Grim gang is outshone and outclassed by delightful lady

She spoke of how she was looking forward to her tulips emerging into the spring sunshine. At such a

She spoke of how she was looking forward to her tulips emerging into the spring sunshine. At such a great age, she still loves renewal and new life. Picture: IAN BURT - Credit: IAN BURT

Sometimes I have moments when I despair about humanity. But, at these times, fate usually produces a beautiful example who restores my faith in us motley humans.

More of the beauty later (read on, though, you'll love her). First, the beasts...

Exhibit A was encountered at Nice Airport, in a queue for a delayed flight to Stansted.

A poor chap collapsed and was being looked after by a thoroughly lovely man who also took the man's grandson under his wing.

As he lay unconscious on the ground, a couple used the situation to jump the queue and steal in where the man and his wife had been standing.


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'We wanna get 'ome,' sneered Darren and Karen (made up names – no offence if you share them).

We all wanted to get home and we all would. But at that moment, my main desire was to fell Darren with a haymaker, wrap him in luggage protection and check him in as hold luggage on a flight to Hell.

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The utter self-absorption always wrong-foots me. If only there were specific crimes on the statute to cover such behaviour.

Judge: 'Guilty of selfishness! Darren Numskull, you will have a cell of your own for a year, where you'll have the chance to perfect your art.

'Karen Numskull, I sentence you to stand in a queue for a year, going nowhere, hour after hour, day after day.'

Exhibit B reared their ugly heads as we waited to board a coach from Stansted to Norwich.

Three generations of a family, all with their faces set to sneer. You know the sort: who are so angry, so often, that their ugly thoughts have a permanent effect on their faces – dark souls make hideous faces.

Wheeling their tasteful cannabis leaf-adorned luggage onto the neighbouring coach, they encountered a very polite driver who asked the malevolent matriarch to stop smoking in a non-smoking area.

The debate continued and, at the fourth time of asking, matriarch's obnoxious offspring launched a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse. In front of their children, of course. Flaming Neanderthals.

Thankfully, between Darren and Karen and the Family Grim we met a lady who'll always live in my memory.

Travelling alone at 96, she was in the seat beside me on the plane.

With her hairnet on and a bag full of little treats, including After Eights (my Gran's idea of luxury) in individual plastic cases, this gorgeous French lady chatted to us and shared my Prince biscuits.

She met her English husband in France after the war and has spent the past 30-plus years living on the North Norfolk coast.

She spoke of her enduring love for her late husband, her joy at spending time in the garden and how she was looking forward to her tulips emerging into the spring sunshine.

At such a great age, she still loves renewal and new life. What an example to us cynical souls.

As we landed, she put on her lipstick, which made my heart soften. Hope, joy, independence and self-respect ? at 96.

We made sure that we helped her with her luggage and saw her through to the other side, where her friend met her and we said goodbye.

There is no great moral message or provocative opinion here. All I drew from this journey of contrasts was that it is always worth sharing a smile and a conversation with somebody.

You never know when you'll be blessed, as I was when I met this doughty and delightful lady.

PS – the man who collapsed recovered, made the flight and seemed to be in good health.

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