Au Revoir or Adieu?

Whether you jet set on business or love going on cruises, you can’t have failed to notice there are more hazards to travel lately. Your cruise ship may weigh anchor and keep all the passengers hostage – in quarantine because of Coronavirus, which we now have to call Covid19, though that doesn’t slip as easily off the tongue. If you’re lucky you may get to have your own videoblog as self appointed spokesman to your national television channel and the folk back home. If you’re unlucky you will have a cabin without a balcony, a government that will not evacuate you and test positive for the virus.

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Is flying any better? You may not be allowed on the plane if you have a temperature, you may not be allowed off the plane until you can be hermetically sealed and sent off to a quarantine centre; though that could be the start of a pleasant fortnight’s holiday if a nice hotel has been commandeered. World wide plague is not the only hazard for fliers. Storms hurling themselves across the Atlantic to Europe have caused mass cancellation of flights, but that is better than the Ryanair passengers on a flight from Prague, that in hindsight should have been cancelled. Thrice, pilots attempted to land at Bournemouth Airport as passengers screamed and hyperventilated. They abandoned the attempt and with petrol running low were diverted to Brussels from whence they returned to Prague…

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Although I hardly ever go anywhere outside this kingdom I can give advice on ocean liners and airliners. Cyberson 2, builder and pyrotechnics expert, has often worked at Southampton, sending up fireworks to farewell passengers on their trip of a lifetime, or often their twentieth or perhaps their last… The first time he worked there, one of the regular workers on the docks described the arrival of an ocean liner ‘The first thing that happens, they bring all the bodies off.’ Whether this is due to the age of the passengers, the vast amount of food provided or terminal boredom, I cannot say, but it sounds like a good way to go. Perhaps if you pay extra you can have a burial at sea. My longest voyage was on ‘The Pride of Bilbao’ from Portsmouth to Bilbao and back again on an off season excursion, where the only hazard was the live entertainment.

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Storm Dennis was not the only problem at Heathrow Airport on Sunday as ‘technical issues’ created chaos. Whiteboards, marker pens and extra staff were drafted in to ensure chaos continued. When I worked at Heathrow I won’t pretend I was not occasionally envious of passengers jetting off somewhere exotic, but mostly I was glad I could go home and would always advise DON’T even THINK of flying at Easter or Christmas. One Christmas Eve, working in Singapore Lounge, the evening flight was delayed, putting Christmas on hold in Singapore and Australia for those who celebrated it. I cringed as a young colleague said in a loud voice in front of the passengers ‘That’s ALL I need.’ We would be late finishing, but she only had to get home to Osterley Park and none of us were going to miss Christmas.

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Singapore Airlines treated their customers with oriental respect and had letters printed out and delivered to them explaining delays. When we worked in British Airways lounges catering staff were left to soothe disgruntled passengers. The huge lounge in Terminal 1 catered for the many short haul flights, very different from the serene atmosphere of quieter business lounges. There was an endless  surge of passengers, the buffet bars constantly replenished, platters of sandwiches devoured instantly. I only worked there a couple of times, but one weekend a story came from our colleagues. There was a strike on; passengers kept coming in, but none went out. Then the British Airways staff abandoned the desk leaving the catering staff to deal with the ever increasing braying mob; in the end they called the police.

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What were your worst travel experiences? You can tell us about your good journeys, but that might not be so amusing…

Landing Airside

When our family took off for Australia from London Airport ( soon to be called Heathrow ) in 1964 I never imagined I would be returning nine years later, let alone that I would spend years living very near the airport and end up working there.
With perhaps the exception of China, Heathrow must be one of the most continually changing spots of land in the world.

London got its new airport in 1946. The site included the Vicar of Harmondsworth’s back garden, bought for £15,000 by Richard Fairey in 1930 as a site for testing his planes.
The village of Heath Row was bulldozed in 1944, plans were steamrollered through by the plane-mad air minister Harold Balfour. He persuaded Churchill’s War Cabinet in the 1940s that an RAF base was needed on Hounslow Heath, when actually he wanted to push through plans for a post-war civilian airport. An old lady told me years ago that when they saw a few tents going up near their home on the Bath Road they did not think it would make much difference to their lives.

