What’s the statute of limitations for smuggling? I only ask because I might have broken the law last week coming back from Belfast. Well, I mean, it was a point of principle. The main principle being what a plonker I am.
We flew out on the Friday, and by evening I rather fancied a gin and tonic. Well, I was on holiday, wasn’t I? And we didn’t get a complimentary drink on the plane. We didn’t even get a compliment. More of a begrudging acknowledgement of our presence.
Belfast has come on in leaps and bounds in its retail offerings since the 1980s, but, oddly, has yet to embrace the world of gin in a tin, the height of sophistication in mobile boozing. So, without thinking, I bought a half bottle of Gordon’s.
Obviously, the whole being on hols thing had gone to my head, because not even I can tan a half bottle over a weekend. Well, there’s wine to fit in as well.
Come Sunday and the flight home, I’d only had one drink out of it, and that leaves way too much fluid in one bottle for the safety regulations.
Oh well, I thought, I’ll just leave it for some lucky soul. My second thought was, will I hell as like. Gordon is going home with me.
100ml of fluid is the limit. I dashed into a shop and grabbed one of those little travel kits with the flight-sized bottles.
We got to the airport, aptly named George Best. Seriously, if ever a man knew about holding onto your drink, it was George.
Into the ladies loo, which was deserted.
I got out the little travel kit. Why I had not checked the bottles I do not know. One was a flip top, for shampoo, I imagine. One was a pump action, for sun lotion I guess, but the third was an aerosol. No idea what that might be for. Bug spray? Never mind, they were bottles, they were the right size and they could get my gin home. There is a law of the universe that states whenever a woman in a deserted ladies loo is up to shenanigans or jiggery pokery, the universe will immediately direct someone to go into that loo. And lo, the door did open, and in marched a tiny woman, as wide as tall, in an overall of some description, with bucket.
The cleaner had arrived.
It was like High Noon. She looked at me. I looked at her. ‘Hows ya doin?’ she said in a friendly manner, with a nod at the half bottle. She wasn’t particularly bothered, just interested. I think if you have lived through the Belfast of the 70s and the early 80s, the sight of a woman with a raised gin bottle doesn’t even flicker on the fear factor.
I briefly thought about downing the lot, but then sighed, and told the truth. I was decanting my gin in a public toilet. What could be more natural than that?
But what about the Bailey’s?
That, announced my new friend, is superb. Why, had she not left an entire litre – a litre, mark you, of vodka back in Tenerife? Or was it Benidorm? Never mind, you know what I mean, she said.
She leaned out of the door slightly and bellowed on Mary, who came along behind a floor-buffing machine.
Mind that time you left a whole bottle of Bailey’s, was it, back in where was it now, Playa des Americas? And you gave it to the wee girl that was cleaning, remember?
Mary did remember, but said it was Margaret who was forced to abandon her tipple to the charge of the wee gurl who did the cleaning by the pool, but, it was amazing, she didn’t drink, but she said she’d give it to her daddy.
The idea of men drinking thick sludgy liqueur seemed to stop them briefly in my tracks until Cleaner One took up the tale again, “Wee bottles!”, she cried, triumphantly, lifting one aloft like Indiana Jones snatching a golden idol.
Much interest, much cooing as I carefully filled the regulation-sized bottles.
We looked like the Macbeth’s Witches wrenched from their blasted heath and relocated to a ladies loo at Belfast Airport, with three little plastic bottles of gin in place of their their cauldron.
Mary picked up the aerosol. As one, we realised we had invented something. Spray Gin. Just think how handy that could be on a bumpy train ride.
Cleaner One and Mary looked at each other, solemnly nodded. Wee plastic bottles.
After all, said Mary, as they went back to work, was it not Jimmy who had to pour away a bottle of Jamiesons in Malaga?
No, said Cleaner One, it was Lucas, and it was that Spanish brandy, but it was a bottle right enough. Fair play to her.