Through Hungarian Airport security yet turned back from boarding the Moscow flight!

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The security desks are empty at this time of the morning. I lug my suitcase up on to a table and a burly man approaches me. His uniform is stretched vulgarly across his chest, buttons pulling, as though his body is desperate to escape its confinement. It is much too early to see chest hair before breakfast!

“Do you have a laptop?” His thick deep voice cuts through the air.

“Yes, it’s in my case.”

“Please open your case and take it out. Please take off your belt. Please empty your pockets into the container. Please remove your jacket and place into another container…”

Most of us are familiar with this routine. Please take off your underwear and show us you’re…wait! I joke, but that may well happen one day. The way our world is regressing it is just a matter of time. I walk through the X-ray and I hear the dreaded beep. To be fair I have not totally emptied my pockets I did not fancy taking out my Rubels, childish innuendo intended!

“Please step this way sir.”

I would prefer not to. Customs officers are like the airport cousins of traffic wardens. Always ready to pounce, penalize, and punish with their holier-than-thou, snotty arrogance.

“Hands in the air.”

I glance at my tray of goods, worried that my wallet is sitting on the conveyor belt, along with the rest of my wardrobe, for all to see and take.

“No problem.” I walk over. “But, please, can someone keep an eye on my possessions while you feel me up?”

“Take off your shoes, sir.”

He fondles my socks with some sort of scanner machine and, after what feels like an age, tells me I can go. What a tosser.

Back to the conveyor belt and another overweight, verbissen officer begins to rummage through my neatly packed bag. Verbissen is a Yiddish word often used by my darling grandma Shirley, RIP. It means, well, for want of a better word, it means Verbissen! Digging deep below the pedantically folded shirts, the officer grabs at something and raises her hand, her fist clutching at my innocent tube of Kiehl’s Facial Scrub. I like to take care of my face, don’t laugh. I have the toner and eye cream too!

“Throw in bin!” she exclaims.

“What?” I ask incredulous.

“Throw in bin.”

“But, it’s Kiehl’s! It’s expensive and completely harmless, really. Come on, I have space in my bag. Surely, I don’t have to do that?”

“Throw. In. Bin” she spells it out, her narrow little eyes squinting at me.

Now, I am one who never takes no for an answer, but having been worn down, or should I say dressed down, by her colleague I realise I am onto a loser. I glance at the bin and reckon I could chuck it and fish it out when she moves onto her next victim. No sooner have I thrown away the three quarter full tube of cream, she is raising my bubble wrapped bottle of wine.

The officer holds the bottle up in the air right above her head as though it is a trophy, the World Cup or perhaps Wimbledon, I don’t know, but she is clearly delighted.

“Throw in bin!”

“What! The wine also? Come on, have a heart!”

I feel as if I have been thoroughly fleeced for no reason whatsoever but it would be against my better judgement to make a stand. God knows what they would come up with next. I leave there mulling over the knowledge that she will forever remain Verbissen in a putrid uniform. As for me, well, Tambov awaits. Bigger fish to fry.

Glancing at the departure board I search to see what gate I am aiming for and I realize the time, the flight is already boarding! All those issues took me longer than imagined. Running the gate, there is no time for coffee. It’s a rush, joining the queue I bend over and try to catch my breath, eyes drift to gaze out of the window. Finally, I am on my way to Russia. There opposite me is the aircraft in all its weirdly coloured glory, standing in anticipation of its 3.5 hour flight, it is right there on the tarmac waiting for me, a welcome sight.

“Passport, please.”

“Of course.” I proudly present my European passport and watched the desk clerk flick through the pages, her long red nails settling on the last insert.

“Where is the visa?”

My heart misses a beat. I stand there looking blankly at the woman and she stares blankly back at me. A Hungarian standoff. It is now 5.30am. I am knackered, I’ve been humiliated by customs, and now I have literally humiliated myself by not realising or bothering to check whether the European passport needs a visa. God, as a Brit I always imagine that everyone loves us, as a European I always believe that I can go anywhere in Europe. Well clearly not all parts of Eastern Europe. Damn.

“What about my Israeli passport. Can I fly on that without a visa?”

“Yes, sir, no problem. Do you have one?”

I suck my teeth trying not to get annoyed at myself; we all remember where my Israeli passport is. First time travelling with just the one passport and it is the wrong one. There is no argument here, I am clearly in the wrong. Dejectedly I leave, back through customs, past the idiots, past the check-in girl and out to the taxi rank.

As I am writing this entry I am meant to be in Tambov! Instead, here I am sat in a tiny cafe in Muvesz, Budapest, finally nursing a coffee. I want to kick myself. So much for Gavin the intrepid explorer, instead I have now lost my money on the flight, the connecting flight and the deposit on the hotel and it isn’t even mid-morning!