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/the-history-of-heathrow-2228431.html

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In 1964 we walked across the tarmac to the steps and turned to wave to our relatives standing out on a balcony. In the seventies and early eighties you could still stroll on the roof gardens of the Queens building, children could play and plane spotters listened in to their radios.
In one of my many incarnations I was a lounge hostess for eight years either side of the turn of the century. Even since then everywhere I worked has either been demolished or changed completely. But passengers and the 80,000 ( guestimate, but it’s a lot! ) staff who work there are no doubt much the same.

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With the children all at senior school it was time for me to leave behind my various pin money jobs and find properly paid part time work. A few hours in the middle of the day, Monday to Friday in the Terminal Three Qantas  Lounge seemed perfect for someone who had missed out on the computer revolution; all I had to do apparently was work the coffee machine and put out a few sandwiches and I spoke the same language as the passengers. Two of us just had the morning flight out to Australia to look after. It turned out my senior colleague was a right… not easy to work with, but luckily she spent most of her time talking to the Qantas girls on the desk or to her twin daughters on the phone in the kitchen. The main lounge was Business Class and a select corner was for First Class passengers. There were cheerful Australians often meeting up with friends and British holidaymakers in a good mood. Another great feature of this lounge was the wonderful view of the south runway and Concorde taking off at 11am.
This little oasis of peace and quiet was down a corridor just before The Gates and up a flight of stairs. I don’t like lifts and could see no reason why I would need to use the rackety metal box that was always being repaired. When it was time for passengers to go to their Gate they could choose stairs or lift. One day the Qantas lady asked me to escort a nervous passenger because she was afraid of lifts; so am I wanted to say! Worse was to come. I was asked to fetch the papers… the Australian newspapers just arrived on the in bound flight. It turned out this involved going down in the same lift, but with the magic key which took the lift down to hell, or at least the outside; real airside where planes park; dark concrete undercover places passengers never see. I was petrified I would be stranded there if the lift doors closed… which they did because I had to walk a few feet to reach the bundles of paper. When I returned trembling to the safety of the lounge my colleague said I should never have agreed to do it as it wasn’t our job!
Companies, jobs and uniforms were to change as frequently as the buildings, but I did not know that at the time.

liebster-award

Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Droning On

What do you mean it’s gone AWOL?

We lost contact half an hour ago Prof.

Are you telling me Dianne, that we have lost our most advanced drone?

Not lost, just lost contact.

That is impossible, D1NA has the latest failsafe devices… we’ll have to contact the Ministry of  Defence, what was the last location?

North Wales coast, but he… I mean it, could be forty miles away by now.

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Hmm… hang back from contacting the MOD; at the altitude we set he should be well below any commercial or military flight paths. Besides, the new intelligent intervention software enables this drone to change its set course to avoid going within 500 meters of any aviation from swans to airbuses.

It could be the new software that’s the problem Prof, he… er it, can think.

Of course it doesn’t think, even the most advanced androids do not think, they merely process the data we give them.

But how does that account for the fact that, along with the ordnance survey of the coastline from Portsmouth to Anglesey, we also received a poem.

Is this your idea of a joke Diane, or are you trying to tell me someone has sabotaged the project, some environmental protester joker?

That’s what I thought at first, I was working on it, didn’t want to blame any of the team till I had evidence. There is no evidence, so I was sure today’s project was safe.

So what the hell went wrong?

D1NA made a bid for freedom; we have to understand how his mind works so we can persuade him to continue his plotting of the coastline till he arrives safely back at Portsmouth.

Dianne, you are the brightest of my interns so you of all people should know it does not have a mind, the only thinking going on is in this room and I have to take full responsibility. I have no choice but to inform the MOD; if they do manage to spot our drone they will have to bring it down before it poses any threat to aviation.

But we can’t let our amazing creation be destroyed, please let’s have one more attempt at establishing contact… oh that’s strange, are you seeing what I’m seeing on the screen Prof?

Sabotage?

No, D1NA has started  his own blog, ten minutes ago, hang on, he’s not quite that clever, he’s a guest on someone else’s blog Silly Saturday – Anon-E-Mouse…

Dianne, I’m calling the rest of the team in, I think you need a break, call it a day and go home.

