Well that was a long way. Manchester to Singapore via Dubai. I left home at 11.30am on Saturday and got to my hotel at about 8am UK time on Sunday. I know it is Sunday because the carpet in the hotel lifts says Sunday. Surely they can’t re-carpet everyday? Well, we will soon find out.
I can’t complain though. The company relented on the stupid status-driven travel policy and allowed me to book business class. It was nothing to do with the fact that I had given up my weekend to be here in time for an important meeting. They may have been influenced by my not so veiled reference to “health and safety” but probably had more to do with the fact that I will be here together with my boss (assuming he does get here in the morning) and he needed me fresh for what could be a tricky negotiation.
And, again because I am with my boss, I get to stay in a thoroughly nice hotel – the Shangri La. The room was so nice that I felt forced to take photos, especially as I was being egged on to do so by colleagues on Facebook who do not often witness such luxury, at least not on the company dime. I am sure that those colleagues will feel only pleased for my good fortune, and will not in the slightest feel resentful or jealous…. If it makes you feel better guys, the boss is staying in a garden room suite so I am still slumming it….relatively.
The journey itself was uneventful. I was picked up on time and my driver regaled me with theories about the deaths of the Bin Laden family members in the plane crash at Balckbushe and other conspiracy stories surrounding the missing MH370. Just what you need to listen to as you prepare to fly half way round the planet…..
On the first leg I was sat next to an aged rocker – bald head and ponytail. He spent the journey drinking Chivas Regal, air drumming along to whatever music he was listening to – which was a tad annoying, and, getting increasingly irritated by the number of public announcements which interrupted his viewing and listening pleasure.
Dubai was Dubai – the usual mixture of Star Wars meets the Zombie Apocalypse, sponsored by Gucci.
On the last leg I was sat next to an elderly Australian couple who were both technologically challenged – failing to master either their reclining seats or touch screen entertainment – and professional whingers. They complained more often, and more loudly than any Pom I know. Which is many.
The flights were uneventful but in my sleepless state I concluded that it is impossible not to be distracted by what other passengers are watching. I made a schoolboy error and chose another Keanu Reeves movie – John Wick. Keanu Reeves is to acting as Katie Hopkins is to diplomacy. Bad.
Soon enough we were deposited in Singapore and through the efficient security and baggage control and whisked away in a limo courtesy of Emirates airline. The top of the range BMW was an Aladdin’s cave of gadgetry. The driver had multiple phones, GPS, toll OBUs and a heads up display. This limo driver had more technology at his disposal than Tom Cruise in Top Gun. But, he still seemed to find it hard to judge distances or stay in his lane. Squeaky bum….
At first glance Singapore is very reminiscent of old Blighty. Apart from the humidity. 30 degrees and damp. They drive on right here and they are prone to traffic jams. However, unlike home, this jam was a result of lanes closed for plant pruning. Singapore is highly manicured and lusciously green with familiar street names pointing to its colonial past. Disappointingly, however, they measure speed and distance in kilometres.
And now I find myself in yet another hotel room, lying on the bed, bemoaning the fact that you can’t access Netflix outside of the UK, and feeling a little more homesick than usual, bemoaning the loss of yet another weekend at home…..
And, I’m still bloody wide awake! Bring me sleep….
I am a fan of Virgin Trains. I am a fan of Virgin Trains, despite Virgin Trains, but because me teeth are old enough for me to remember the days before Virgin Trains.
I remember when I was a Virgin Train virgin – taken in by the bright lights, the swish interior, the bright red uniforms, the tilt, the edible food, and trains that arrived on time, more often than not.
It used to be that the only things I had to complain about was the poor mobile phone connectivity; the constant failing of the seat reservation system with its ensuing bouts of train rage; the inconsistency in the number of sausages that would be present upon my sausage sandwich; and, those little sachets of HP brown sauce (is there any other), which had a tendency to explode upon opening, when wearing your best tie.
It still irritates me that the staff insist on asking me for rubbish, even before I have taken my seat, and, block the carriages while setting tables for their next onward journey at precisely the time you want to visit the toilet or make your way to the door to get a head start on the rush for the taxi rank at Euston station.
