Stag do – commencement

Work is done, IT support managing to phone just as I was shutting down and headed in a timely fashion toward the exit.

I minor delay as I explained what was wrong, it was very much the same thing that has been wrong for around 2 month, 6/7 support tickets and 5/6 calls. It was a brief explanation, then off to the Piccadilly line, Heathrow Terminal 4, the one that was the new one for quite along time until they went and build another and renuilt 2.

It’s most convenient the office 5 min jushed walk + intervals of jogging away and a direct connection.

There is a freshness issue brought along by a seat neighbour but it’s running and I’m at Osterley .. Not heard of it but it’s only 5 more stations.

The work meeting provided no answers and am effectively none the wiser but that’s not a thing for now – now Amsterdam and all that whatever this will bring looms .. A nice quiet trip to Pizza Hut, maybe some balloons, suddenly has enticing writen all over it.

Hounslow 3 more stations and the man with the staleness cloud has disembarked himself, breathing is a whole new experience.
Must have been a real treat sat near me on the trains on Sunday on the way home after football, stewing in the Regent’s Park adorning kit, sharing.

Wondering what food they have in the departure hall, been a while .. And hoping I did pack the boarding card and passport… I’ve checked, more than once but that was another moment and you never can be too sure especially when one is a true master of loosing stuff. Both of the two things could be considered stuff and therefore must be viewed as at risk. Still not checking it again – not now – no point.. just about there, 1 station .. the problem will be comsiderable either way if we’ve parted ways somehow, somewhen..

Liverpools most useless of managers is inspiring sterling must stay – he has a contract – it’s true.. He does … Not sure how that serves to resolve matters other potentially one more reason being eeked out..
It would certainly preferable if ot were the other way around..

Heathrow Heathrow Terminal 4 underground

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There is a pret .. Pret the familiar .. pret the London infester – but pret the actually pretty good.. And while outside of an airport a very mid market sort of sand which option, within such little close of world, with its ever fixed price a veritable bargain of foods.
Terminal 4 Heathrow departures pret

KL1026 Amsterdam – 18:25
KL1024 Amsterdam – 18:35
That’s rather more regular than manier weekend underground service

There are it seems a lot of flights to Amsterdam – most popular if spiradically times route. But for the 18:30 inclined traveler, options be abound.

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Fokker 70 – quite big and not the largest.
In way of evidence that we may not be the first to have struck upon the notion of Amsterdam based stag trips, others are unashamedly strutting through the cabin adorned in novelty clothing.. One in particular..
Someone got up and shouted my name randomly as some people entered .. It came directly from behind me so I turned .. I know that one of the other unfamiliar members of the soon to be assembled collective is a fellow traveler on this flight and couldn’t fathom if this were a wholly random event, or if that was the name of the tall but no longer young chap then wondering into the plane .. I presumed it was the latter .. Given the lack of subsequent interaction I can only deduce this was not the case

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Past Trips – California – United and The Trip Out [1]

Last year, somewhere in the period where summer end and autumn sort of begins i headed for a holiday, road trip week, in California.

It was not planned particularly in advance and sort of came about due to holiday needing to be used and this being the place upon which consensus between myself and the other member of this two party trip (Mitch) was quite swiftly found.
As a result flight options were not at their most abundant and those which were about where not a budget surplus pricing.

Two options kept appearing on skyscanner, one was an unfamiliar American airline whose name was something like US Airways and the other was Unites. I had heard of United, that didn’t mean good things but it did mean familiarity. I’d heard any number of times about the atrocious standards of US airline, from transatlantic commoners and holiday makers with the resounding condensed down message that flying with a US carrier should never be anything close to a first choice.

Lufthansa, British, Virgin (great on the NY trip years ago), KLM … anyone.. Singapore, Qatar, Emirates, Qantas, Swiss, Icelandair …. Hello …
It was not to be a cost effective option, I’d never personally been the beneficiary of US airline experience, perhaps we’d be lucky, perhaps it wasn’t United that were meant, maybe the rumours were just that an ill founded view forged upon a bias – plus the flight was out of the newly opened Terminal Two … so went with that .. United Flight, very early on a Saturday Morning flight out with one change via Chicago on the way to LA.

