Trains, Planes and Automobiles….

A simple return home from The Netherlands to Portsmouth via Dusseldorf and Southampton became unusually long, tiring and traumatic last week – it took me 21 hours for what usually takes 6 hours.

Having left the office in Heerlen at 430pm, I arrived as usual at the airport for my FlyBe flight back home on Thursday with time to spare so I made my way through security and passport control to buy some tax-free goods – cigarettes, perfume for the other half and some pipe tobacco.

I then made my way through to the business lounge where I read my book and waited for boarding. It’s now that the timeline becomes important. With thirty minutes to spare I walked down to the gate, it is literally on the airport lower level,  and stood around as is usual, for the aircraft to be cleaned on turnaround and the transit bus to arrive at the doors of the gate. A guy I have seen on and off who also uses the service had commented that the inbound flight was delayed so we were unlikely to be leaving on time. For now we’ll call him Jonah.

We eventually boarded for an 845pm departure later than planned but the exact time escapes – it wasn’t relevant at the time – we have often taken-off late but still with good routing have returned to Southampton on time if not before. So we sit in the aircraft and we’re sweating – the climate in The Netherlands and Germany was particularly humid and hot last week – there are to add insult to injury threats of severe thunderstorms. The crew close the doors; the pilot speaks to us and we taxi out for take-off, hold our position and then we’re off. The usual acceleration starts but then the pilot hits the brakes – we slow and the aircraft is steered to the left and we sit on the tarmac. I remember the pilot’s words “Cabin crew, Normal Operations” which I can only presume is airline speak for “Houston, we have a problem”. After a few minutes the pilot explains we have some issue with the Avionics and we’re going to try to fix it where we are. After a few more minutes it’s explained again by the pilot that we have to return to the stand to contact engineering as going through the ‘manual’ isn’t solving the issue. We taxi and return to the stand and wait. At this point I don’t imagine I’m going home tonight. The pilot also gives us leave to use our mobile phones to contact people expecting us in Southampton so I message my fiancée to say I don’t think I’ll be on time.

To my short-lived relief we (I’m now nervous) proceed after an announcement from the pilot that the problem is resolved, taxi out and take-off.  Wheels-up and then we climb but something isn’t right (I’m now very nervous). The first thing I noticed was we don’t get the usual initial ‘bing-bong’ nor do the cabin crew un-belt and start to come down the aisle with the drinks trolley. In fact,  we actually get an announcement from the pilot that the problem hasn’t been cured as at first thought and we’re now returning to Dusseldorf airport. The next twenty or so minutes felt like a lifetime, so as a distraction I actually opened my book and read some more.

Eventually, the wheels came down and we landed – it was bumpy to say the least and taxi to the stand. All credit to the calmness of the cabin and flight crew as their contingency training must have kicked-in. It was very quiet on the aircraft but there was I am sure a communal sigh of relief as we were allowed to un-belt and leave the aircraft and return to the building via a transit bus. By now it’s just after 10pm.   At this point in a call to my fiancée she is still seeing our arrival scheduled on FlightTrack but shortly afterwards the flight is showing ‘cancelled‘ at 2213 on the app confirming this.

We pass through passport control again and then all congregate in baggage reclaim and pounce on a member of ground staff who is handing out a ‘your rights’ flyer. He is actually dealing with another flight cancellation who fortunately or otherwise hadn’t left the ground which was apparently due to the extreme weather in Dusseldorf – very heavy rain, thunder and lightning.  It’s very odd but I never saw Jonah again after we initially boarded the aircraft. So eventually the ground staff guy says he will go and come back on 5 minutes. Sometime later he comes and explains we need to wait by the supermarket at the end of the arrivals hall. So I duly march out to the store with the others  and take the opportunity to go outside to smoke. There are a few of us out there. Two guys from the British army trying to get to Blandford, another guy who reminded me of Norman Wisdom, a German girl travelling to Bournemouth and a few other stragglers. There  had been 3 German couples – middle-aged – who were apparently trying to join a cruise in Southampton – I never saw them again.

By this time it was evident that an enormous thunderstorm had broken over the airport – whilst we were undercover we could see very bright flashes of lightening, very loud claps of thunder and torrential rain pouring into areas where there is a gap between the terminal and the car parking.

By midnight we are directed to board a coach that has been sat outside the airport for at least 30 minutes. But the numbers have dwindled; the German girl has gone to stay with some friends. In fact the soldiers had decided to stay in the airport instead of the to and fro to the hotel; but changed their minds last minute and came to the hotel with boasts about emptying two mini-bars. We’re also told that there will be taxis to take us back at 5am!