This makes me feel the same way as when I was a teenager, desperately waiting for my parents to go to bed on a Friday night so that I could gain control of the TV remote. My dad would insist on plumping the cushions on the sofa I was sat on before leaving me to my teenage angst and solitude and anarchy on the box……
But Mondays have become somewhat repetitive. Groundhog Mondays. The early start. The dash to Crewe and the futile search for a parking space wide enough to accommodate a modern vehicle. The shiver on the platform awaiting the train – whatever the temperature in the real world, it is always minus five on platform five of Crewe station.
And, once seated on board (thankfully, even with the regular failure of the seat reservation system I have never failed to find a seat in first class), I whip my iPad out and spend the rest of the journey failing to get a wi-fi signal.
My Monday routine now consists of tweeting Virgin Trains to complain that the wi-fi system is not working; Virgin Trains tweet back advising me to call their engineering help desk; I respond, saying I cannot phone as I am in a Quiet Zone; they respond, telling me to contact a member of staff; I tell the nice smiley lady who serves me my cup of tea and she says she will tell the train manager; she doesn’t; I wait until the train manger comes to check my ticket and I tell him myself; s/he reboots the system and subsequently drops the wi-fi connection for all those people who had already been logged on by virtue of having got onto the train at an earlier station, so that no-one has wi-fi connection for the rest of the journey down; I tweet Virgin Trains to tell them that this is not good value for the small mortgage I have taken out to pay for a first class ticket for the complimentary wi-fi; they reply saying yes it must be frustrating; I respond asking why we cannot tweet the engineering department so that they can reset the wi-fi; they compliment me for the idea and say they will pass it on; they don’t; and we do it all again next Monday.
Usain Bolt, you are a fraud…..
Fix the bloody wi-fi Mr Branson!
I kid you not but I just nearly got run over by a mad old lady on a mobility scooter, right by the frozen food aisle in Waitrose, Sandbach. My life flashed before my eyes and looked as if it was going to end, coldly, in a pile of frozen crinkle-cut chips and battered onion rings.
Fortunately I was able to take evasive action at the last moment – she merely clipped my trolley as she swept past without so much as a witch’s cackle.
I am not sure what the speed limit in Waitrose is, but she was definitely exceeding it.
Now don’t get me wrong (….at this point please picture me placing my tongue firmly in my cheek) I have nothing against old people. Some of my best friends and family favourites are old themselves. And, I know that old age will be upon me all too soon. But, why do they need to go shopping on a Saturday?!! They have the whole week to do this. Why do they insist on getting in my way on one of my all too rare days off?
Sandbach Waitrose was simply awash/overrun by octogenarians this morning. They were everywhere. It started in the carpark, which was littered with small, economical cars parked at strange angles, and using the painted white lines as only very loose guidelines.
It was almost impossible to make progress around the carpark as old men sporting flat caps threw their Honda Jazzes into reverse, without notice, and without looking around them, simply following in blind faith the directions of their wives stood outside the car. She would stand there, waving them out, oblivious to her surroundings and only interested in ensuring she had sufficient space to open her passenger door wide enough to take a seat in comfort.
At this point the Jazz is diagonally across the car park aisle. I wait until both wife and hubby put their seatbelts on. Only then does the driver look up to realise that there are other cars looking for a parking space, and that he is facing in the wrong direction, against the oncoming traffic. He waves at me to go past him as if it is all my fault.
Elsewhere extreme care was needed to avoid random oldies pushing trolleys laden with sweet sherry and cream cakes weighed down with walking sticks, having either forgotten where they had parked their car, or whether they had, in fact, come on the bus.
Indeed, the shop front itself was blocked with a solid line of cars sporting disabled car stickers. This added to the chaos, making it difficult for the dial-a-ride, wheelchair-friendly minibuses to drop off/pick up their elderly passengers. They appeared to be bussing them in from retirement homes and villages across the county.
Eventually I found a spot in which to park and made my way inside. Slowly. I think the correct collective noun for an assembly of pensioners is a “shuffle”. And if it isn’t, it should be.
My progress around the store was impeded by spatially unaware blokes in cardigans and wrap-around sunglasses, making slow progress pushing their trolleys down the centre of the aisles, leaving absolutely no space for overtaking.
