“Well, rairly,” she said quietly.