Rebecca Tyrrel: 'It's best to just say nothing'

Days Like Those: 'Matthew swore that he would never again board an aeroplane. So why did he insist we go to Greece?'

Related Topics

Rarely had I ever dreaded anything as much. I look back wistfully now on root-canal dentist appointments, which seem like good behaviour treats in comparison to our proposed holiday in Greece with Matthew.

Usually I enjoy foreign travel, but then it usually involves just Louis and me minus Matthew, the husband/father figure in the foreground threatening to handcuff himself to a British Airways official rather than endure what he refers to as "this sheer unadulterated hell" a minute longer.

Five years ago, Matthew swore "on the life of Spurs" that he would never again board an aeroplane. "May Tottenham Hotspur vanish from the Earth if I break this solemn pledge," he said as he stood in the broiling mass of humanity at Palermo airport. "You are my witness," he told an all-too-knowing check-in operative, who smiled then said "OK!" and sent his suitcase for a two-week break in Lost Luggage.

Last October, Matthew didn't come with us to India, but he did insist on escorting us to Heathrow. "Your airline is a seeping, weeping, pustulating, gangrene-infested wound on the arse of humanity," he said to a member of the BA ground staff. And when the staff member insisted she was following procedures, he added, "That defence cut no ice with the judges at Nuremberg, madam, and it cuts none with me today."

So why, oh why did Matthew insist on a holiday in Greece this year? No answer was forthcoming other than the recital of the same passage of Greek that I have heard over and over again these last 17 years since we wed. I have often wondered if he really did have the classical education of which he boasts or whether he simply learnt just the one all-purpose passage.


We set off bright and early for our Aegean airways flight, driving to Stansted airport via Islington to pick up our two friends. Both Catherine, the mother, and Frances, the daughter, had been gently warned that Matthew is not an easy man to love in the vicinity of a luggage carousel and that they should temper their behaviour accordingly.

However, as they were in a sunny holiday mood that bright morning, I fretted I might have been too gentle with the warnings. I winced as they laughed in a "never mind, we are on holiday!" manner after Matthew announced through gritted teeth that he had left his computer in Shepherd's Bush and we would have to go back and fetch it.

Yet, oddly, their cheeriness seemed to have a happy effect as we bowled back home down the A40, because instead of questioning the point of his own existence and tearing wildly at his hair in anticipation of a missed flight, Matthew was using such upbeat phrases as "How foolish of me to be so absent minded. Oh well, we've still got loads of time."


Still, Louis and I clutched anxiously at each other as we walked through the automatic doors at Stansted, just behind Matthew who had come to a meaningful halt in order to utter his very first "I can't believe this!" of the day. "Say nothing," I whispered to Catherine and Frances. "It's always best to just say nothing. Treat all his questions as rhetorical and say nothing." But hard to take in as it was, Matthew was not banging his head against his trolley. Instead, his face was lifted heavenwards and across it was an alarmingly ecstatic grin.

He turned, raised his arms like Jesus and said, "This I cannot believe. It is simply beyond credulity."

It was, indeed. The airport was almost empty and, as we made our way to the Aegean check-in desk, there was a smiling operative asking for our passports. She only dropped the smile to look at Matthew as he clasped his hands, rubbed them with glee, raised them skywards, lowered them and then said, "But no, this cannot be. Where are the heaving masses? I know, the flight has been cancelled! Surely things cannot be going this smoothly? Mind you, it's not a British Airways flight, that could explain it. Perhaps I am not dreaming."

Once reassured that the flight would be leaving on time, Matthew continued to smile beatifically, so much so that I started to worry that people would think he was on drugs.


So revoltingly at one with the world was he, that Catherine and Frances began checking their boarding passes in the hope that they wouldn't be seated near him. Impossible though he may be while threatening to lie in front of a 747, he is so much worse when he is ostentatiously congratulating ground staff. He suffered moments of doubt, of course, and these were strangely welcome. At one point he predicted we would pay for the ease with which we had made it to the plane "with a corkscrew spin on to the peak of Mount Olympus".

But as Louis and I clamped on our headphones before take-off we could only pity the man the other side of Matthew who was getting the full "I don't believe it..." speech. Louis said it reminded him of the scene in the film Airplane!, when someone attempts to hang himself rather than listen to Ted Striker's life-story. And then he said, "You know, I think I preferred Dad when he was threatening to set fire to himself on a luggage carousel in Rome."

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Harvey Proctor's home was raided by the Met under a warrant investigating historical child sexual abuse  

Harvey Proctor: A gay sex ring in Westminster? I don't believe it

Harvey Proctor
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk