Bags unpacked, fridge magnets in place and the last of the after sun squirted over the peeling bits: the holidays are over. I'm not complaining, though. I was grateful for the break from the relentless bad news. During the fortnight I was away, the only 'Snip' I heard was the label being cut off the new, larger, shorts my expanding belly forced me to buy.
This year we were determined to leave catching up on events to the bitter end. On the way from the airport the taximan got as far as "So what do you think abou…" before we yelled "Stop!" A relative managed "Recess…" before we wrestled her to the ground.
On Tuesday, Her Nibs finally turned on the telly – as if she was detonating a bomb by remote control. We chose the BBC, to avoid any bad news from home. Bad choice. Up pops Ryanair's Michael O'Leary spinning figures and moaning about airport taxes, which he says are putting people off flying. He's cut some winter flights from Stansted in protest and is expected to announce the same here.
O'Leary has the same effect on me as haemorrhoids have on jockeys. It's the man-of-the-people act that gets me: when he puts on fancy dress, gurns and Takes On The System. What man-of-the-people has his bank balance? What people-friendly organisation cuts dozens off from their holiday homes in Fuerteventura by withdrawing flights in a business row? Ryanair did, two weeks ago.
This latest gripe suggests he's either deliberately talking rubbish or is completely out of touch.
His tax theory falls apart when you consider the ordeal that air travel has become. Let's start with booking. Ryanair insists you print your own boarding pass. If you forget you're fined €40 – four times the airport tax plus a surcharge of extra stress.
When you arrive at the airport you have to queue for security. Forgotten the plastic bag for your 100ml of liquids? That'll be €1 for two, please.
Instead of cashing in on this rule, airports should be lobbying to have it abolished. It's a joke. Last year, a friend was stopped with 150ml of expensive moisturiser and refused to hand it over. Instead, she squeezed half into a Zippy bag and was let through. What was she going to do? Hijack the plane by threatening to give the pilot a facial?
The next stress point is the scanner and trying to remember to remove all metal objects, your laptop, your shoes, your belt and keep moving. This, by the way, is when you discover you've holes in your socks and everyone else discovers your novelty underpants as you struggle to keep your trousers up.
Whereas the staff are always pleasant, the scanner is a bit on the sensitive side. A female friend's bra frequently sets it off. We call it her Booby Trap Device.
Bras aside, Dublin airport has recently added another item to its Most Dangerous list… the pop-up umbrella. This has to be scanned separately in case, presumably, you storm the cockpit with it. "Don't move, I've got an umbrella… and it's spring loaded!" Mary Poppins flew with an umbrella. Bet she never had it scanned.
To avoid the gate scrum we normally gamble on Ryanair's priority boarding and hope that everyone else hasn't had the same idea. In Krakow a couple of years back, a friend discovered it gave him priority boarding… onto the bus to the plane. Being first on meant he was last off. There's value for money.
Speaking of value for money, O'Leary loves finding new ways to milk his herd. The latest are to get passengers to load their own luggage – turned down on security grounds – and stand for the flight. The next may be to strap a few to the wings.
Then there was the proposed charge for the loo. What if you hadn't any coins? That's where the plastic bags you bought at security would come in handy. Once filled, they could be given to the stewardess who – as a Ryanair employee – is probably used to taking the p***.
What about installing pedals at every seat to save on fuel bills: Passenger Power?
With all this in mind, you have to conclude that O'Leary is wrong about the tax being a disincentive to fly. If we're willing to put up with all the crap he and Dublin airport fling at us, then who cares about a lousy tenner?
The recession is the reason people are cutting back on foreign holidays. If you're fortunate enough to have saved for one, you're not going to let a €10 tax put you off. The tariff also brings in extra revenue from foreign tourists and it all goes into the state's – not O'Leary's – coffers. That's why he's so annoyed: he wants that tenner. He reckons if you've paid it in tax you'll be less inclined to buy his Baggies or Cup-A-Soups. It's eating into his profit margins.
O'Leary has some neck whingeing about taxes given that he considered introducing one himself four months ago: a fat tax on porky passengers. After weeks of winding everyone up, he dropped it.
Pigs will probably fly before he stops mouthing off about this one though, and gives us all a break.
I definitely need another one now.