Friday Night:
I thought I had booked the ‘Heathrow’ easyhotel for the Friday night, I thought having gone through the website that this was a somewhat generous use of the Heathrow idea and was actually located near Paddington station, on the other end of the Heathrow rail service.. it was not.
Somewhere between a lack of attention, a bit of stupidity and an awful website with woeful support levels (don’t try to email them, or at least do but by no stretch of the imagination expected any receipt confirmation let alone a reply.)

I dragged my – well packed for the week – Travel bag through the street of west central London, away from the masses of Oxford Circus, up and over toward Paddington, arriving to be informed by the reception person that I was not expected. It was here that I learned that there was actually a Heathrow specific easy hotel…a few miles more worthy of the name – it was somewhere on the way to Heathrow in the vicinity of Hays and Harlington. This was not welcome news, an evening spent around here seemed somewhat more attractive than a night in Hays, we had tickets for the train tomorrow morning and the simple matter of not having realised which ‘hotel’ I’d booked us into, a genius act and one difficult to deny when heading out in search of this unknown orange refuge to the West.

We were to meet here, Mitch an I, so I texted my error and waited.
Mitch then – The other person on this trip – is my oldest friend from secondary school who now works in Canary Warf and as such had a slightly longer journey over than my own, but basically handy enough exit route for both of us.

After meeting up and some running around at Paddington it became clear that tickets bought online were tickets over which the station people had no control and found themselves unable to transfer to today, yet informally one after the other decided to shrug a little and pass us on to the next until we were through the gates, sat on the train and recanting the whole things once more to the ticket inspector chap. A most hasslesome commencement to proceedings which sort of worked itself out.

The Hays and Harlington – Heathrow, easyHotel – its not that close to the Hays and Harlington train station especially when you have luggage and what with it (the luggage) coming in so broadly handy during other stages trips, luggage there surely was.

The easy hotel once located is not a nice place, the night trip cabins on the Cherbourg ferry are bigger and more opulent than the rooms on offer here. The room was barely bigger than the bed, it was not an unusually large bed. The bathroom such as it was, was a shower and toilet all in one thing, seldom experienced before but again smaller than the shower and toilet all in one chambers on the Cherbourg ferry, the place this unnoticed gap in the universe clearly put me most in mind off. It was though cheap by the standard of Heathrow overnight hotel options but really, the rodent traps, the close proximity walls they most certainly create a certain ambiance. Does give rise to the notion that surely, there must be a more optimal pounds sterling to standards ratio available out there than this.
easyHotel Heathrow Room
A shared taxi in the morning was cheaper than the airport round robin bus, making that an easy enough decision, though I suspect the TFL standard London buses that operate around here would have been the most regular and least costly option of all, they all go the Heathrow central bus station which is at most a couple of miles away.

The Terminal Two of before was totally gone, there seems to be nothing of it left to be found in the seemingly much larger building that seems to have filled its space. The low ceiling and warren like corridors, it had such an organic, accidental way about it, now its all bright, high, a big space abundant box/rectangle divied up into zones for those who are coming, those who are going, both and the neither.

Heathrow Terminal Two

Surprisingly, least to us on that morning, the gates that are obviously about the place are not necessarily the gates you will be using, a fact we realised when our flight was called only for it transpire that it was about 10-15minute walk away.. we did some corridor running to freshen up before the journey.

United Airlines – Flight To Chicago From Heathrow
I like long flights, I wasn’t sure I would but I leared some time ago that I really rather do. The flights to Australia some years ago were brilliant, hours of films, drinks and a general sense of chilled outness that came with zipping around so detached from the world beneath. Those flights were with Emirates, just as the New York flights were with Virgin .. this flight was not with Emirates, it was not with Virgin.

