December is a month of tradition, ritual and bad habits, with nothing signifying Christmas more aptly than eating the festive foods you love. Actually, the most defining part of Christmas is the movies. The silver screen has been blessed with ageless classics for decades: Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, The Grinch and Elf are a select few that have survived the journey from VHS to DVD, and are now a staple Christmas tradition on Blu-Ray. But there is one film that triumphs over all. A slice of British pie that every one of us will annually indulge in… Love Actually. Originally not penned as a festive film, we are glad the writers changed their minds, because this flick is essential Christmas day viewing.
The film’s theme is love- that is obvious- and we are smacked in the face by the calamity of the process and the apparent highs and lows that accompany the feeling: watching the love of your life marry your bestie, and receiving a smacker on the lips from your childhood crush after Usain Bolting through Heathrow to find her. Which moves us nicely into the less apparent theme of the movie. One I’m not sure the writers ever knew went so deep. Travel etiquette. You think I’m wrong? Hugh Grant, in the opening monologue, declares, ‘whenever I get gloomy about the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.’ This was intended as a to reference loving reunions, but at Airport Angels we think he spotted a suitable-sized hand luggage and someone with a pre-packed, clear, plastic bag containing all their liquids under 100ml. To further our claim, Colin’s journey, figuratively and literally, starts and ends at Heathrow; Sam emulates an escape artist by evading capture in departures and the final shots of the movie take place in, yep you guessed it, an airport.
Our team has studied the film to assemble a list of travel advice that the Love Actually story has cleverly hidden behind the masquerade of love. I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes… helpful travel information is all around me. Come on, it’s all below.
1. Do your research
One stellar tip for travel is to plan. Investigate where you’re visiting: the currency, culture, and cuisine are crucial details you must be aware of before booking your getaway. This is vital in making sure you aren’t left 35 cents short in the Parisian equivalent of a Costa because you forgot the exchange rate doesn’t work in your favour. OK, that was oddly specific but you get our point. Our Love Actually parallel is Colin Frissel; a man who would sooner insult your catering skills than research his trip abroad. He arrived in Wisconsin, USA, not having a room to stay in, a final destination in mind or a clue what he was going to do there. As luck would have it, Colin met three lovely ladies in the first bar he stumbled upon. He turned out to be right about America but his whole trip was based on a hunch and we’d advise against this. Plan your trip in more meticulously than Mark’s wedding band surprise.
2. Learn the language
We can’t rely on foreigners knowing basic English or our outstanding charades ability to help us in buying a sandwich abroad. We’re in an age where Rosetta Stone can be downloaded onto your laptop for personal learning and phrasebooks can be purchased at the click of a button. It should be a basic requirement to learn greetings in the native language of our destination, yet, we often ignore this and adopt the cliché of ‘talk slow and loud’ in the hope we’ll be understood. We should all be a bit more like Jamie- Colin Firth to Love Actually newbies- who, for his new Portuguese flame, attended night classes to learn her native tongue. We’re not saying you need to transcribe and learn an entire marriage proposal, but “please”, “thank you” and “how much is a bottle of red wine” is nice attempt to immerse yourself into the culture. Plus, the locals appreciate the attempt and we’re in the business of pleasing people.
3. Never leave your friends alone
A prominent concern for travellers is the issue of safety. One suggestion we would make is adopting the buddy system employed by schools throughout the country. This ensures someone is aware of your whereabouts and there’s an extra set of eyes to watch your belongings. Bill Nighy’s character, Billy Mack, took this advice and kept Gregor Fisher, his manager and “ugliest man in the world”, close by for years. Throughout the whole film, they are side-by-side, to keep each other safe, and this unlikely partnership ended with the realisation that they loved one another. Copying this system will guarantee there is someone to watch your bags, but it could result in a love affair to rival Romeo and Juliet. So, if you believe in Christmas… children, like your uncle Billy does, buddy up and travel with a friend.
4. Timekeeping in duty free
This is a big one. If you’re like us then your first thought once you’ve got your boarding pass is “where are the massive Toblerones at?” Such a strong response to giant chocolate is understandable, but we advise you not to get caught in the duty free trap of spending way too long hunting for the mythical treat. You’ll undo all the hours of planning and travelling you invested into arriving early for your flight. Find your gate, check the boards and keep one eye on the clock while you’re perusing the aisles. It’s a certainty you’ll buy something, but, if somebody asks you, “Do you want this gift wrapped?”, even if they promise it’ll be “Ready in the flashest of flashes”, be cautious- because missing your flight will never be worth finding that £10 Toblerone. And remember, if you have time to get your purchase gift wrapped- no bloody holly.