By 1230 we are at the hotel; the barriers are shut, so we walk the last 20 yards across the car-park. We all check-in and I am directed to 1414 – I’ve put my hopes on getting a shower and collapsing into bed with an alarm set for 4am. I shower but am past tired so go down to the lobby and have a smoke. By 1am I am reading and drinking miniatures from the minibar, reading my book and watching the storms on the horizon. It was I can only imagine like being in the blitz – clouds being illuminated by lightening and loud bangs getting closer and closer. I hasten to add these were louder because the room was very hot and humid so I’d opened my balcony door to let in some cooler air. I was also hungry so I consumed a Coca-Cola sized tin of peanuts from  the room along with the whisky, vodka and brandy. Needless to say I eventually felt tired – 3am I think it was. My eyes closed and the next thing I awoke to my alarm and had to gather myself. It was one of those ‘where am I?’ moments! I’d sorted my clothes – packed the suit I was wearing the day before and was down in reception by 425am.

There was a woman from Leicester, who was travelling to Southampton; she was in the lobby when I got there. The night porter was unable to supply coffee; but when I was out having another cigarette, the night manager produced a tray of coffees and came outside to tell me. What a hero! I certainly needed a coffee because I felt like something from Waking the Dead. After that and another cigarette I boarded the taxi -minibus to the airport. That was somewhat scary because the driver took full advantage of the autobahn on the way there arriving in little over 20 minutes.

So I go all over again check-in to get a new boarding pass for our rebooked flight to Birmingham, due to leave at 7am. Pass through security and passport control where I get to spend the 14 Euro voucher given to us at check-in along with our boarding pass. I got coffee, a sandwich, water and a cake. It passed the time before I went to the Camel smoking lounge before joining the herd to board the transit bus to the aircraft. It drops us off by the Bombardier, where we board and collapse into the seats.  Then everything stops as we wait for 5 people who are missing from the flight – not I hasten to add anyone from the Dusseldorf flight – they eventually arrive and board the flight – finding something funny. I am not sure I was in the mood to find anything funny.

We take-off, late, the drinks trolley arrives, from where I have two miniatures of single-malt to help relax me and I read. I actually think I relaxed enough to sleep for the last 30 minutes of the journey.

It’s now Friday 815am (local time.) Landing in Birmingham is not something I’ve done for a long time. The old ‘Eurohub’ which was the centre of BA operations at BHX is now the Flybe hub evidenced by all their liveried aircraft huddled around it. The plane gets to stand; we’re disembarked and I even get to walk on a pier into the airport building despite having to walk on the tarmac from the aircraft steps. Through passport control, through baggage reclaim and into arrivals where the Flybe ground staff are waiting for us NOT! A deputation goes in search of customer services – I go outside for a cigarette along with a the usual suspects.

By 9am we are being marshalled to a coach to take us back to Southampton. The soldiers and German girl are there. Still no sign of Jonah. We leave for the south.  Despite having only had about 2 hours sleep I engage one of my colleague travellers in conversation – he is reading ‘Redbreast’ by Jo Nesbo which was my hook. We talked all the way back to almost the M3; we swap business experiences – he works for a major UK telephone company and is in Germany working on a new financial reporting system under the same 3 letter application brand that I am working now on. Nice guy – even offers me a lift home on his was back to Chichester.  I hope I politely decline – getting off the M27/A27 to get to our home is a real pain in the posterior as I explained – but thanks M!

In just under 2 hours 30 minutes we are at Southampton airport. Most people disappear. I go for a cigarette and call the other half – we realise I don’t have a key. She says if I get a train to Cosham she might be able to collect me, as she’s out in her car. I go to the station buy a ticket and miss two trains working out my route. I eventually get to Southampton Central where I eat and drink something and read my book waiting for the 1244 to Cosham and beyond. It’s not long before my fiancée’s son who happens to have just finished a job in Southampton calls me and says he’ll pick me up. So by 1pm I am on the last leg home. I think I relax now don’t you! I arrive at home about 2pm – approx. 16 hours late.

I collapse in a heap to enjoy my day-off or what’s left of it.

Epilogue – Monday evening I am sitting in 15D on the outbound leg of my journey back to Heerlen via Dusseldorf and see M from Friday get on and sit down. Lo and behold who should get on a sit next to me in 15C – the German girl – she’s called Julia.

We have an uneventful flight – me and a Jack Daniels a bit of chatter and a book and then it’s back to business as usual.

Domestic fun

Alpha versus Iota

I learned an important lession in in-significance in the last two weeks. Alpha-girl  (AG) has now moved out so Alpha-boy (AB) almost within minutes has regained his place as the top of the pack. It was explemfied yesterday evening after mother-figure (MF) and I returned from two days not here – one night away.

