It was a late afternoon flight to Zadar in Croatia and so we left home at about lunchtime giving ourselves plenty of time to get to Stansted and it was a good job that we did because as usual the A14 resembled a war zone and with hold-up after hold-up and a couple of circuitous detours we found ourselves with little margin for error by the time we pulled into the mid-stay car park.
My patience doesn’t hold out long in traffic but this was soon forgotten once I had had a pint of Stella Artois in Wetherspoons and began to look forward to the holiday. Kim’s patience doesn’t hold out long when there is a baby crying on the aeroplane and the flight started badly when a young child, just two rows in front, started to grizzle even before take off. Since becoming a grandad this doesn’t bother me any more but the poor thing cried for the whole two and a half hours of the flight and by the end Kim had had quite enough.
One thing that might have bothered me is mobile phones and I was alarmed to see overhead signs that permitted their use in flight. I really dislike the indiscipline of mobile phone use especially on public transport. I am grateful for them of course but I wish people would have the good manners to use them considerately and have a thought for other people when they do so. In virtually every public place you go now people are shouting into mobile phones and there are few things more irritating than being compelled to eavesdrop on one half of an unnecessary conversation. The worst place of all is on the train where dozens of commuters insist daily on competing with each other to have the loudest conversation which all end at exactly the same time with the words “Just a minute I’m going into a tunnel, hello, hello, HELLO, HELLO…”, followed by frantic animated redialing, a repeated conversation and another tunnel, followed by….
Now they can be used on aeroplanes and I just know that this is going to irritate me. Luckily no one seemed to want to use the mobile phone on this particular flight probably because it is prohibitively expensive. The Chinese girls just in front of us probably couldn’t use their phones anyway because they were all wearing ludicrous face masks, presumably to guard against the deadly swine flu pandemic.
As the plane flew south the weather started to deteriorate and by the time we landed in Zadar at half past eight it was cold and miserable with a few spots of rain. ‘Welcome to Croatia’ I muttered to myself knowing that Kim doesn’t like me to be negative about the weather. And it was cold and what made this worse was that we had left behind in the United Kingdom the hottest June day since the end of the last ice age!
The man from the car rental company was there to greet us and he went through a procedure that consisted mostly of an explanation about all the extra things they could charge me for if it didn’t come back in the same state as I was picking it up. He assured me that it was in perfect condition and I had to take his word for that because by now it was dark and it was a black car so an examination was pointless.
We left the airport and joined Croatia’s only motorway, the A1, and began the one hundred and fifty kilometre journey to Split. At first it was really easy going because the A1 is a toll road and as elsewhere in Europe the local people tend to avoid it and stick to the congested old roads. This was quite unlike the A14 in Cambridgeshire and with nothing to hold us up we made steady progress even stopping at one point to purchase essential alcohol supplies for later. There was a red sky behind us but we were travelling into thick black clouds ahead and then it started to rain and this slowed down our progress.
Actually it didn’t just rain it poured and the deluge turned the motorway into a river with water flowing down the carriageways and making driving quite difficult. As we drove past the city of Šibenik things became even worse and as we climbed into the mountains there was a spectacular electrical storm with heaving thunder and constant lightening flashes all around us. ‘Welcome to Croatia’ I said out loud this time, ‘we’ve had the decency to visit, you would have thought that Croatia would have at least arranged some decent weather’.
When we reached the exit for Split I was glad to pay the 48 kuna fee (about £7) and get off the motorway and drive towards the city along empty roads because it was getting late and no-one else was foolish enough to be out driving on a night like this.
We drove past Split and on to nearby Podstrana because we were booked in at the Pink Inn where we had stayed last year so at least we knew exactly where we were going and there wouldn’t be any last minute hotel location dramas. After two hours of nerve jangling driving Iveska welcomed us back and showed us to the best room in the hotel on the top floor with a great view of the rain lashing down over Split. It was too late and too wet to go out looking for food so we had to make do with a bag of crisps but at least we had plenty of beer and wine to keep our spirits up and after a couple of drinks we went to bed and listened to the rain bouncing like shrapnel off of the balcony floor outside. Welcome to Croatia!