A mother in law, a pen knife and the airport police.

I was going to do a post about the Easter bunny and how he gave Mrs Sensible a dishwasher rather than a chocolate egg, but the stupid rabbit bunny forgot to give me anything. So instead here is a post about Mrs Sensible’s mum, Gatwick Airport and a police caution.

In 2007 Mrs Sensible and I were still living in rainy England. From time to time visitors from Italy would arrive and the language in our house, quickly changed from English to beautiful Italian, except mine of course. Despite the amazing collection of Italian grammar books and dictionaries I had acquired, I soon found mime was easier to learn and much more universal.

Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau the master of languages

One of my favourite visitors to our house was my mother in law. One evening while Marta was staying, we were invited to dinner by our friends Gary and Joan. Joan created a delicious meal and during the meal Gary gave my mother in law a beautiful bone handle penknife for her husband. Gary said, he had carved the handle himself, he also strongly suggested that we place the knife in our main luggage when Marta flew home. This was duly translated by Mrs Sensible.


The penknife was a little bit like this.

When I booked Marta’s return flight to Sicily, I was amazed at how low the cost was, and so I also booked a seat for me. I told Mrs Sensible that her mum shouldn’t carry her suitcase by herself, so I would go with her have a 10 day holiday and would be back in the UK quicker than she could say “questa è una cosa molto egoista da fare. Ho bisogno di una vacanza così”

The security at Gatwick Airport was on high alert following various terrorist incidents, so we had to remove our shoes and pass them with our bags and coats through the X ray machine. I didn’t mind the increased precautions, because 1) I didn’t really want to get on a plane that might have a bomb on it and 2) I had left all my dangerous items, such as my battery razor and tooth paste at home. As I walked pass the security guard and reached down to pick up my holdall. A female security guard pointed to Marta’s hand bag and said “Is that yours sir?”

My Hand bag?

My Hand bag?

Mine!! A handbag! Was she mad? “It belongs to Marta” I said pointing at my mother in law. “Can we look in it please?” she asked.

I shrugged and turning to Marta I mimed, have you got any face cream, bottles or perfume in your bag. Marta smiled at me and shook her head. The security guard was definitely onto something, she was excitedly rummaging through Marta’s bag; the way a sniffer dog might, if it had just sniffed 4 kilos of cocaine in burst bags.

Meet Fleabag

Meet Fleabag the sniffer dog

With a flourish the guard produced Gary’s penknife. As she opened the knife and waved it under our noses there was an audible AAHHH from the other travellers in the queue. I looked at Marta in amazement, this didn’t look like the innocent pen knife Gary had given her, it looked like a Samurai sword, and if the guard didn’t stop waving it about, someone was going to lose an arm.

Policeman with the penknife

Policeman with the penknife

I started to apologise, I explained that Marta was Italian, not used to travelling, not a spring chicken, not a terrorist, blah blah blah.  I asked if she would kindly dispose of the knife and we would be on our way.

Fifteen minutes later, we were still stood in the naughty corner waiting for the police to come and tell us off. When PC Plod and his sergeant eventually arrived, I again apologised and explained that our flight was due to leave in 15 minutes.  I calmly explained the dinner and the gift, it was at the point where I mentioned Marta’s lack of English, that the Policeman asked if we needed an interpreter. It might take an hour or two for the interpreter to arrive, but we need to fill out some forms and your mother in law will need to accept a caution .  We don’t need an interpreter; I am bi lingual I said.

I am bi lingual

Of course I speak fluent Italian

I translated all the questions the policeman asked. Some questions were easy, for example; what is her name or what is her address. But when the policeman asked me to translate, please ask her if she will accept a formal caution or would she prefer to make a statement at the local police station. I resorted to total gobbledygook. I strung as many Italian words that I knew together and kept adding stai zitta (shut up) every time Marta opened her mouth. I am not really sure what Marta thought as I started to say in very very bad Italian “stai zitta, where bathroom? I like kitchen no like knife, no stai zitta, please si si si I said, as I nodded my head.

Marta whose eyes were as wide as saucers, nodded her head. The policeman then gave my mother in law an official police caution. She was warned that if she ever gets into trouble again, this police caution may be taken into account.

Any more trouble from you and...

Any more trouble from you and…

My mother in law and I ran through the airport to the departure gate, while I tried to explain on the mobile to Mrs Sensible why we hadn’t called her and no I wouldn’t go back and ask the policeman if we could keep the penknife and yes I realised it was a gift for her dad.

47 thoughts on “A mother in law, a pen knife and the airport police.

  1. Excellent!!! Have guffawed loudly in my kitchen to your antics. I love your choice of photos – is Fleabag your dog? 😀 I had a similar problem when I tried to check in with a plastic pistol in my handbag. From then on I have always checked its contents before leaving home.


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  3. This is great, although I do feel badly that a hand made knife (well handle) had to be tossed away, although I believe the people working at the airports probably take some things home with them. I kept picturing how badly it could have gone if you hadn’t decided to fly with your mother-in-law that day.

