Ermahgerd! I hate trains

997-public-transportActually…that’s not strictly true.  The trains themselves are rarely the issue.  I mean, sure, sometimes the Air Conditioning doesn’t work which makes for especially uncomfortable travel in 30+ degree weather with a full train and no windows that open.  This issue can then be multiplied to extreme discomfort when the driver shuts down 2 carriages and forces 4 carriages worth of people to cram into 2…with the aforesaid lack of windows/air conditioning.

At that point it is not the train itself, but people in general, that I hate.

Occasionally I have an extreme dislike for the train station that co-ordinates badly and then forces said “Sauna Carriage” to be sat on the tracks, in sight of my destination…literally.  The other day I was actually watching people buying frigging Ice Cream while my train, with no word as to why, proceeded to sit for 10 minutes without moving the 200 meters or so required to…you know….LET US OFF THE DAMN TRAIN.

I digress.  What I am driving at here is that despite these things, what I really hate are the other train travelers.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing.  I suspect it is.  First off, queuing.  Germans are bad at this.  English people are good at this.  It’s a fact of life.  Like the French eating cheese and surrendering all the time, you know, common knowledge.

Germans queue in the same way that people who watch Bruce Lee films do martial arts. Thinking that they can chop and kick their way out of any situation without training.  They kinda sorta almost understand what a queue is, but they get it hideously and comically wrong.

Take yesterday (no seriously, take it please)…Due to the ineptitude of the planners in Frankfurt (don’t get me started), the trains are running somewhat erratically at the moment.  This means that my journey begins a good 45 minutes earlier than it needs to, just to ensure that I make my connection…a connection that is a mere 4 minute train journey away…but I digress.  The first thing you notice is that everyone spreads out along the platform in an effort to be in the correct place to be at the door when the train pulls up.

Next comes the inevitable jostling to try and maintain your position at the door.  Immediately after this, the person that has won the battle of the door, realises that there are about 300 people that would like to get off the train and they are now blocking the exit.  Cue more jostling as the people behind spot that this person will need to move which could leave an opening.  Factor in the average German  persons complete disregard for personal space and I am quite surprised when fights don’t break out.

For my part, I position myself in classic queuing pose, complete with shakes of the head and tutting in the right places when people try and move me out of their way.  In itself, attempts to move me are pretty funny.  Yes I am no longer the man hillock (I would love to say mountain, but I am not that tall really) that I once was, but I am still pretty big.

Then comes the zombie shuffle onto the train and the veritable sprint to a seat where you will be, hopefully, left alone to your thoughts.  Again, I must confess, my innate Britishness lets me down here.  I hit the window seat, but do not do the bag on the spare seat, spready outy thing that stops all but the most determined seat finders..so I am often disturbed in my comfort.

So far so moderately annoying.  The real fun comes when you get to your destination.

In an effort to get off the train in one piece, people will invariably get up and head to the door of the train a short while before the train actually arrives at the station.  Not too bad really, but I think that if I had not picked up a car recently, and was forced to go on the train too much longer, I would sit down, wait for the train to pull out of Frankfurt and immediately stand-up and head for the door…such is the competition involved in getting off the train first.

Now normally this wouldn’t affect me, except for the fact that I generally have around 3 minutes to get off the train, out of the station and across the street to make my tram connection.

On the way home I am, generally, far more relaxed.  Not always, but generally.  If I am at the door, trying to barge past me is going to piss me off.  Especially as there is nowhere to go…the fucking door is still closed.  Breaches of queue etiquette notwithstanding, barging me out of the way when the doors begin to open will really rile me up.  Now, here’s the thing, if you are in a rush and immediately sprint away the second the doors open, I will be OK with it.  Your need is clearly greater than mine.  However, and I think it goes without saying that this happened to me recently, sprinting down the platform is not an unrealistic expectation of mine.  If you do all of that, get onto the platform and then proceed to saunter down the platform in front of me at a pace that would have the most lethargic of snails and sloths bored out of their minds, expect serious and I mean SERIOUS….tutting.

Still, the car will make it all better…then I only have traffic problems to deal with. Much less stressful  Cry

Sodding Typical

M802OAN-1 310312 CPSSo, you have a car…it’s not great, but you can’t really afford anything else and you only really use it to potter around town in.  Every now and then, you look to see what else is out there…even though you can’t justify the outlay, not even for a cheap one.

You see hundreds of the damn things, within your theoretical price range.  All of them, arguably, better than what you have.  You consider it briefly, and then realise that it’s stupid as you already have a perfectly serviceable car.

Fast forward to getting a job that you won’t be able to get to without a car and, you can probably already guess, your perfectly serviceable car becomes less than perfect and most definitely un-serviceable and you find yourself looking for any one of these hundreds of cars.

In the last week, I have seen around 4 or 5 cars that fit my needs and they are all adverts that have been online for more than a month..yup, already sold.

