2. This is the Sad tale of a girl in New York for a month with no friends. She meets a guy selling jewellery in the street. This guy is hot just like the NY Summer! She tells him she’s from London and she’s on holiday for a month and she doesn’t really know anyone. He says he’d take her to the zoo and some other fun places. All nice. Then she asks about his jewellery, turns out it’s a friend’s and actually the guy is an actor. “Why aren’t you in L.A. trying to be an actor? Why are you here selling jewellery?” so he doesn’t really say much to that but they agree to meet there in a week’s time. Girl goes back and someone else is running the stall. She asks where they guy is, is it his day off? No “Hot guy” (insert real name, long forgotten, here) quit his job and moved from the city. Oh. Oops. Not really a disaster but he was really hot. [This is the kind of high octane adventure I can look forward to in Thailand with my travel partner – Squeamish Kate] Squeamish Nicola
3. So far, touch wood, I’ve not experienced too many things on holiday that could count as disasters. I’ve witnessed near misses that could have ended in disaster, like the time my sister somehow managed to take her luggage off the airport conveyor belt in Arrivals, then promptly forget about it and leave it there, on the floor of the Arrivals lounge. Evidently this tiny airport was rather insouciant about abandoned luggage and her bag was still here, all alone in the arrivals lounge when she realised her error half an hour later and ran back to pick it up. Once my dad dive bombed into a pool and cracked his head open. Another time on a ferry back from the mainland to the small island we were staying on I tripped on a bolt and fell at a really slow pace. Everybody on the island had been on that ferry to get groceries from the mainland. Everybody saw. Everybody took the time to remind each other I was the girl who fell on the ferry when they saw the gigantic bruise that blossomed on my thigh. Squeamish Kate
4. I was 19, living in Belgium, and at a festival in Ostend with my friends. I'd driven one friend over in my car, and met the rest there. Oddly, for a festival, there was no dedicated parking: the organisers had closed off a massive section of a local dual carriageway, and that was the only place to park. The road was closed off from Friday evening until 3pm on Sunday. The festival acts carried on until midnight on Sunday, with camping open until Monday at noon. Spot the mistake. I tried to move my car, I really did. But there was absolutely nowhere to park in the whole town. After driving around for over an hour (and missing one of the bands I'd gone to see), I gave up and put it on some double yellow lines where I wasn't blocking anything. The next morning, my car had been towed. Getting it back meant walking to the police station on the other side of town in baking heat, carrying our huge backpacks. And the tent. At the station, we were given a ticket and sent out to the car pound. We spent the last of our money to the bus out of town, and then discovered that the charge to get the car back was 90 Euros. Let me tell you. Out of all of the things to do in Belgium that are not fun, sitting outside a car pound in boiling heat, while a procession of pissed-off sunburned people turned up to collect their cars, calling everyone you know to see if they can a) lend you 90 Euros or b) drive to Ostend and pick you up, is up there. In the end a bus driver took pity on us because he'd passed seen us sitting there as he passed. Many times. He gave us a free lift to the train station, where we talked our way onto a train by explaining our situation to a guard. And then a different guard found us on the train without tickets, and gave us each a massive fine.
I'm still boycotting Ostend. Squeamish Louise
5. Sometimes the holiday disaster is something that prevents the holiday even beginning. Our latest Squeamish contributor shares his tale in this bumper Friday 5 Summer Special.
Not being the biggest fan of the hoopla that comes with Royal weddings, in April 2011 my girlfriend and I looked to escape from William and Kate's blockbuster nuptials by running away to Paris for a few days. We all know what they did with their aristos, so what better place to seek refuge, right?
Of course, to get there we first had to contend with one problem: the fact that I am an idiot.
We may have had one of the greatest civil engineering feats of the late 20th Century providing us quick and easy access to Paris by rail, but this convenience is somewhat nullified when you forget to bring your brain. And consequently, your passport.
Actually, that's not entirely true - my passport was with me when I left home, it was even with me when I got on the train to St. Pancras. Sadly this is where it remained, in an otherwise empty bag left hanging over the back of a seat. The moment of realisation came half way up the escalators from the platform, the dread building as I became aware that something was amiss, and the subsequent jellification of my bones when it dawned on me that my passport was missing. I turned just in time to see the train speeding away, on its way to Bedford.