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 There was chaos at Scottish airports today as all flights were grounded after at least half a dozen sightings of a drone deemed to be compromising aircraft safety.

sunshine-blogger

 Find out if a drone can blog

at Silly Saturday here

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/silly-saturday-anon-e-mouse/

 

 

Silly Saturday – Stream of Consciousness

Today is another in my occasional series of guest blogs by family members. This is a stream of consciousness written on a mobile phone on a plane – prepare for take off!

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Ladies and gentlemen there will now be a break in the service to allow the crew to have a break.

The crew need a break do they? I need a break as well!

This is going to be a whinge. I don’t whinge that often but I’m about to right now, so get ready.

This time last year I was still chuckling to myself about the Guild of Master Sunbed Arrangers while flying back to Blighty. I say Blighty because of a recent commitment to watch every series of Dad’s Army on dvd. The language of your current binge watch TV programme can rub off on you in a big way if you don’t watch anything else. I also learned that they said TTFN ( ta ta for now ) back then, which surprised me as I thought it was a 90s yuppie thing.

Before I digress, I was about to discuss flying back from holiday. It’s a five hour flight, which is probably about my limit for a little winter holiday on this type of airline. I recently went on a big long haul plane and let me tell you it was a whole different experience (Good).

So you take off and the second the seat belt light goes out they send out the first trolley. I have visions of the cabin crew waiting behind the curtain checking the tyres and oil, rubbing their feet on the carpet like a raging bull about to be let loose on a rodeo clown. The trolleys come out from both ends of the plane, rushing towards the centre, crushing any poor soul who thought they might use the toilets (which are at either end).

I will now list the order of the trolleys and my objections in full.

  1. Duty free that has been ordered on the flight out.

This should be made available to collect upon landing. Why the f#@k are we flying bottles of Johnny Walker round the world so people can take them back to Britain? I mean there really isn’t any need for any spirit manufactured in the UK to travel thousands of miles on an airplane, only to end up in a glass drinks cabinet of a retired couple from Dudley who will just refill it with gear from Aldi when it runs out.

  1. Teas, Coffees, Beers and wines in proportions that would leave The Borrowers thirsty.

I get that people might need a drink or some nibbles, but can’t they just flog it from the gate or have a man with a tray on the sky bridge. I like beer, honestly I do, but I like it enough to not do it the disservice of consuming it in quantities of anything less that 500mm. Don’t forget about the deals! The people in front of me are discussing how four little beers for just £12 is a very good deal indeed. I can only imagine they get all their shopping from the farmers’ market and their holiday books from the Radio Times mail order book club.

  1. Ad hoc duty free that hasn’t been ordered already.

Can you believe that people still buy cigarettes on planes! We just came from a country where they cost £1 a pack. Maybe it’s because they must have their brand that can only be bought in the UK and on planes! I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind where my slow inevitable death comes from cos its coming and where it was made ain’t gonna make a difference.

Imagine if you will, a hypothetical crackpot dictator in some warm dusty land, sometime in the 70s, sitting upon a throne made from water melons at the end of a long walkway with a giant light up piano on the floor ( as seen in the  film Big). Why watermelons? Because I leke them that’s why. Let’s call him Charles or Charlie to his chums at Eton (All good dictators have been educated in Britain).

One of his generals walks casually up the piano whilst trying to maintain an even step and not tread on two keys at once (doing so would be a capital offence).

‘General, where are my bullets’ barks Charles in an impatient tone.

‘We have been shopping around great leader’ says the general confidently. ‘We wanted to get you a good deal and get the most bullets for your money.’

‘I want British bullets, they are the best’ says Charles in a dismissive tone.

‘British bullets are like any other your highness, they have much the same effect as the others we’ve looked at.’

Charles is miffed. ‘Look at the empire they built with those bullets, they must be the best.’

The general is becoming worried about his position and not just his position in the government. His position on the floor has changed and he is in serious danger of drifting off the piano key he stands on.

‘Ok great leader, we will get you British bullets. I’ll put the order in when the HMS something or other next docks for a cocktail party.’

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I may have gently slid off the programme for a moment there, but I’m sure you get the point. People like their brand.

  1. Drinks and snacks again

Same shit same trolley. Now this is the bit where they very proudly announce that there will be a break in the service of around 40 mins… 40 mins out of 5 hours. Less than 20% of the flight will be spent in peace! Thankfully I managed to shoot out and use the toilet before the next gauntlet was set. Then they have the audacity to announce that now everyone has had a nice rest they will be resuming the trolley service. Aghhhhhhhhh I want to scream!

