What do you mean, you're still at home?
We successfully pull up outside the hotel without incident. The nice man in the long coat and top hat opens the car door and shows us where we can check in and arranges to have our bags sent to our room. Grandad Fred says goodbye and goes to remove his little red van before a controlled detonation removes it for him. We check in and as requested we have a family room with a cot for Steven. The room is massive; 1 king bed, 2 singles, and the cot: not a travel cot, but a regular cot. For you American readers a cot in the UK is what you guys know as a crib. Incidentally the cot in the hotel room is the exact same model that Steven has at home. Anyway, all these beds in one room and still plenty of space to swing many cats simultaneously, together with a separate little section where I guess you put your bags and things. We put the cot there as it gave Steven the sense of being in a separate room, which he is used to. Our bags arrived and Adrian parted with a crisp £5 note in return for their safe delivery. Having just parted with a sum of money to effectively buy our bags back we thought it only right to avail ourselves of the tea and coffee in the room, and also ate all the little packets of shortbread which so decorated the tea tray. After this Nanny Lesley stayed with Steven whilst Adrian and myself took the car to the long stay parking. The Gatwick Hilton use a company called Summer Special, or something like that anyway. You get a voucher when you check into the hotel and you take that along with your car to the car park. The directions are: exit the hotel and follow the big signs with coloured windmills on them. It’s about a 10 minute drive to the car park, down by the North Terminal cargo area and it’s not difficult to find. You park your car in the lanes outside the office, go in, fill in a little card with your car details, hand this, your car keys, and your voucher over at the counter and that’s pretty much it. If you on a USA holiday you’ll need to pay for an extra day’s parking as the voucher is for 15 days and the car is there for 16 – it’s £5.99 and they take cash or cards. They give you a receipt for your car and you hop on board the courtesy bus back to the South Terminal; they park your car for you and have it waiting for you again when you come home.
From the South Terminal we walked back to the hotel and I gave Big Steve a call to check on his status. Now, bear in mind that my brother and his wife are the most totally unorganised people we know. Separately they are completely useless but put them together and how they ever managed to get out of the house each day is beyond me. Yes, and we chose to go on holiday with these people. I call Big Steve’s mobile phone. He answers and I hear a television in the background; not a good sign. “Hi, we’re at the hotel, where are you?” I ask. “We’re at home, and we’re just going for something to eat,” he replies, cheerfully. Hmmm, this is not in the plan. I remind him of the 15 page document I wrote up and presented to him in order to help him organise the next two weeks of his life and that him being at home at 5.30pm was not featured in that document. “Don’t worry, we’ll be there later, just go and check-in without us.” Okie dokie that’s what we’ll do then.
We gather up our bags and the small child and wander through to the terminal and the Virgin Twilight Check-In desk. We are stopped in our tracks by a miserable security man who demands and receives with a smile, our tickets and passports. No smile in return though. Who cares, we’re going to Disney World. Once we have passed his scrutiny we are free to advance on the cheery lady at the desk. I hand over our tickets and passports and inform her that we have pre-booked seats together. A few clicks on her keyboard and she says, “oh you don’t have those seats anymore.” Ack. But then she says, “you’ve been moved to bulkhead seats because of the infant.” Hoorah. Actually Adrian and myself have the bulkhead seats with Nanny Lesley in the seat across the aisle from us – perfect. We check our bags which are pathetically lightweight and then take Steven’s car seat over to oversize baggage. That made no sense: it’s the smallest, lightest thing we checked in, why does it have to go to oversize baggage? Never mind, a cheery smile met us at oversize baggage and then we whizzed up in the lift to find somewhere to eat. Settled on Frankie and Benny’s which I believe occupies the space once taken up by Garfunkels. Anyway, it’s an Italian type place with pizza and pasta. Anyway I had a perfectly acceptable plate of spaghetti and meatballs and Steven had some garlic bread, then the two of us shared a banana split. Steven also discovered ceiling fans here and was totally mesmerised by them wherever we went after this. During dinner one of the waitresses came over to play with Steven but had to beat a hasty retreat when he burst into tears. Oh, but he was given a really neat height chart as part of the children’s menu thing here which we kept and is now upstairs waiting to go in his room.
After dinner we wandered into WH Smiths to buy reading material for the flight tomorrow. Nanny Lesley was looking for a particular book: something with pearl earrings or necklace in the title. “Who wrote it?” I ask. “I can’t remember,” she replies. Well that will make looking for it so much easier. And I look down and there it is on the shelf right in front of me. Several purchases which will put our hand luggage well over 6kg each later we head back to our room to wait for the rest of the party to arrive.
Big Steve calls shortly after. My cellphone starts playing Small World and Nanny Lesley groans in anguish. I answer the phone: they cannot find the hotel. Umm, it’s signposted as soon as you hit the airport. Apparently they are driving round the wrong terminal. Well if they’d read the 15-page document I wrote for them they would know it’s the South Terminal. Ten minutes later “that tune” starts playing again. I’m ordered to change my ringtone. It’s Big Steve. He’s in the hotel reception. I tell him to stay there and I’ll be right down.