When I told my friends I had booked a package holiday to Greece with a company specialising in holidays for single people aged between 30 and 49, they laughed at me. “You’re going on a singles holiday, hahaha. It will be full of sad desperate people looking for love and marriage.”
My flight ticket arrived in the post together with three colourful baggage labels. I had been advised that there would be twenty-eight people in the group and we must each display one of the labels on our hand luggage so that we could all identify one another at the airport. The rep, whose name was Mike, would be wearing a name badge. He would meet and greet us in the departure lounge and we must make ourselves known to him. It was beginning to sound like a school outing. Were we all going to be herded around like Greek goats?
Entering the lounge, I devised a way to hide my label in the side pocket of my bag. I wanted to remain incognito for as long as possible so that I could discreetly observe my new travelling companions before blowing my cover.
And then I saw him…
He was tall and lanky, with pasty white skin and thinning hair. He was wearing an acrylic polo neck sweater tucked into his dark brown crimplene slacks, which were secured tightly by a belt just below his chest. His trousers were way too short, exposing his white socks and plastic sandals. Lying across one of his shoulders and resting on the opposite hip was a red satchel, on which he was proudly sporting the Company’s label. Almost unable to contain his excitement, he approached a group of three people and to my horror I noticed that they were displaying the same labels. One was a bearded man in his mid-forties; he had the bearing of a monk and looked shy, awkward and uncomfortable. I noticed that he too was wearing socks inside his sandals. The other man was fat and jovial, I heard him introduce himself as Patrick, but he looked to be about sixty. The third was a loud brassy-looking woman flaunting a wrinkled cleavage with the promise of pendulous breasts tucked inside her pink terry-towelling jumpsuit. It was only later that I learned that Patrick had fraudulently slipped through the age-barrier net by declaring his age as thirty-four, when in actual fact ‘thirty-four had been the year of his birth.
I then watched as a younger man, dressed in a beige safari suit and sporting a pudding basin haircut, approached the group; he was accompanied by two women. The women were chattering animatedly; brief introductions over, they appeared to be each other’s new best friends. Both wearing shorts, high-heels and low-cut T-shirts, they looked as if they were already on holiday and clearly in search of romance with bucketfuls of sex thrown in along the way. A mournful little bell tolled inside my head. They were all years older than me. What had I been thinking of when I booked this holiday? What could I possibly have in common with any of these middle-aged, lonely hearts? I watched as ‘Safari Suit’ introduced the two women to Patrick, ‘Pendulous Breasts’, and the ‘Bearded Monk’. I concluded that this must be Mike, our rep.
The airline staff announced that our flight was now ready for boarding and, as discreetly as possible, I stood up to join the queue. Almost simultaneously, a Prince Charles lookalike, wearing a paisley cravat, strolled over to Mike with his hands clasped behind his back, “Are you with the Lonely Hearts Club Band, old chap? Oh jolly good, so am I.”
My heart sank like a stone. What had I let myself in for?