    It reminded me of the first time my then 16 year old flew. I checked his luggage, but he wanted to pack his own laptop case. He forgot he had this very tiny knife in the pocket, he use it to reach things in computer his thick fingers couldn’t. I had dropped him off and was on the freeway heading home when I got a call from airport security that he was detained and would not be boarding his plane. I turned around while calling his father (whom he was flying to visit). Almost there I received another call that he would make his flight but would have a fine to pay and a criminal record. Another call to his father to let him know….we never did receive the fine nor did they report anything on his record.


    • He was very lucky. The policeman who interviewed us said. If the penknife had been found in my luggage, I would have been detained.

      He said he realised that my mother in law was not a terrorist and that it was a mistake, but he still had to caution her and fill out all the paperwork. As soon as we were on the plane neither of us could stop laughing.


  4. Always nice to begin your trip with laughter! Even if it does mean such an uncomfortable situation. I loath the trepidation of security checks, even knowing full well I have nothing to hide. It’s always a pleasant relief when you finally board the plane. Thanks for sharing!


    • My heart nearly imploded when the security woman produced the knife with a flourish and a “ah ha!!”

      I looked at my mother in law in utter disbelief, she just stood there looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.


  5. Oh my goodness, I truly enjoy reading your funny posts. I love, love, love that you pretended to speak fluent Italian, when you were in fact just telling her to shut up and making up the answers. Brilliant!


    • You should have seen the way my mother in laws eyes were widening, as I was struggling to string enough Italian words together to convince the policeman that I was translating properly.

      I knew stai zitto was shut up, because Mrs Sensible had used it on me, but I didn’t know how to say please don’t talk or we will both end up in the police cells.

      I am glad you enjoyed it. We still discuss the episode when the family are together at Christmas or during the summer.


  6. After seeing your title in my Reader, before even reading the post, I thought to myself, “Oh, no… this can’t be good!”

    LMAO at your “translation” to your mother in law. Haha, good stuff. 🙂


    • I love trying to think of an apt title and digging out photos. I am glad it made you smile. At the time I was frantic, I really thought we would miss our flight. My mother in law was quite calm, until I started to translate for her.


  7. hey Pecora Nera, hahhhahaahhha, LOL this is soooo funny!!!! I can just imagine you doing the translating with some cappuccino and lasagna thrown in between “stai zitta etc etc”. I am sure it’s one of the funniest stories that go around the dinner table at family gathering… what a great way to bond with mother-in-law!!


  8. My mother in law is pretty cool. She can sing opera, play the accordion and smuggle penknives onto Easyjet flights, well almost.

    I didn’t know the Italian for don’t talk let me handle this, but Mrs Sensible had taught me stai zitto once or twice.


  9. I used to work with an English man who was married to an Italian woman. She explained to him that the reason Mr Bean is so popular on the continent is that most Europeans believe that Englishmen really are like Mr Bean. I’m starting to think she may have a point! Hilarious as always! I’ve nominated you for a Liebster award if you choose to accept!


  10. Thanks for stopping to like one of my posts! This was an excellent post as an example of the way the way we fly today. I think I will follow and enjoy more of your posts from your side of the world. You are a good son-in-law!


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  12. I love this story! I’ve come back and read it a couple of times now just because it makes me chuckle. Plus it’s educational! I can now tell my Sicilian husband to “stai zitto” if I have to.
    BTW, thanks for coming by my new My Sicilian Home blog.


  13. Love this! Can just imagine your face when asked ‘is this your handbag?’ and I would’ve loved to have been there to witness the English/Italian translation and your Mother in laws face! Classic! 😀


    • There is a line from Matilda by Hilaire Belloc that sums up my expression. “It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes”

      When I saw the penknife appear from the handbag, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

      I am glad you like it 🙂


      • ‘It made one Gasp & Stretch one’s Eyes’ … That’s such a great line & description! Perfect for those ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what to do… ground just open up & swallow me whole!’ moments 🙂


    • Hi Daniela, thank you so much for saying that. I started this blog to practise writing, and then it just became fun. I love the interaction in the comments, I also love trying to find pictures that help to explain what happened.

      It may surprise people, maybe not those that know me, but everything I write about has happened to me, and is still happening.

      So thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

      Pecora Nera


  14. That’s hilarious. It reminds me of the time my dad bought wallpaper paste in a plain packet from a car boot sale and put it in the car with other DIY stuff to bring over on the ferry to my Nan’s house. It was so funny when he got stopped by customs..I think I’ll have to blog about it 🙂


  15. Love this story and your expert translation 🙂 A friend recently blow-dried her hair at the airport, then stuffed her hairdryer into her hand luggage and went through security. She was held at security for several hours because the hairdryer looked like a massive hot ray-gun thing on their scans 😀


    • Oh its nothing, just my ray gun 🙂

      I love travelling except for..
      1) weighing the luggage whilst praying that you are under the weight allowance.
      2) going through security and trying to think if you have packed something in your holdall that should been your suitcase.

      I flew with an Italian friend to the UK. They wanted to x ray his shoes. He was appalled, “You want me to stand here in my socks??? Be careful with those shoes, they cost a lot of money.” He shouted at the security guard.


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