Thank God It's Friday

1st April 2005 at 01:00
Monday It's half-term and the school trip to Italy is under way. Even with 43 excited Year 9s on board, and only three hours' sleep on the coach from Lincolnshire to Gatwick, I'm looking forward to the week. A smooth flight to Rome helps, but as the last suitcase emerges on the carousel it becomes clear we've hit a problem: we're one case short. Mine. Half an hour later, and it's still not there. A long session at the airline help-desk in faltering Italian brings the promise that it's following - "for certain" - on the next flight.

tuesday We arrive early at the Vatican museum to avoid the queues. Three hours later, we finally get in. When we leave 60 minutes later the queue consists of three nuns and a party of Australian backpackers. I go back to the hotel and ask for my suitcase. "Tomorrow," says the concierge. I begin to regret my chocolate ice-cream at the Spanish steps and pop out to buy a new shirt before dinner.

wednesday To Sorrento for the rest of the week. I contact the airline before we leave to make sure that - when it arrives - my suitcase will be sent on to our next hotel. The coach drops us off at the top of the cliff above the beautiful Bay of Naples. I feel smug as everyone struggles with their luggage down the steep path to the hotel. I check in to be told that the suitcase is already in my room. It is. But it isn't mine. I'm tempted to wear the clean clothes anyway, but the dresses aren't my size.

thursday To Pompeii, where it rains. My only clothes are now wet as well as grubby, with the stains of Monday's spilt ice-cream still visible. I'm convinced that my suitcase will have arrived while we've been out. It hasn't. I'm forced to wear the beach shorts I bought yesterday in Sorrento to dinner.

friday We fly home, still without my suitcase. My only hope now is that it's been at Gatwick airport all along, and will be there when we get back.

I go straight to the airline helpdesk on arrival. "Yes, Mr Atkinson," says a cheerful girl, "we've found your suitcase. We sent it out to Naples for you earlier today."

Tim Atkinson teaches at Boston grammar school, Lincolnshire

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