Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Aiport

I was snuggled tight under my shawl, and as close to Paco as I could get, breathing him in, his wonderful smell, which was now so deeply familiar and always comforting. Yet still, I could not get warm, or fall asleep.  The air conditioning on this plane was just too cold and there was a young child sat behind me, who had been kicking relentlessly at my seat for the past hour.  Then the announcement was came, which made my heart sink........ 
Birmingham, we were being diverted to Birmingham, it was mid February and winter was in full flow, with freezing cold temperatures making conditions unsuitable to land in Manchester. 

We had been traveling for hours already, having flown from Tenerife to Barcelona, then to Madrid, before this connection to Manchester.  Iberia was like a bus service in those days, there wasn't such a thing as a scheduled direct flight from the Canary Islands to the UK.  We were feeling beyond exhausted, our bodies rebelling to the cramped plane seating and lack of decent food.  The eighteen hours of traveling beginning to take its toll and the joint we had shared, whilst in Madrid had long worn off, leaving us feeling more than just a little irritated.  
The airport was like a ghost town, cold and echoey, I had an uneasy sickly feeling unable to say exactly what was wrong, I shuddered, we were used to equator temperatures maybe I was feeling shocked by the difference, plus travel exhaustion did not help. The luggage carousel at least seemed efficient, it wasn’t long before I could see our lovely new bags making their way around towards us.  I have always had a thing about nice luggage, and had bought a new suit carrier with matching holdall for our visit, home. we were traveling light as this trip was only for a week. 
We began to walk towards the green corridor, along with everyone else, its funny, nobody ever had anything to declare and those who did usually took their chances, I did not see one person move towards the red corridor.  Normally there would be very few staff on duty at this time of night, but tonight there was a long line of them.  Customs officers standing extremely straight with blank expression, stood behind tables surveying us.  Checking out the "The ragged travellers," observing our every movement, and then calling over every second couple to interview.  This was so unusual, normally they waved you through, holiday makers don’t normally warrant such attention. 
That uneasy feeling I had continued to grow, desperately trying to look directly ahead, I attempted an image of cool nonchalance, yet unfortunately catching the eye of a rather rotund black girl, who would not break my gaze, I was locked in.  I could not break her stare, it was almost as if I was under her power, she had total control of my movements, I could feel myself moving towards her table.  Fear gripped my soul with a tight fist and began to squeeze hard.
She asked us had we anything to declare, as she unzipped our bags, beginning with the largest, the holdall.  Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, she carefully took out our neatly folded clothes and unfolded them, one item at a time, working with a system, a methodical search, this was far more terrifying than any random, erratic rummaging.  She began examining each item thoroughly, feeling everything with finger and thumb, from top to bottom.  My heart felt as though it would leap from my chest, with irregular rhythm, it beat with such force. Paco usually so cool and collected, always with something to say to a lady and forever charming, just stood stiffly also transfixed, watching the little fat black hands fondle through our clothing.  She placed everything back and zipped up the case, I could feel him exhale with relief.....
Although I could not.
Paco had packed first, with my slight OCD problem and obsession with nice luggage, I had taken it upon myself to repack the case, in a more organized fashion.  So into these little zipper pockets went the socks and underwear.
I watched as she unzipped, looking directly into my eyes as she did so, as if following  telepathic directions from my fear.  Carefully she began to unroll our more personal items and then our socks, all neatly folded and rolled in pairs, she unrolled them one by one.  Suddenly I saw the chosen pair, they were next, my mouth dry, eyes unblinking, watching with horror as she unrolled the sock and it fell out onto the desk.  A large lump of silver foil wrapped around approximately two ounces of Moroccan black.
“Who’s is this?” she asked
“Mine” Paco had replied before I could even breath
"Are you aware of what it is?" she asked
"Si, it is my Hashish" he replied
A male officer now approached, “On behalf of her Majesties customs, I am arresting you Sir, on suspicion of smuggling illegal drugs into the United Kingdom”..... or something along those lines.  The male officer handcuffed him and took him away, I watched in horror, as they disappeared along a corridor.  
I was now alone, and had begun to feel extremely vulnerable.
Fellow passengers were still walking past, fascinated, staring at me with the attention usually reserved for a car crash, only without pity, more with a look of disgust and distain.  It wasn’t long before I overheard and officer tell an official to let the bus leave, that we were to be detained here.  Panic rose in my chest, my parents.  What will happen when they realise we are not on the bus? 
How will we tell them? 
What will we tell them? 
“Madam, what are these?” 
The female officer, continuing on her mission of searching every inch of my luggage now had hold of my vitamins, 
“They are fibre pills, they make you shit” I replied, angry now, tired and angry. 
We shouldn’t be here, we should have landed in Manchester and should now be reunited with my parents, sat in their warm car on the way home to a clean soft bed. Not here in cold unfriendly Birmingham, at her majesties pleasure.
“Is there anything else you would like to declare, before I continue searching” asked the officer, who appeared to have grown in stature, certainly in confidence, she had scored and she was loving it.
“It is legal you know” I told her ‘ In Spain, it is legal” 
“Well, it isn’t here Madame” 
“No, there isn’t anymore” I replied in resignation

