Brady bunch takes off

Mid-August and time for the family holiday. These days we are that large and irritating party of 10 that always wants seats near each other on the aircraft and more sun loungers than anyone else around the pool.

So, with six adults and four children ranging from three years to eight, we opted for Mark Warner, the god of family holidays, at whose altar we regularly worship.

In his almighty gift, Mark Warner can bestow a week’s relaxation on a stressed adult while simultaneously offering children all the stimulation of an outward-bound centre but without the kagouls.

This year, we headed for the company’s Lakitira resort on Kos.  While Mark Warner has many god-like powers, the one thing over which he has no control of is aviation slots, apparently, and, what with the newly introduced anti-terror measures, our check-in was at the decidedly ungodly hour of 3am. We chose not to go to bed, but instead to wend our way to Gatwick in the hope of sleeping around the pool by lunchtime.

Check-in wasn’t as bad as some media reports suggested, although the advice about what could and couldn’t be carried on in hand luggage continued to be contradictory. I reconciled myself to several hours of estrangement from my make-up bag and prayed that all those magazine articles about women not looking half as bad as they imagine without three tubes of mascara were true.

From check-in we joined the long queue for security. Knowing that I no longer had any toothpaste, lip balm or perfume in my appropriately sized hand luggage made me feel rather smug. They weren’t going to trip me up. But trip me up they did when they asked us to remove our shoes. How I wished I’d worn the kind of grubby flip flops favoured by almost everybody else in the queue, instead of the tight-fitting sandals with elaborate ankle ties that I’d thought would mark me out as a chic traveller. Still, my hopping made for a certain amount of much-needed comedy, for which those behind me told me they were most grateful.

Things were looking good for a punctual take-off and I was imagining recovering in Kos when, at our departure gate, we were told that our flight had been delayed. And so it was that a four-and-a-half-hour delay put paid to the lazy afternoon in the resort. I wouldn’t have minded so much if we’d been delayed because officials hadn’t managed to sort the terrorists from the holidaymakers, but our delay resulted from the sickness of a member of the cabin crew. Frankly, I was ready to offer my own services – I know how to tie a life jacket and adopt the brace position – but I guess they didn’t have a uniform to fit me.

Piano man is a hit

Eventually we made it to Lakitira, accompanied by our smiling crew, who, like policemen, seem to get younger each year. A glass of something fizzy was handed to me by Shonagh Wright, customer services expert, whom I first encountered three years ago in Lemnos, and, when we were welcomed by another familiar face, resort manager Jules Med, I congratulated myself on placing the family in the hands of the ‘A’ team.

Previous experience of Jules’ management in Mark Warner resorts had impressed me; ‘esprit de corps’ is at the heart of his leadership style and in Lakitira the staff demonstrated the same hard-working, friendly and supportive manner.

The tennis coaches did battle once more with my daughter’s serve and volley, which I’m assured has finally improved, thanks to a lot of work on her ‘chopper grip’ and the waterfront crew saw to it that my son-in-law completed his RYA2 Sailing course in the week despite both too much wind and not enough wind.

A new addition to the staff was pianist Jono, a charming sociology student from Bristol who told me he had the best job at Mark Warner, playing the piano in the bar for a few hours each night.

The others might have got their relaxation on court or on the water, but Jono ensured I got mine with a vodka and tonic and a little smooth jazz. I hope the pianist can become a permanent fixture at the site – our tousle-haired artiste was very much appreciated, and, although women weren’t quite throwing their underwear at him, he was certainly much feted around the resort.

Salad cream lives on

Lakitira is a bigger resort than others in the Mark Warner chain that we have visited and is, without doubt, a good all-round family destination. The food in the main restaurant was always plentiful, if lacking a little finesse. However, it’s horses for courses and my son was pleased to discover that salad cream is alive and well on Kos. In the on-site taverna, the atmosphere was a little more authentic and I enjoyed some lovely meals there, although with so much on the menu I rarely got beyond the starters.

Of course a week is never long enough and in no time we were saying goodbye to those lucky enough to have booked 10 days (I hadn’t realised this was possible and heard no end of it from my family) or a fortnight. In the wink of an eye we were standing in the chaos that is Kos airport.

Goodness, the reps earn their wage at that place. Long queues of sweaty, barely-dressed Brits in an airport the size of a village hall. Small wonder my son’s suitcase ended up on another flight.

And that wasn’t all that was missing. Gatwick. 3.20pm. 13C. In the space of four hours we’d lost 30C. A week definitely isn’t long enough.