Can’t we just shut our eyes and wait till it’s over, why must I look at all the wonderful deals you have. I don’t even know what’s going on any more I feel like a poor lost animal stuck in the centre of a dual carriage way surrounded by f#&king trolleys whizzing by.

It’s at this point that I feel I must end my observations as my silent rage may boil over into me writing a sternly worded email.

Safe travels and happy holidays.

By   Alastair J Gogerty

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007tlxv

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Borrowers-Puffin-Book-Mary-Norton/dp/0141354860

 

Silly Saturday – Fifteen Favourite Facebook Fotos

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Sue has checked in to Toytown International Airport.

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Chocolate Moose has changed his profile picture.

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Wanda has changed her profile picture.

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When one door closes another one stays shut.

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We all need libraries – in our own homes…

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        Behind every cloud there’s rain.

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Donald Trump buys Stonehenge for new golf course.

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New Spiderman film, the 27th in the franchise, promises to be the blockbuster movie for 2019.

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The clock is ticking backwards towards Brexit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Government announces new technology to deal with drones.

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Know what you are getting when you book a cheap holiday flight.

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Hey guys, wish you were here, this is the view from our holiday apartment.

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Day 53 of our world cruise.

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Doctors successfully separate conjoined twin rabbits.

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Please share – our darling fur baby Tiny has gone missing.

Friday Flash Fiction Flies – Per Ardua ad Astra

Edward was not unique in his obsession with aeroplanes, but he was fortunate that his wife understood, or at least didn’t mind spending the summer touring round all the air shows in their camper van. The boys didn’t always go with them these days, but they had enjoyed a childhood of camping and exploring the British Isles.

A slight autumnal melancholy would descend on the couple as the air show season drew to a close, but the winter months were still busy for Edward, visiting air museums and doing research. Josie did not mind him spending long evenings on the computer, at least he wasn’t looking at pornography and she was free to watch her favourite television dramas.

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Winter also gave Edward time to spend in his man den at weekends; this was no ordinary garden shed, but the sanctuary where he tinkered with his inventions. If his wife and sons had paid more attention to what he was creating they would have been very excited… or very worried.

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Josie and the boys did not share Edward’s obsession with World War Two and the RAF. His special love, the other woman in his life, as Josie teased him, was the Spitfire, the most perfect aircraft ever built, a beautiful bird that pilots did not just fly, but became a part of. Or so Edward had read and heard from those who had flown them. His six foot four gangly frame, poor eyesight and asthma had precluded any hope of joining the RAF, let alone becoming one of the special few who flew with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. He was a frequent visitor to the BBMF visitor centre at RAF Coningsby and all the tour guides knew him well, too well; they didn’t always appreciate him volunteering extra information to their polished talks.

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Edward had no idea where his Spitfire dreams came from, nobody else in his family had been interested in flying. Josie said he should consult a medium, perhaps he had been a pilot in a previous life, helping to win the Battle of Britain. In his dreams at night he was always soaring up into the blue sky, not diving down to a violent death. But as his wife pointed out, he could have survived the war and lived on for a good many years; Edward was born in 1970.

But Edward’s thoughts and day dreams went far deeper than his family could imagine, in his den were creations nobody knew about. Talk of time machines was outdated, Edward’s calculations and research pointed to folds in time and certain frequencies. His plan was to tune into the frequency of the iconic Merlin engines and his dream was to save lives; the Spitfire was built to fly not die, not kill. If he could bring the Spitfires forward to the present, before their pilots perished in the Battle of Britain, their young lives would not be wasted.

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His theory became reality when he realised he could tune his adapted radio to hear the past, even if he could not see it. Edward had plotted meticulously the dates and air bases of that summer of 1940, but all the planes would converge to one date, the final day of the Sandy Cliffs Air Festival. The spitfires would fly in formation above the fields of Kent they knew so well.

There were only two drawbacks to Edward’s grand plan; the weather might be bad and he could change the course of history.

If it changed so he had never existed then he would never have been around to change it… On the other hand if he was alive and well to witness the proof of time travel, he would also be able to observe if history had been changed. If the pilots were taken away the Battle of Britain would be lost, but that didn’t mean WW2 would be lost. Edward had given this great thought; historic events weren’t a matter of one way or another, there were infinite possibilities at the start of every day. Whatever happened, it should be a jolly good show for the year of the RAF’s hundredth birthday.