The flight attendants were more friendly than I’d expected but then I think they were just so used to apologising for things that they were worn down to a simple shoulder shrug of, yeah we know, we’re sorry … nothing worked.. first the gameboy sized little TV screen of the entertainment system remained firmly black and unresponsive then the headphones, headphone after headphone…. I like airline food, im aware its not a customary view of the offerings but what came along in the form of breakfast was arguably the most unpleasant thing I have ever to encounter, it was just plane nasty, which is odd, they must have picked this up in London, not brought special nasty shit with them and there are plenty of flights out of Heathrow with perfectly decent food stuff on board and here, here there was this, it was not an enjoyable experience.
If it might appear that there is in here a deliberate effort to offer up a collection of grumbles then no such effort need be made. To be fare to both easyHotel and United they were the cheaper options available.

United Airlines TV Screens

The stewardess apologised, told me that this ancient fleet of 777s were overdue to be retired and were now due to be coming out of use shortly, most honest, most friendly .. then they have that weird strap line about the skies they use .. the something skies .. Something about it reminded me of Hertz, a business gradually eating itself up from the inside out, in the desperate need to report the right number to the market every six month or so that investment and long terms plans to underpin the future are vigorously avoided, it will shine on the outside until its all dried out and hollow within, then it will collapse.. of course the idea is that someone will be lulled into buying it up somewhere along the line… Hertz always bleated on about its quality but there was no evidence of any such thing, they recruited cheap relying heavily on interns, they pursued short term strategies that contradicted medium term interests and relied heavily on corporate contracts, the franchised countries seemed to have more success, all the effort would go into making something look like it worked and it was hard to find any effort to actually make a thing work, like a film set. For all this, I actually quite enjoyed my brief stint there, not was if either for the incompetence of my boss (a level of incompetence that saw a mixture of responses from my colleagues, run and leaving being one, trying to informally report to someone else being another or my personal favourite just sort of not.. do what you want and take it from there) .. but for the niceness of the people, it really was quite the friendly if utterly resigned place. Even my boss was very personable, very easy to like really unless you wanted to do your job a bit .. United had something of the Hertz about it, though the stewardesses were no interns, not unless they were going for some most belated attempt at a career change.

The stewardess suggested I change seats, pointing to a seat on the back row that remained untaken, the girl who was sat on the window seat was stretched out.. I did not anticipate my arrival would be welcome and was hesitant. Normally I might more easily have dismissed such an effort and likely awkwardness but this was not to be a short stint of sitting that I had ahead and my mind had kind of set itself to the idea of watching some of these available films.
I was right, I was not welcome, I explained id been sent, that my entertainment system didn’t work but I was still just some random, showing up, spoiling her stretched out ways and who knows maybe just some general tool looking to sit down with false guises next to her unsuspecting self. I was not, I would be quite happy to not engage even moderately with this new neighbour, so long as I could watch the films and let the time float by.
The screen worked, the sound did not.
They gave me new headphones, they had the wrong type of plug, two prongs where there ought only to be one – that didn’t work despite more tireless efforts to find a way then logic would justify.
I went pocket rummaging and located another set, they didn’t work… no headset that was found could be brought to work.. not that they had more than a couple spare and many of those they did have were clearly meant for quite a different system and didn’t fit at all.

Being onboard a United flight really does great things for ones appreciation of domestic services… tempted to think we don’t know what we’re doing, Fly United the beleaguered skies.. and everything else will seem that bit better..
They were not the worst airline, not anywhere close, that title remains with whomever that Turkish Charter was that took me to Bodrum and back, it turned out they’d been banned from airspace before now due to their standards, had I known that when it was booked on my behalf it would not have been booked… anyway that was something to do with Turkey, this is United Flight to Chicago. Nowhere close to that sort of level.

Think that experience was with these guys – http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onur_Air

In desperation I set to fiddling with the headset socket and by pure fluke struck on a particular level of incursion and angle that if achieved, meant sound found its way up through the cable, through the headphones and into my ears. The trick was not to move, not to flinch, fidget or otherwise give cause for the plug to believe it had just cause to fall silent. I was not successful.
There were the toilet breaks, mine and my neighbours and then there was just the general need for movement that comes from being, still once I knew it was there to be re-found the level of effort and persistence that could be set to rediscovering that so very particular sweat spot was increased.