At various other points my route was blocked by two grandmotherly ladies smelling of floral perfumes mixed with germolene, who had stopped for a chat, leaning heavily on their three-wheel shopping buggies – like Zimmer frames on shopping trolley wheels with a tartan bag built in.
I repeat again, I have nothing against old people. I am so glad they won the war. I just wish they didn’t have to go shopping on a Saturday. After all, I thought that was why garden centres had been invented…..
And so, those more-easy-on-the eye news reporters have left their lurid sofas in the studio to speak to us, in light floral Jersey dresses or stripy shorts, from venues such as Centre Court or the banks of the Thames.
Headlines about the weather, railway lines buckling in the heat, penguins having to be sprayed with water in zoos across the nation, and the latest British tennis player to crash out in the first round have usurped those of the worst terrorist atrocity against the British people since 7/7 and the fact that we will soon be swamped with economic migrants from Greece.
We will be regaled with “useful” information such as places that the UK is currently hotter than, and how we must at all costs never step directly into sunlight or we will immediately burn and develop some mortal disease unless the pollen doesn’t get us first.
The internet will be overwhelmed with searches such as “Carol Kirkwood cup size?” and “Louise Minchen bikini” and, consequently this post will trend for maybe a nano-second….
Local news will concentrate on how to keep safe around those weapons of mass destruction – the BBQ – with common-sense tips such as not mixing alcohol, your husband and fire.
We will be warned of sleepless nights unless we leave all our windows and doors open. We will be warned of psycho-murderers and baby-snatching urban foxes clambering through our open windows in the night.
The Underground will be slowed in a vain attempt to generate a breeze and prevent passengers’ brains from cooking in the heat. And, you won’t find a sausage or a burger on the empty chilled cabinets of Waitrose for love nor money.
And then tomorrow it will rain, Andy Murray will injure his back, and rosacea sufferers and ginger-haired people will be able to mingle amongst us once more.
So, enjoy it while you can.
This was a week of three flags. Three flags that people have been prepared to fight for. Three flags that people have died for. Two flags that people have killed for. Two flags of despair, bigotry and repression One flag of hope, love and equality.
This week President Obama gave the eulogy at the funeral of a friend and pastor – one of nine black Americans killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, at the hands of a racist sporting the Confederate battle flag. Take it down. Tear them all down.
Twenty seven died in a suicide bomb attack in a Shia mosque in Kuwait – followers of Islam killed at prayer in their place of worship and refuge during the holy month of Ramadan.
On the same day, one man was beheaded by a terrorist attempting to blow up a gas factory near Lyon in France.
On the same day again, thirty eight tourists and hotel staff, fifteen of them British, were massacred by gunmen while on vacation and enjoying the beach and the sun in the resort town of Sousse, Tunisia. All innocent.
All killed in the name of religion. Killed under the black flag of the so-called Islamic State, ISIS. A flag of hate. Take it down. Tear them all down.
But, on the same day the White House was turned into a rainbow flag, as America passed a law to allow homosexual marriage in all fifty states. Bigots have called the law anti-Christian, anti-God. But the rainbow flag represents love and equality and the victory of democracy over small-mindedness, bigotry and hate. Fly it high. Fly it proud. Fill the world with rainbows.
There are more guns in America than there are people, and that does not include those that belong to the military…..
67% of American homicides are carried out using a firearm. There are some 20,000 American suicides using guns every year.
The death-toll from recent “massacres”:
Charleston – 9
Virginia Tech – 32
Binghamton – 13
Fort Hood – 13
Oikos University – 7
Tucson – 17
Aurora – 13
Columbine – 13
Do the math America – it ain’t working!
It has been a year of memories and fleeting glances in the shadows…..
Originally posted on Middle Man:
We have just laid Maslow, the furball baby, to rest in a nice shady spot under the big oak tree in the garden. So, he has a view of the house and we have a view of him. He has the squirrels to keep him company. And, he will be near us when we sit with friends and neighbours, as he ever was.
We had to put “the baba” to sleep after he stopped eating. He had a problem with his liver and had been poorly for several months. He was getting a little irritated by the regular visits to the vets and really didn’t enjoy taking his medicine. But, right up to the end he remained the happy furry bundle of joy that he had always been since he first appeared at our door nearly twelve years ago.
Putting him to sleep was one of the hardest and easiest…
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