The Elephant In The Living Room

October 29, 2008 at 3:13 pm 3 comments


Oh, the joys of flying and business trips!

I endured a fretful night’s sleep. I never sleep well when I am expecting, and hoping, for my alarm to go off at an unusually early time.

I showered with my eyes closed in an attempt to fool myself that I was still grabbing an extra few minutes of slumber. And, I got dressed as quietly as a mouse (or, as quietly as a mouse would do if it was getting dressed – you have to use your imagination here!) while fully aware of the disgruntled noises of complaint coming from C who was huddled beneath a duvet which was failing to block out my noise or the bedroom light. She surfaced briefly to check for breaches of Trinny and Susannah’s fashion rules on the part of her colour-blind other half, before returning beneath the winter-grade tog. I was very jealous.

Eyes still closed, I went downstairs and fed the cat. At least I think it was the cat… is difficult to tell in the dim light of the fridge light while still half asleep. Whatever it was was fat, fluffy and purred a lot.

It was with some relief that I did not need to de-ice the car. And so, I reluctantly opened my eyes and drove to the airport, bemoaning the tractor with trailer that had gotten up and out especially early to stop traffic and delay people with deadlines and places to go.

The short-term car park at Manchester Airport was particularly busy. I waited nearly ten minutes for a Vietnamese-looking family to fail to park in a tightish spot. They were in a Picasso, but, it might as well have been a Liebherr T 282 B the way this guy was driving. He tried driving in. He tried reversing in. He edged this way and that but to no avail before finally giving in and going off to look for an alternative spot. I drove straight in and parked without any problem ……..

I had already checked in on-line, so I joined the depressing queue for security, toured the duty free shops for illusive bargains, checked my emails on my iPhone, and boarded the plane to Amsterdam without further incident.

I settled into my aisle seat immediately behind business class. Consequently, everyone who walked down the plane with a bag over their shoulder, clouted me on my own shoulder. It seemed that everyone had a big, heavy bag, some with rather sharp edges and corners. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am black and blue. Why can’t they just be a little more considerate and carry their bags in front of them once on board?

“Breakfast” was interesting and eventful. They served us two sandwich rolls. Now, flying KLM, I have recently got used to the one hard cheese sandwich and one marmalade sandwich, which has been typical fare for sometime now. Today they served two quark, red fruit, fig and cheese rolls. My neighbour asked what was on the sandwich and the stewardess responded in Dunglish (a mixture of Dutch and English), “It is written exactly on it!” Quark, red fruit, fig and cheese…..I am never a fan of curdled milk at the best of times and what on Earth was hiding behind the rather vague description of “red fruit”? These sandwiches were frankly inedible!!!

My neighbours, in the middle and window seats also struggled with their repast. The Old Boy next to me asked for tea, but couldn’t get his head around putting creamer in it. He asked for fresh milk, but there was none to be had. So, he ordered an apple juice instead. He seemed most upset when it arrived in a little can and sat and harumphed for a while, leaving his juice unopened. His neighbour, an American, did open his apple juice. And then he spilled it all over his nice cream chinos. Not a good look! Old Boy was obviously an infrequent flyer. As we were standing up upon arrival at Schiphol he informed me that until he had seem me hang my jacket on it he had always wondered what the little notch was for on the clip that holds the tray table up…………..duh?!?

My meeting was at the airport at the Sheraton Schiphol Hotel – which is difficult to say without gobbing in someone’s face. A little piece of America in the heart of the Netherlands. I was sat between two sets of TV screens – one showing non-stop American Football and ice hockey; the other, CCN News. While all the time, Bruce Springsteen and other similar American muzak attempted to drown out the TVs. Five hours passed quite quickly as I met with two Dutch colleagues over a coffee, a ham and cheese sandwich (this being Holland!), and a couple of Cokes.

And, soon enough, I found myself back on board the plane home. Possibly as a consequence of the recession and the credit crunch, the plane was only two third’s full. Business class was almost empty.

I was intrigued by my neighbour. He caught my attention when he sat down and took out a big pad of paper and wrote in capital letters using an ink pen with a proper nib: “THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM”. He was an obvious creative type. Very tall, he wore an open denim shirt over some t-shirt declaring allegiance for a 1980s rock band. He had a domed, bald cranium and was left-handed and wore rimless spectacles. Having written in his pad he became distracted by the myths and legends piece in the Holland Herald in-flight magazine before falling asleep. It’s hard work being creative. He didn’t even open his paperback – Clive Barker’s “Mister B. Gone” – which was a relief. You don’t want demons getting loose on a Boeing 747.

I didn’t even bother with the silly little triangular things that were masquerading as sandwiches on the return flight. But, I did partake of the red wine.

And so back home



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