Business travel is exhausting…..
Much of last week was spent in transit due to a business trip to Cape Town, South Africa. It is a long, long way. Probably the most gruelling business trip I have undertaken for a long, long time.
Now I know that I was lucky to be travelling business class – normally you have to be God in our company to have such privileges, or even His superior, our CEO. But, we needed to be fresh and functional upon arrival and, so, an exception was made. But, due to cost reasons we couldn’t go a direct route such as via Heathrow. We went via Dubai, flying with Emirates.
And so, I left home at 6pm in Monday evening, arrived in Cape Town at 4pm (UK) on Tuesday, left the office at 3pm (UK) on Thursday, and got home on Friday at 2pm. Forty seven hours travel for forty seven hours in country, and, just seventeen of those in the office.
Upon arrival at Manchester Airport I bought a paper back and a newspaper at WH Smiths and wondered why a newsagent needed to know where I was travelling. When I asked the sales assistant why she needed to see my boarding card I got a “cuz the airport sez”. I then joined the great unwashed at Burger King for a most unsatisfactory Double Whopper before heading for the refuge of the business lounge.
In the Emirates lounge I found ice-cold champagne, and hot halal food. I needn’t have suffered at Burger King after all. The loos were gleaming but, strangely, I found sharps boxes in toilet cubicles. Presumably for all those nervous travellers snorting heroin or cocaine to ease their fear of flying in comfort.
The afternoon A380 superjumbo had gone technical. This was a concern because it was brand new and because i was due to fly home in it on Thursday. Apparently, Manchester had no spare parts so these had to come from Toulouse. By the time repairs had been made the crew had gone over hours. Consequently our flight became full of the disgruntled refugees from the Airbus and was delayed for an hour as they sorted the luggage.
Upon takeoff our wit of a captain commented “To our guests from the A380, we may not have bars and showers on board but at least we can fly.”
The big guy next to me was complaining about being bumped from first class with its bars and showers to a middle of three seats in business sandwiched between me and Bill , the former England Rugby Captain and team captain on A Question of Sport. As he took his seat he asked “Any room for a fat lad?” To be fair he did have an arse like a hippo. But he was pleasant to the staff and chatted easily to his neighbour, who didn’t seem to have recognise him.
It didn’t take long for that depressing moment. I was in an old 777 with the old style declining seats. Depression fell as the guy in the seat in front of me decides he wants to attempt sleep and reclines his seat. Even though I am in the aisle seat I will now have to contort gymnastically to get out. Worse still, the big lad next to me is trapped between the reclined seat, me and one if the greatest prop forwards of all time, with an arse like a hippo. This guy has been quaffing free champagne for some seven hours and is likely to frequent the loos. Which means that he will be clambering over yours truly.
A sleepless trip ensued. The food, though excellent, was served too late. And the alcohol, though available on request, was not so freely available as to induce slumber. So, I entertained myself with The Prince of Persia (6/10), Brandon Flowers on my iPod (9/10), and the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Childs (not yet finished). It is impossible to get comfy in those reclining seats – although Bill did manage a good four hours or so.
I managed to time my trip to the loo ahead of the “starting our descent” rush. My ablutions were minimalist and so the free splash of the rochas aftershave was welcomed, and probably not just by myself.
Dubai airport is a blur. It was busy and bustling and i was sleep walking. It wasn’t long before I found myself on board the next plane en route to Cape Town. The second plane was very different with flat beds, privacy screens and big TVs, although my seat didn’t work and so I had to move. I maybe caught an hours sleep before a very disappointing breakfast (French toast and waffles). Not even The Karate Kid, DJ Dull (I made that up) and his ambient mix, Bob Newhart, Michael McIntyre or Iron Man 2 (7/10) could induce sleep.
Upon arrival at Cape Town airport we were somewhat “surprised” to see the directions to where one should collect one’s weapons and guns. Weapons AND guns?!
Fortunately, a car was waiting for us and we were soon whisked past the large township (shanty town) to our hotel, where I unpacked and tried to relax for an hour. Relaxation was difficult due to the Poltergeist in my room. When I was attempting to iron a shirt all the fuses in my room blew. The maintenance man tried to assure me that this was due to a dodgy iron, which I would have believed if not for subsequent events. Just as I was dropping off to sleep i was awoken by a strange vibrating sound. Although it sounded as if it was in the room I could not locate the source. But, after about five minutes it stopped. And then, just as I was dropping off again, the vibration recommenced Again i was unable to locate the source so i took myself off for a shave and a shower. And then I discovered the source of the strange vibration. Upon opening the drawer containing the hairdryer I found it to be read hot. Clearly what I had heard was the hairdryer turning itself on, overheating, turning itself off, cooling, and, turning itself on again. Spooky.
And so I met my colleague for a palatable lamb curry, very palatable Castle lager, and, attempted to watch England beat Switzerland in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. Watching England did it for me and I was fast asleep before the third goal!
The next couple of days were busy although we did find a couple of hours to be shown around the main sights of Cape Town and enjoy a nice meal at the Victoria and Alfred quays with our hosts. One oil company HQ looks much like another, although I was somewhat surprised to find condom dispensers in the gents. Apparently it is possible to get a “Super Willy for free!”
Soon enough it was time for the return leg. Master and Commander (7/0), Ultimate Soldier (3/10) on the old 777 to Dubai, where the Business lounge is the size of a small country, before birding the awesome A380 for the homeward leg to Manchester. It really is the only way to travel. It is like having a private room with access to a real standup bar. Sleep was still hard to come by though despite the excellent flat beds. Sherlock Holmes (9/10) and The Wolfman (7/10).
Ps. Emirates stewardesses I would give a good 8/10 on average. Maybe that was why I couldn’t sleep …….
- Find out information on Cape Town Interntational Airport (capetown.mydestinationinfo.com)