5. Respect airport rules
We can’t drum this one into you enough- respect the airport rules. In the current climate airports can be a sensitive environment, harbouring small levels of suspicion and anxiousness by staff and travellers. Although airports themselves are safe, the worry surrounding recent events, and the safety checks inherent with air travel, leave many feeling uneasy. Therefore, we implore you to ignore any urge to chase your fleeing lover to the gate of their flight. Even if Liam Neeson is egging you on to follow your heart, any attempt to bypass checkpoints and evade security will cause mass panic and result in a lot of trouble. This isn’t 2003- we have phones now. Call her and leave a voicemail. It’s not romantic, it’s illegal. What’s worse than the total agony of being in love? Getting tackled by a burly security guard could top the list.
6. Disability assistance
We often encounter passengers who require extra assistance while travelling. This can be uncomfortable to request but most airports have a qualified team of professionals dedicated to providing assistance for passengers with extra needs. At Airport Angels, we aim to accommodate everyone with the necessary care they require. In Love Actually, Laura Linney, playing the helpless-in-love Sarah, can teach us a lesson in caring. Her character has a mentally ill brother who constantly needs her attention, which thwart her attempts at holding down a relationship. Her dedication, to the person that needs her the most, echoes the disabled assistance provided by both the airport and our team of Angels. There are services that are always on hand to help- don’t be afraid to ask if you need them.
Our next nugget of advice is regarding incoming passengers. It can be a struggle to locate family members in the arrivals hall, often because there are hundreds of other families and taxi drivers waiting for passengers from the same flight. This mass of humans usually leads to a tit-for-tat phone call of miscommunication: “we’re by the Boots, can you see us?” followed by “no what are you wearing?” A short inconvenience at best, this process is easily avoidable by recreating, on a much smaller scale, the most iconic scene from Love Actually. That scene is obviously when Mark appears at Juliet’s door, under the guise of a group of carollers, holding numerous handwritten signs. Although his sentiment was expressing true unrequited love, you can take a simpler approach by scribbling down your loved one’s name on a board- both get the message across. Our advice here: if you’re meeting someone at the airport, always hold up a sign. And, if you’re confessing your love for your best friend’s wife, think again.
8. Keep your clothes on
An unusual recommendation, but a necessary one, is simply, stay clothed. We’ve mentioned in previous blogs that going topless is an airport no-no, and we stand by it. Love Actually teaches us the same principle of travel through the story of John and Just Judy, arguably the most endearing pair on screen in the film. Their chance workplace meeting has little friction but the fire of love isn’t lit immediately- even with their clothes off. The one scene we see them at Heathrow, they’re the epitome of happiness, and clothed, with Just Judy flashing her engagement ring. I guess they listened to Jermaine Stewart, as their clothes were on, and they looked to be having a good time. If you’re struggling with what to wear, it doesn’t matter. We’ve seen stilettos heels to Superman onesies- wear whatever you want… even a lobster costume.
9. Enjoy yourself!
Our final tip for you is the simplest yet- enjoy your holiday. Travelling to your destination can be worrisome and problems on the journey can often tarnish the experience before you’ve arrived, but this should not be the case. Traffic jams, turbulence and troubles with check-in should never have a lasting impact on the holiday you longed to be on. Look at The Prime Minister in the movie. He was faced with a problematic workplace relationship, issues with foreign political parties and a potential scandal at a children’s Nativity play. None of these issues changed his ideals and he continued to be the witty, personable PM he was at the start, because it was his time to enjoy Number 10. So, crack out your Walkman, find your CD collection and start playing some Girls Aloud- it’s time to dance like Hugh Grant and enjoy your trip!
Love Actually is a heart-warming Rom Com that intertwines nine threads of Christmas story, to teach us all the value of safe travelling protocol and journey etiquette. We’re glad we could open your eyes to see the real meaning of the film, and we hope this informs your next viewing of the masterpiece. We mentioned earlier that whenever Hugh Grant gets gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. And we do too. The reunion of families and the joy of coming home for Christmas is a beautiful sight. Heathrow- “You are perfect to me.”
Any suggestions for our list? Contact us on Twitter at @AirportAngelsUK or find us on Facebook. We’d love to hear what you have to say. Merry Christmas everyone, and if we don’t see you before January, Happy New Year!