Damnit

Learn a 2nd language…it's useful…honest!

Newark Town Hall
Let me begin this post by stating that after 4 years living and working in Frankfurt, I still don’t speak German.  I speak a bit more than I give myself credit for, and I understand an awful lot, but I don’t speak enough.  Something I want to rectify, but things keep getting in my way….excuses mainly, but I digress.  So you can probably imagine how much German I realistically spoke at age 18 and living in Newark.

It was a nice sunny day in Newark On Trent, birds were singing and my heart was joyful as I left work early to go and visit my parents who were living in Wales at the time.  A relatively straightforward journey, truth be told, that began with a quick trip to the bank before I headed off.

Pretty easy right?  I mean, people make quick visits to the bank every day.  Depending on where you are, you drive to the bank, find a parking space and go into the bank…go back to the car and you are on your way.  It gets simpler every time I read that sentence.

So, I am driving through Newark on the way to the bank and following traffic through to where the bank is.  I remember thinking that it was pretty busy, but parked my car outside the bank and went in.  As it was impossible to start my car without knowing how, I actually left the keys in and the windows down and ran into the bank.  When I was stood in the queue, a noise filtered through to me..the noise of someone (not knowing how) trying to start my car.  I grab my money from the cashier and bomb outside to see what all the hubbub is about.  It is at this moment, as I leave the bank that the dim light of realisation slowly descends upon me and I take in my surroundings for the first time.

Probably the biggest thing that I had failed to notice in my leaving work early euphoria, was that it was Market Day.  Not only was it market day…the market was pretty much over.  Not only was the market pretty much over, the “traffic” that I had followed into the Market Square, where I had ultimately parked outside of the bank…was all market trader vans that were driving in to take down their stalls and pack them away.  Also..as I had parked (quite neatly I might add) on the side of the road…there wasn’t enough room for people to drive their (substantially larger than my car) vans, which had in turn created a giant traffic congestion of vans trying to get out of the market place, vans trying to get into the market place and vans, already in the market place, that were trying to manoeuver into position.

In short, absolute frickin chaos.

The reason for the sound of my car trying to start is now abundantly clear to me…they just want it out of the way.  Fair point, thinks I, but how in the hell am I going to get away with this.  At precisely the moment that I realise I have made somewhat of a booboo, the trader attempting to start my car clocks me..and starts heading towards me very angrily.

Quick as a flash, I remove my work pass from around my neck.  There were two reasons for this…#1 I had come up with a plan and most importantly, #2 I didn’t want this monster to strangle me with it.  Onto the plan…

I am not sure why this popped into my head, having left Germany about 2 years previous and having literally no contact with anyone in Germany or the German language during that time, but I decided that I would break into my least stereotypical, English speaking German accent.

Of course, by least stereotypical, I mean quite possibly the most stereotypical, and quite possibly racist, accent I could have come up with.  Lots of “Vot iss ze problem mit my car and vy are you startink it?” type stuff with added “I don’t unterstantink yew” thrown in for good measure.  I swear, if the producers of Allo Allo had have been anywhere near me, I could quite easily have been the next cast member searching for “Ze fallen Madonna viz ze big boobies”.  Alas, they were not around, my chance at stardom passed in a fleeting instant and I was left panicking and sweating that this monster of a market trader was a) buying it and b) not a German speaker….

Fortunately, upon the realisation that I was a foreigner…he proceeded to follow the tried and tested method of speaking slowly, loudly and gesticulating towards my car in an “away from here” motion.  It drew quite the crowd, with other people trying to help the guy to explain to me what was happening.  We had shouters, we had people making brum brum noises and also the Mime artists…I continued to look suitably confused until I finally jumped in the car.  At which point, they were all very kindly guiding me out from where I was parked and away from the Market place.

To this day I still don’t know why none of them thought it strange that a visiting German, with little or no English speaking ability, would be driving a beaten up old Morris Marina…with English license plates.

Ah well…raise your glass to the kindly hearted market traders of Newark

Travel fun

'Grupo TACA' A321 Cabin
*SNOOOOOOORE*

*CLICK CLICK CLICK*

*SNOOOOORE*

*SCRIBBLE SLIDE BUMP* “Sorry” *CLICK CLICK CLICK*

*RUSTLE RUSTLE NOM NOM RUSTLE RUSTLE*

*AAAAHHTCHUU RUSTLE SNIFF NOM*

My technology post reminded me of my journey back from the UK a couple of weeks ago, and the text above pretty much details what the audio version of this memory would be like.

I travelled to the UK for work and as such, got to experience the lovely travel experience of a decent airline.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that you get what you pay for with the likes of Ryanair etc, but it is still nice to not have to sprint to the front of the line to make sure you get a decent seat.  That said, boarding took ages due to the numpties that apparently can’t read a screen that says “Now boarding: Rows 14-22”.

