Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tales from above a Norfolk Village

Well I had had no work for ages. I was just beginning to think I had better make friends with those bin men again, as they may be able to find some scraps for me on their rounds, when I got the call to go to Scotland. I tried to resist by saying I could only manage a four day week, but they insisted. It is nice to be wanted.

So, from now until around the end of August, I am travelling from Norwich Airport on Sunday afternoon, returning on Thursday evening. Not a particularly taxing journey and a good seven hours less than driving, so I was quite looking forward to it.
All was well until I realised that last week I would have to travel from Heathrow and be away for a fortnight as I had my last weekend of the year at Metanoia Institute in between trips.

I was feeling relaxed and happy after my birthday weekend and, you may not believe this, I was highly organised in preparation for my trip to catch the 21.40 plane to Edinburgh.
The trouble began when I realised, when glancing at the ticket again whilst in a traffic jam on the A11 (unusual I know), it wasn't 21.40 at all, but 20.05! Someone had obviously changed the time on my ticket without telling me. I vowed to find out who the culprit was at a later date but for now decided to concentrate on overtaking the stationary vehicles on the M25, by lane hopping - a practice I normally abhor in others, but needs must!
I could feel it in my water. This was going to be another of Tillie Baker's eventful trips.

To be fair, everyone was very helpful. From the wonderful chap, Alex, at the off site airport parking, who broke all the laws of gravity to get me there. To Geoff - British Airways (more about B A later) Staff Member Extraordinaire at Terminal 5 who managed to get me on the next flight; Alex's efforts being in vain in the end.

So my journey was spent in reasonable comfort, apart from a few issues with my neighbour, a Chinese lady, who burped a strong smell of garlic loudly and frequently into my ear for the entire flight. An hour can seem a long time, but I busied myself by reading the aircraft safety leaflet and wondering whether, if evacuation of the plane should be necessary, whether I might flout health and safety rules and sneak my beloved Apple Mac up my shirt.

On arrival at Edinburgh Airport, it was very late, dark and wet. I was tired, anxious and dry.
I still had about 25 miles to drive to my hotel after collecting the hire car.I phoned the hotel to say I would be late and started on my journey.

When I eventually arrived at the hotel, which shall remain nameless, except to say it was named after the Scottish equivalent of Robin Hood, it was in the middle of nowhere, and in complete darkness.
I was not too concerned to begin with, as I had phoned them, but after 20 minutes of banging on every window in the place, I was beginning to get a little panicky. My phone had no signal, so I could not call them, so my survival skills kicked in and I drove my car as near as I could to the front door, put my hand on the horn, kept it there and waited.
I did not have to wait too long. A couple emerged from round the back, adjusting their clothes and a few more people came out to see what all the fuss was about. I was led to my room, miles down a long corridor in a nearby annexe. There was no apology, just a "Well, you couldn't have been waiting long or we would have heard you."
I think I was the only person staying there. I checked out in the morning and decided I would find somewhere a little less like the Bates Motel to stay for the remainder of the week.
All was well until my return journey. The flight was delayed, this time by 2 hours. Due to a spot of rain apparently over a house somewhere in London.
The flight itself was fine, apart from the pilot's unnerving sense of humour, which went something like; " Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this ... Sorry for the delay in take off, but we broke the last plane and had to look around for another. Luckily we found this one."

I arrived just after midnight and decided to call the car park on my mobile to ensure they could collect me.
Unfortunately this distraction led me to miss the sign pointing to baggage collection by about two feet.
Now I am all for airport security, but I had smiled at the guy on the desk as I walked past him and still had my boarding pass in my hand, so there could be no possible doubt that I had come off the plane. He just happened to be the 'Jobsworth' that we all know and love and flatly refused to let me through the gate to collect my bag as I had walked past it.
Following my utterance of words that have only previously been heard in the film The Exorcist (I think I probably resembled Regan in appearance by this point too), I narrowly missed being arrested and stomped off to find some help. An hour and a half later, having gone through security yet again, this time with the added bonus of being frisked by a particularly masculine looking woman, they eventually released my bag and I picked up my car and continued on my journey.

And the wonderful thing is, I am doing it all again next week!