She continued her search, my answer had been without relevance, she was loving the humiliation of fingering each item that was in my possession.  She opened my lipstick one of which was green, this caused more quizzical glances. 
“It is a lip stain,  turns pink when you use it” I said before they asked “Try it if you don’t believe me, but its stains for hours” I said with a smile. 
I was bored now, irritated by this tenacious trainee, yes I had realized she was a trainee by all the pats on the back, that she was receiving from her more senior colleagues. She was an eager one too, and a good one, unfortunately for us.
The customs corridor was empty all passengers were sat happily on the coach about to embark on the last leg of their trip to Manchester, when the escorted me to my interview room. 
“Please sit” she muttered
We sat in silence in this tiny room, devoid of any warmth or character. A grey plastic chair with grey plastic walls, I could hear my blood pounding throughout, and had become aware that I was shaking.  The shock of the situation we were in was suddenly beginning to sink in.
A tall blonde officer now joined us in the room, obviously of a more senior position.
“Madame, I need to ask you to remove your clothing, one item at a time please”
I noticed that my hands were trembling as I began to unbutton my shirt, desperately trying to control it, wanting to keep as much of my cool demeanor that I could, but I was failing badly.  It is very hard to be proud when you are being asked to strip. Each item of clothing was then examined and inside and out, I stood shivering, a mixture of humiliation and cold.  Once they had searched an item it was placed ready for me to get dressed.  This I would be allowed to do, following an internal search...

I realised now why the second woman had been called in, it was to witness this procedure.  The killing blow, I began to involuntarily wretch, this search that penetrated my body, had managed to remind me, that I was nothing....
This was not the first time in my young life that I had been violated by a person in authority.  The only difference on this occasion was, that I had brought it upon myself and now felt completely defeated.


  1. oh lord!! is this a true story? how terrifying...

  2. Hello love,

    Just rode a wave of sickness ready this, You poor love.
    Its the worst thing.
    Felt it with you.
    Just had to gulp a pint of water then....
    Signed up as George too sorry, Spun out...
    Will join as me too.
    Hope you all ok ?

  3. I was hanging on every word, terrifying! Customs officers always give me the creeps.

  4. Oh my! You do know how to tell a story that can keep me riveted.

  5. Shitting hell how awful, its not something we really think about is it but I suppose they have to do it, or could they not just scan people?

  6. Oh yuk! I feel sick too but good writing xx

  7. Hi thank you so much for the comments, I think it was successful if it creeped you out :)
    Fee lovely to see you here, either as George or yourself ..
    I would love to read George's blog, I am coming to London next month with my friend, I hope hope that you and Tina can meet us xx

  8. Fab - as ever - kept me gripped! You sure know how to tell a story. Can relate to the futility of trying to kick-out against authority. Brilliant writing. xx

  9. A strip search would make me MAD AS HELL. Great writing, buddy.



  10. Fantastic writing, I was horrified. God, this would be my worst nightmare.

  11. You are a genius. That was bleedong terrying (sorry, bleeding terrifying, it's the rum). Have you ever had work published? If not something's very wrong. xxx

  12. Brilliant writing! How awful! They always leave me alone, thank God! Have a lovely weekend xx

  13. Holy crap, reading this had me so stressed out. Great writing R x

  14. Oh Ruthie... just checking my diary... so well written and expressed x

  15. Ruth, most peoples hearts sink and they wretch when reaching Birmingham... thats normal. You're lucky you were detained and not handed over to the Brummies... that would have been a horror story.

    I got stripped searched in Naples airport. Lucky for me, half an hour before landing, I had bottled my drug smuggling operation and flushed 50 subutex pills (heroin substitute) down the planes toilet. Well, I took a good amount first, and flushed what would have killed me!

    During the search they stripped me of everything but my socks!!! I asked: "But don't you want me to remove these???"
    "No!" replied some brutish Italian tramp dressed up as a customs guy.

    And that was it. An hour later they let me and my then girlfriend stumble out the airport with the dogs still barking at the smell of opiates that I must have been exuding. That was the first time I had ever flown. That's what happens when you walk through customs with your pupils restricted to micro-dots.

    Love as Ever Ruth...

    Shane... XXX

  16. I can remember coming back into the USA with my girlfriend at the time. We'd just been to Holland. I was sure she had a little stash, so when we came through immigration, I was shitting myself.
    It cuuld have been worse, I could have been in Birmingham:)
    Great story

  17. Hell! Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving your sweet comment.
    I see you are as much of a writer as you are a fashion blogger, and kudos to you! Keep it up!

  18. Great story.
    You need to write a novel...or a memoire!

  19. Thanks for the shivers that you sent down my spine! Walking through Customs to me is worse than a bumpy flight, both of which I dread.

  20. Fantastic piece. Made me feel sick. How noble of Paco to speak up straight away. You need to write a book! X

  21. Hello!

    I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

    Man and Van Acton

  22. I am very thankful to you for outstanding post. Perfectly composed information really experienced knowledge. I really enjoying and I’m going to bookmark so i can read new articles you post in future.

    Man And Van Richmond