Malaga Airport 1966

by Anne Kristina Costigan
(Spain)


From the early sixties, my parents were frequent visitors to the Costa del Sol. My father abhorred anything with olive oil and especially any local delicacies. My mother promised to always bring his favourite food. His provisions travelled in a specific suitcase, which acquired a distinct aroma: sausages, pork pies, Christmas fare, salty Anchor butter, Cheddar cheese, dried milk (which here was vile), smoked salmon, kippers, and smoked haddock.

One arrival at Malaga was quite unforgettable.

My mother had been in Paris and connected with us at Heathrow. She had purchased an excessive quantity of perfume. Landing at Malaga, she had to improvise; there was no room in her bags.

My father was very slim. Extra objects in his pockets would go unnoticed. She stuffed them.

We stood lurching in the airport bus, realising there was a distinct Nina Ricci fragrance, emanating from my father.

We huddled to exit customs. As we walked past, my mother, (an ex-prima ballerina) flounced, fussing around in her mink coat carrying multiple packages.

"Sra, can we inspect your luggage?" She raised her eyebrows. Her shimmering, dangling earrings shook to a tune of their own; she smiled politely, exuding charm and grace.

"Certainly."

Her vanity case was crammed with new beauty products from Paris. She opened it. One guard ponderously examined the stacks of cosmetic tubes. He squeezed one, distorting its shape. He poked around and found sealed boxes, labelled: New Uplifting Treatment. He sniffed and rattled them. One didn't argue during the Franco regime. The longer he took to inspect, my mother's insouciance - vanished.

"Let me explain." She shrugged off her mink and dumped it over my father's arms, disguising the pockets.

"These products are the latest for Uplifting Treatment," she explained, gesticulating where the treatment was intended for. The customs area noticeably stilled. The crowd drew nearer. She uncapped a tube and pretended to squeeze a small amount.

"This, I would apply directly on the skin, working my way around and around," gesturing in a sweeping motion.

My mother was never shy. On the contrary, she had an innate love to perform. Withdrawing a pump from a sealed box, holding her hand with delicate lan, over each (decently covered) breast.

"Then, with freezing water," her Estonian accent increased with every word, (turning every British head at her atrocious mispronunciation), she emphasized obliviously, "you work everything in. Do you understand?"

The customs men were stunned. My father fully expected arrest. We both wanted to run and disown her. The crowd pressed closer to see what she would do next.

A woman standing nearby broke the scene:
"Where, can one get this treatment?"

My mother never lacked brochures of Henlow Grange. She pulled out a stash and started to hand them out.

The befuddled customs officers snapped out of their reverie: "Sra, thank you. You may go."

My mother finished. She smiled innocently, donned the mink and swept out of customs in her Prima Dona manner, ignoring both of us, who were cringing in reluctant tow. My father still kept close to her - he smelt like a Provence factory - yet would have divorced her on the spot.

It became a favourite family party story. One could say airport screening has improved since then. That smelly suitcase, however, never drew any attention!


Anne is webmistress of www.andalucia-andalusia.com

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