Disdain for my presence waned as I sat attempting to watch the mini-screen while either furiously ferreting for sound or statuesque in the hope of retaining it and at some point for some reason moments of conversation broke out, probably instigated by that famous social lubricant the toilet break and the obstacle my person posed to such a break.
She was an actress from New York I think, memory isn’t a strength, who’d recently moved out to LA. I’ve ended up speaking to three randoms on my US trips through no fault of my own and of those two were actors or aspiring to be, the line on this is blurred more than in other professions by the ability to find work to pin against it. If this is the ratio that the US operates under no wonder it spins out so many TV shows for grossly divergent quality.. It must be the nations industry of comparative advantage, it trades these shows for Coffee, Pizza, Cars and international recognised branded sports wear from East Asian country sweetshops. They pulled us in with various higher quality TV offerings in the late nineties and two thousands and now we’re trapped, all those TV stations with hours of time to fill and nothing but Castle, a spot of healthy NCIS casual racism (fear the foreign man for he is on balance of probability, possibly a wrongen), “Pitt the younger – Bounty Hunter extraordinaire” (how are they taken by surprise by wrongens with the camera crew already set up in the room into which they are to enter and be taken by surprise .. one can but guess), Two Broke Girls and an assortment of reconstituted, unoriginal, infinitely predictable, stereotype reinforcing hogwash of interchangeable identikit faces, with as much unique texture and flavour as a subway sandwich. That said the BBC is currently set on a most peculiar mission to recreate the assorted singularly humour free comedies of the early 70s.. in which a collection of one dimensional characters are treated to a procession of entirely contrived and improbable scenarios.. Where once we had: Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Only Fools and Horses, The Office (personally not a fan but still), Extras, Coupling … now we have: Miranda, Mr Kahn, Mrs Brown’s Boys-if this was 30 years ago they would still be utter shit, unfit for domestic consumption let alone exporting. Again all of these have something of the familiar about them – take one person of limited intellect, add some sort of social disorder or two, then set them a mundane task and expose them to a similarly contorted lobotomised world and let hilarity ensue.
To think those broadcast waves are gong to head out into the wider universe, unremittingly out on onward … who knows who will see this stuff, it could be enough for hasty conclusions to be drawn about humanity and cleaning squads to be dispatched.
So, as I was saying – If it might appear that there is in here a deliberate effort to offer up a collection of grumbles then .. well yes .. so far we have amassed:

easyHotel – Hmmm
United Airlines – No thankyou kindly
Tv of the 2010s – urgggggg….

So clearly not

But really note to self, try not to fly with United again, if for no other reason than that odd cylinder thing that haunted the sort of breakfast offering .. it was not a sausage, I know not what it was but it was not a meat product nor for that matter was it vegetarian it was a cylinder of something and that something was not fine.

United Airlines Nasty Arse Breakfast
And it looked a whole lot better than it tasted

Heading home (sort of) for Christmas 2

There is no PRET  in T2, I wondered around to be sure remembering that there was one, there isn’t.  Given the early stages of its rebirth and more than cosmetic overhaul there never was.. Where there might have been one there is an EAT – I do not care for EAT..  No particular reason other than it’s prices are like those of a pret, it occupies potential pret spaces .. Places such as this one in T2 and ain’t no PRET & while is not the same nor is it different..

Big queues and for mine the front is fast giving up and leaving, the serving person having abandoned their cashier post to take up residence at the coffee making station and not come back.

