Ian McMillan: Flight of fantasy in a private jet to the butcher’s

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My son Andrew has been scuttling up and down the country recently as part of his job. He’s a poet like me, and you know what globetrotters us bards are: why, the other week I was in Leeds and Bradford in the same afternoon! Andrew, being younger, had to go one better because a few days ago he was in Bournemouth in the morning and Ormskirk in the evening and the only way he could do it was by zooming on a train to Southampton airport from his morning appointment and then catching a plane to Manchester and thence on to Ormskirk. It all worked out fine, but he revealed to me later that he’d looked into how much it would cost to charter a private aircraft. That’s my boy!

He didn’t charter anything, of course, and when he told me about it I feigned indifference, but then I asked, in a faux-casual manner, how much it would have cost. “Not as much as you’d think,” he replied, in the manner of someone caught wearing a flashy hat. I pressed him on the cost, using flimsy arguments like “I’m your dad” and “I’m interested in the effect of inflation and austerity on the luxury market” until he eventually told me.

Seven thousand quid. Sounds like a lot and I wonder how much he thought I’d think it was, if you get my drift. But then I started fantasising. How about it? How about getting a loan or plucking the change from down the settee and hiring one? Just for a day. Just for a flight to, say, Cleethorpes for a day out. They could land on the beach. They could wait while you strolled on the front and had your fish and chips and a couple of games of bingo.

They could fly you back over a traffic jam on the M18. They could land on the top field in Darfield, the one near the garden centre. It might be worth it.

Of course, the price might be cheaper if the distance was less. Southampton to Manchester is quite a long distance, as is Darfield to Cleethorpes. How about Darfield to Wombwell, a small town two miles away? Surely you could get that for a hundred quid? My wife and I normally go shopping in Wombwell on a Friday with her mother. We usually park in the car park at the back of the High Street and start at the butcher’s and finish at the bacon shop. How about if we arrived by private plane?

A chap in a uniform and a peaked cap would pick us up at the house in a limo then go down Darfield to collect my mother-in-law. They’d drive us up to the top field where the sleek executive jet would be waiting. I’d have paid to have the livery changed to McAir. Classy. We’d taxi down the field, rising steeply by the garden centre. A glamorous stewardess in a McAir Uniform would offer us champagne but we’d have a cup of tea instead, which we’d have to gulp down because the flying time would only be three minutes. They’d try and show us an in-flight film but we wouldn’t get past the credits.

In no time at all we’d be landing on the High Street in Wombwell where they’d held the traffic for us. “We hope you had a pleasant flight,” they’d say.

We did! Now on to the butcher’s!