Shocked and mortified, we clutched desperately at whatever straws we could. We found a member of station staff - could he help? Would someone on the train or a station be able to secure my passport? No, was the reply, there weren't enough staff on duty to do this; my only hope was that station staff at Bedford would find it after searching the train. Not only that, but if it indeed ended up in lost property, there it would stay for 24 hours. Gulp. Goodbye holiday. I was told that if I had been lucky enough for it to have been found without some unsavoury character absconding with it, they could hold it for me for a short time. Of course, there was no way of getting it back down to St. Pancras.
Someone would have to chase up the track after it and collect it.
The next thing I knew I was buying a return ticket to Bedford for the first time in my life, and saying goodbye to my girlfriend as if I was Captain Scott boarding the Terra Nova. My girlfriend by now had taken on the guise of a sort of Central Control, with me being the field operative, out on a risky secret mission. Or at least that’s how I saw it my head (I did mention I’m an idiot, didn’t I?)
As I made my way out of London, watching stations I had never previously seen pass by the window, I remained in constant text contact with Central Control back at St. Pancras. My girlfriend had been talking to the nice Eurostar people, who advised her that they’d put us on a train an hour later at no extra cost – the challenge was set. We’d been talking about having to cancel the whole holiday and spend the time in London instead – along with the frothing hordes of the William and Kate fan club – so this potential reprieve was manna to us. I now knew the stakes and was determined not to fail.
Not long after, I received a despondent text – the train I was in hot pursuit of had arrived at its final destination, been searched, and was regrettably sans passport. To quote John Cleese in ‘Clockwise’, it’s not the despair; I can cope with the despair. It’s the hope.
Downhearted, I alighted from the train at the next stop and looked to head back, my secret mission having ended in failure. We wouldn’t be going to Paris but would instead be partying with the latter day Cavaliers.
Or would we?
As I travelled back to London another text came through. A text that rekindled hope. Eurostar had received a call from the person that found my passport. On searching the bag, he’d also discovered the printout of the boarding pass and rung Eurostar to tell them what he’d found. He would look after it if someone could come and collect it from him in Luton.
What sublime good fortune was this? My train was already en route to Luton. I could get off there, find my mysterious contact, get back to St. Pancras and we could make our later train. Could the mission actually succeed against all the odds?
Details of the rendezvous came through. I was given his phone number and told to meet him at a private address. Not a problem. I rang the number I was given. A man answered in broken English, there was commotion in the background. We had a stilted conversation and eventually agreed on the handover. Right. This was undoubtedly miraculous news, but I was beginning to worry just a little bit. Now, I’m aware this was probably in large part down to my delusions of being a secret agent, but the circumstances were seeming just a little bit suspect. I’ve seen enough episodes of 24 to know how this situation plays out – with me being held up by a criminal gang and abducted by the Chinese government (OK, maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of 24).
Leaving the station at Luton I was filled with a mixture of feelings. Optimism, sure, but a sense of trepidation for what was ahead. I got into a cab and instructed the driver to take me to the address I was given. On the way I gravely briefed him on the situation – including my concerns. Again acting as if I was Jack Bauer in his most mundane mission yet, I asked the cabbie to wait for me outside and to keep the engine running. I made the call with my contact – he was on his way. I left my wallet and phone in the back of the cab, so concerned was I that this might be a trap; a trap seasoned with the bitter taste of extortion; and got out of the car.
In the next few minutes the extent of my idiotic fantasies crystallised, as I met the young man who had found my passport. Smiling, he handed it and my bag over to me, before turning to go back inside. I tried to stop him; I wanted to thank him with a token monetary gesture, but he refused it. It was enough that he had done a good deed.
I got back into the cab, elated, relieved, and embarrassed. Embarrassed that I had been so scared and suspicious, letting the secret agent fantasy overtake my natural trust in people. Some people, it seems, really can restore your faith in humanity. It was a pleasure to realise this.
On the way back to St. Pancras I reflected on the adventure I’d had, taking a photo of me reunited with my wandering passport.
I got back to London and was debriefed by my girlfriend on the crazy events. Incredibly, we even made our rearranged Eurostar train, and were in Paris merely an hour later than originally planned. We had seized an unlikely victory. What began as a disaster had turned into a life lesson – and gave me a pretty decent story too. On top of that, we would escape the Royal hullabaloo after all.
Or would we?