I observe making a b- line for the back where there appear to be some unadvertised self checkouts .. And opt to follow.. The thing is people have clearly been here before been here before giving up and leaving with each of the machines displaying the unpaid for items of previous attempted transactions …. There is no way to clear it down – no back, no delete, no action from the cancel button on the card machine nothing .. I can buy £7.58 of whatever’s on here or leave.. Food less and hungry .. That’s the choice

The other chap, the one who heading here pointed it out, if he pays for his .. Then his self checkout, the third and final choice, will be cleared down, so I burn some time with fruitless machine ferreting waiting for him go leave while hoping it all works for him in a way that seems scarcely probable.

it works – he leaves and bequeath me the one working checkout and with it I manage to secure for myself this sandwich .. It is mine & paid for to – legally & possession wise mine.

I’m not sure whose more deserving of being clobbered meticulously with this slightly under baked baguette until all flight full fillings flew free .. The developer who built it or their boss who allowed it to escape into the wild.  I’m pretty certain I’ve encountered very similar devices in other stores, frustrating machines no doubt but ones that have had a few generations to teach us about their inheranrtly irksome bagging area ways .. So well established are these as to make guest appearances in any number of comedians comedy skits … No originality was called for here, so to find new ways to be frustratingly shit that took some witless ness.  I think the boss, that is where the baguette should be wielded.

The plane is late arriving but I’m kept to busy on my phone – writing my response to the unspoken conversation that was intended for today – how do we save money next year.. I’ve given my answer verbally in passing but now I’ve worked out the detail – it’s an email that, despite the departure gate and flight time hours that went into, has as yet remained unsent .. Drafts …

Heading home (sort of) for Christmas 1

As work came to a close with another last minute effort stumbling to an incomplete pause … I left for Piccadilly and on to Heathrow.  Arriving as the Heathrow branch pulled out, the next one went to Reynars lane but the one after that was again going my way .. Not so bad ..

The next tube pulled in, I got on and was surprised to find myself with a seat – then if left.. At which point I wondered quite why I was on this one, going as if was to the wrong place  & knowing as I did that only moments before if been quite clear on this … Powerful attention span – mind elsewhere.. Studying the route I reminded myself of where the routes diverged, where I would need to alight the train .. A word that makes no sense in either it’s correctly or incorrectly spelt form … I’m just getting off, disembarking, leaving, getting aght – anyway of course it’s acton .. Should know that – liver there long enough back in the day .

I flew from terminal 2 again – in my head it’s only it’s only just reopened & heres me getting cordially invited for a second time.

Arriving up from the underground everything’s the same as it ever was, no sign of the changes above .. All the same corridors & feel as ever there was .

I think I love Heathrow

Perhaps not a sentiment many might feel moved to offer .. Particularly terminal 2 with its low hanging ceilings, accidental and reworked layout, ramshackle ways and row upon row of green dusty seat/benches adorning it’s departure lounge but I’ve missed it .. It means good things to me .. All these thing are of course no longer in evidence in the new T2 but it comes from a time before, dating back to when things were less diligently deconstructed and assessed.

So perhaps I can not be certain as to the veracity of that initial statement but in terms of emotive responsive to none sentient, none living entities Heathrow and particularly T2 is up there.

I came here once while working for hertz, for a netting in there offices with a supplier who was flying in – it was a windy day, stormy and they were late.  The offices sit on top of the vehicle pickup and set down area and it was all I could do to not simple peer out of the window at the runway that ran what seemed like only tens of meters from its side.  All the big ones going to far flung places, anywhere almost could lie at the other end of that flight.  Better than an aquarium, happy and sort of content aside from the feeling I should really like to be aboard… I’m a danger to myself and other road users whenever approaching that m4 junction on the m25 so bewitched am I, each time I come to pass this place with its thunderous and regular departures tucking their wheels in as they set off – really quite the distraction despite any number of voices advising as to the none unique nature of this sighting and the need to retain a certain level of decorum and attention to matters at hand.

Suppliers may scarcely have encountered me in a more wistful and amiable manner .. It was not a monotone meeting im sure and I’m sure I made whatever look I was there to make but in truth I remember little of it aside from the runway, the thundering jumbos still somehow about and all the other less distinctive planes – all of then heading of for somewhere.. Something far, distant, interesting – at least for a time