We had eaten a late meal at one of our favourite haunts overlooking a marina and an extension of the Solent – she had wine I had a lovely Czech beer – it began with K and is posted on FB somewhere as part of an ubiquitous check-in when we are eating or meeting or just showing-off.

I digress – we had returned home probably 5pm and sat around not doing much apart from unpacking (see later) and just blobbed – I may have even dozed-off. At 7pm or thereabouts MF as she will now be known questioned the late arrival home of AB from work when in my experience he doesn’t usually arrive before 730pm and usually dons his PE kit and runs off to the gym for at least an hour coming back no earlier than 845pm and then wants to eat. He was defeated on all counts last night however – he didn’t go to he gym; came downstairs in his PJs (usual evening wear for 26yo hardworking pre-sales consultants I believe) and plops down on the ageing-sofa in what I affectionately call Hamilton’s Pole (something to do with being first on the grid). To his dismay I had already bagged the remote control and steered us into watching Wednesday night’s spoonful of Lord Sugar. At this point possibly during a lull of some kind now possibly 8pm he says “are you two not eating? At which point I replied ‘we had a late lunch in S!” followed by MF saying “I can cook you some chicken.”

The moral of this story is that AB still reverts to type very quickly when MF is in the house and I drop back to by position as ‘Iota-male’ (IM) – I did consider Beta-Male but the Crampton chap who writes in the Times Magazine has already nabbed that handle. Those of you familiar with the Greek alphabet will understand.

The packing or unpacking is extreme – we take more when we stay at Surrey’s flat in Dorset than if we were in a B&B. It was worse this time as the visit to the Swedish store resulted in another bag of goodies from Schnapps to shelves and shoe-boxes. This morning I have started the transition to the new storage but felt more inspired to share some facetious thoughts with my friends.


Grandfather, father and son

I was a son became a father and am now a grandfather. Being a son was tough in my youth, philosophical differences with my ‘dad’ on life, mundane ones such as music and literature and days spent fishing for carp, barbel and chub were a joy despite those differences. We didn’t have much money when I was a kid, dad used to run a mail-order catalogue and he must have done it on a pretty large scale to be able to bank the commission to pay for our Christmases. Mum was a housewife for many years until she became an office cleaner at the factory where my dad worked. That I suppose added some money to the family income but they weren’t brimming with cash. I passed to go to the local grammar school which went down a storm because of the cost of the uniform and books and sports kits that was essential, although I was one of the typical kids whose blazer was two sizes too big so it last three years, or I until my growth spurt. But I don’t suppose our meagre diet fostered that as I was still only 11 stone when I was 18 and considering I was almost if not 6 foot tall by then, wasn’t a lot of weight to be carrying…….



Well hello from the Mac …

Got in early today so I could leave early but still got lots done. Waiting on a email from the US to confirm a software upgrade has gone in. At home since 5pm and then a quick trip for some hairdressing (on me not by me) to tidy up the barnet.

Last night was interesting. Got home to find that the abdominal snowman had returned from Tignes and was not glued to the SochiTV. Having succumbed to snow-blindness I went for a walk. However on my return it seemed that most of the me-in-my-place rules had returned and the TV was quickly on Apple and a movie about lads being arses had been selected with no ‘is it all right if I dominate?’ or was by your leave! My dad would have thrown something at me for doing that. Sadly I got used to that sort of behaviour with my own teenagers before I moved-out so no surprise that I have no currency here in their home, despite contributing 800% more than he does.

Life goes on. I do sound bitter but there you go, it’s a matter of letting it settle but sometimes you have to vent ones spleen if not on paper but verbally so I told ‘mum’ that the level of selfishness and arrogance has got to stop because let’s face it whilst its comfortable, do-what-you-want and pay a low contribution he won’t move out, will he?

At home alone right now!  catch you later folks!


Monday catch-up

A new week and counting down to holidays. Seven weeks to go to a nice warm break in the Canary  Islands at my favourite hotel. To sate my thirst for some luxury we are heading off to London on Saturday to try to find a show in the West End and depending on the weather we will try to get on the cordon outside the red-carpet for the BAFTAs. 

Work presented a back-log of help-desk tickets from two days being off sick last week which were caught-up by just after lunch. The motive is to keep them down in single figures for the time that I am working alone. An impromptu meeting with my boss and his boss to explain my concerns about the disconnect on the main project we aren’t working on and the potential for disaster. As I explained we’re being thrown jig-saw puzzle pieces and we don’t know what the picture looks like. How can we be proactive on those terms? The biggest problem in all this is that when it’s all implemented and the fit hits the shan we’ll be expected to fix the issues in no time at all with no accountability being taken by those leading the project in our absence. My take on this now is to continue to do what I am asked without challenge to deflect any perception that I am a nay-sayer.

The scanning project moved forward a small-step today and will follow-up. 

more to come…..