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The weather was beautiful, Edward could hardly contain his excitement. Josie had a headache and decided to stay in the shade of the camper van, the boys had come along reluctantly and were mooching around glued to their smart phones. They should all be snapped out of their languor at three pm.

The commentator also had a headache, the extra hot summer and too many air shows were taking their toll on his health. Wearily he turned on the microphone.

…and don’t forget the finale of the show at four pm with the Red Arrows and a few surprises, but now here come the Spitfire and Hurricane; on a sunny day like this in 1940 the sky would have been full of these beautiful planes… but

He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes…

On the cliffs the crowd gasped in awe as tiny dots became little planes and more and more filled the skies above them…

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Edward thought his heart would burst with pride, the formation grew in the orderly fashion he had planned. The commentator was silent, but suddenly crackled back into life.

Once again we celebrate the strange events of 1940 when German pilots reported the enemy planes disappearing into thin air in front of their eyes, day after day until they all refused to fly for fear they too would evaporate. And so began the slow process of conciliation and the creation of our great empire Gaul.

Edward looked around at the crowds waving strange purple and green flags and wearing clothes that looked unfamiliar. He rushed back to the camper van to tell Josie what he had done; he needed her to confirm what he was seeing.

A strange woman flung open the door, two little girls ran up to him.

‘Daddy, Daddy did you see all the planes?’

‘They certainly put on a good show this year Ed’ said the strange woman.

Edward realised a factor he hadn’t taken into account, he still existed, but the great mixing of the gene pool that occurred after the war and brought Josie’s grandparents to Britain had not occurred, or had occurred in a different variation…

 

 

Into Infinity

Grand Prix, everyday traffic – noise and pollution, I hate it, bring back the horse.

…but put big fuel guzzling engines up in the skies and I love them, carbon footprints forgotten.

I don’t fly often, perhaps if I did the novelty would wear off, but for me a trip abroad begins the moment the cabin floor starts to slope upwards and the engines blast into full power. A window seat and clear sky provide the fascination of identifying landmarks, but if the plane ascends through heavy cloud cover there is still the fun of being up in a fluffy heaven.

 

My first ever flight was across the world, when we emigrated to Australia. My novel ‘Quarter Acre Block’ was inspired by our experiences; in that story none of the Palmer family had flown before, but in real life my father had been a flight engineer in WW2. He was determined we would fly rather than sail out. I have flown across the world a few times since then, but perhaps more exciting was my shortest ever trip, flying in a light aircraft from Jandacot, Perth, Western Australia across twelve miles of Indian Ocean to Rottnest Island – real flying.

But mostly I have been on the ground looking up. At Farnborough Air Show, as children, we would marvel as jets flew silently by, followed several moments later by their sound.

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Years later, living very near Heathrow Airport, we would spot four planes in the sky at a time coming into land, at night like ‘UFO’ lights. But the aeroplane we never tired of watching or hearing was Concorde. If many Concordes had been built and flown the noise would have been unbearable, but the two flights a day were an event; teachers in local schools would stop talking at eleven a.m., working in an airside passenger lounge with a great view of the runway, we watched her take off like a graceful bird. On winter evenings I would dash out of the kitchen into the garden to see her glowing afterburners soaring up. Alas poor Concorde…

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The end of August brings the Bournemouth Air Festival, now in its eleventh year. If you don’t like the noise, are not interested in aeroplanes and live near the cliff top, there is no opting out, unless you go on holiday. Roads are closed, there are diversions, daily routine is disrupted as over a million visitors come over the four days. But this does not affect me. With visitors coming I have no intention of going anywhere except the kitchen, local shops and the sea front.

 

The longer the journey your visitors have made and especially if it is their first visit to the Air Festival, the more likely it is to rain. But with the festival spread over four days there is always some good flying weather. The cliff tops make ideal viewing and the beach is crowded. You can book a place on board a boat, but if the weather turns rough you are stuck out at sea! There are hospitality tents and deals at cliff top hotels with balconies.

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It all starts tomorrow, so in next week’s blog I’ll fill you in on the highlights and weather, with hopefully some photographs.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quarter-Acre-Block-Janet-Gogerty-ebook/dp/B00A6XDUQM