Still, I had selected my seat of choice a day or so before departure (very civilised), so I wasn’t concerned about being trapped in the aisle waiting for these morons dickheads numpties lovely people to get their luggage stowed and take their seats.

I chose the aisle seat as I assumed there would be some form of delay thanks to the apparent Ice Age unfurling all over Europe and wanted to make sure I wasn’t clambering over people to get to the loo should the need arise.  Of course, the problem with being one of the first to board…and having an aisle seat means that you will get semi-comfortable before one or both of your seating buddies will turn up and need you to move.

Sure enough, a few minutes after sitting and starting to believe that my row of chairs was going to be empty aside from me, El Blobbo turns up.  Now, before you think bad of me for referring to him as such, I realise that I am of the larger persuasion myself…but this guy takes the biscuit (actually, he probably takes the whole pack…and anything else he can find that looks remotely edible)…he was certainly the kind of person that makes us bigger guys feel a whole lot better about ourselves.

Sorry, I digress.  El Blobbo has booked himself into the window seat..so I get up and allow him to squeeze into his chair (and some of the middle one too), and then take my seat again.  10 more minutes pass and I am just starting to believe that I may end up with the extra comfort of the middle seat being free, when El Techno turns up.

Fortunately (at least for the seating arrangement), El Techno makes me look like El Blobbo, so we all appear to be relatively comfortable.  El Blobbo immediately falls asleep with light (read ear bleedingly loud) snoring.  El Techno decides that the overhead storage compartments are for losers…and brings a briefcase, laptop bag, coat and a whole load of paperwork into his small seat between El Blobbo and myself.  During seating he manages to avoid hitting El Blobbo…but unfortunately hits me with, well, everything it would seem.  I get the paperwork on my lap, the coat over my head, the laptop bag and briefcase hit both of my knees with deceptive force.

Through the pain I realise that he has finally settled…and got out an iPhone to add into the mix.  So now, he is taking up more space than El Blobbo and knocking into me with monotonous regularity when swapping between the iPhone, briefcase and laptop.  Of course, it would appear that he has never travelled before as…just as I am closing my eyes and getting comfortable, I am disturbed by the stewardess to get this idiot to put his seatbelt on and take off the iPhone headset.

We then taxi (technical aviation term, we didn’t jump out and get in a black cab) to the runway..where the captain informs us that, due to the French Air Traffic Control issues….we will be a little delayed in taking off.  Of course, noone actually knows how long the delay will be, so we can’t listen to iPods or mess with computers etc…that would be far too civilised.  Instead, I am forced to listen to El Blobbos Snoring Concerto in Oh My God flat.

Eventually the French come back from their onion soup break, and we are given the all clear to set off.  El Techno is asked to take off his iPod headphones again, El Blobbo remembers to ask for his extra sized seatbelt, and we are off.  At this point, I have finished the amazing in-flight magazine and am looking around the cabin for anything of interest.  Now I come to think of it, why do they call it an in-flight magazine…it isn’t stored behind some sort of cupboard that only opens when the plane is actually on the move..in-aircraft magazine would be more acceptable surely..Anyhoo, I digress.

As the flight is only scheduled for an hour and a quarter, the crew start tearing around, trying to get the drinks and nibbles out to everyone, and I start trying to contort myself so that a) My shoulders aren’t getting hit every few seconds by the crew and trolley and b) I don’t end up in El Technos lap.  I manage to avoid sitting in his lap and the doctors assure me that I will regain full movement of my shoulder in 12-14 weeks.

It’s a busy flight so, as I have chosen the rearmost seat, I am forced to wait until last to get my free coffee and biscuit.  The snoring to my left is as loud as it has ever been until, that is, the crew get the trolley to me.  They haven’t even said a word and El Blobbo is awake and ordering a coffee, 2 orange juices, some crisps, a couple of biscuits and a roll.

El Techno declines, presumably, because any form of liquid would pose a major electrocution risk and I take a single coffee and biscuit.

As I settle in to have my coffee, I notice the guy opposite me for the first time.  I will call him Sneezy Bean McFerret as, well, he sneezed…a lot…and looked like a cross between Mr Bean and a ferret.  There were two reasons for my astute observation of this fine example of a hybrid man/ferret….#1 he was in the seat that I should have had, on his own in the entire row.  #2 was his peculiar nut eating habit.  He would rummage around in the packet…with his nose almost buried in there…pull out a single nut, look up…throw the nut into his mouth…chew, sneeze and then repeat.

Now, I am not talking a CW’esque cutesy “chu” type affair, I am talking a full on…probably slowed the plane and caused the turbulence, gale force 9, Wizard of Oz, knock over the staff and cause a number of natural disasters over Europe type of sneeze.  A sneeze so loud that it made my ears bleed and I think crashed El Technos laptop.  Honestly, it was a sneeze of comedic proportions…cartoon makers would have been fearful of basing a sneeze on this one in the fear of noone believing it.

You couple this with the rapid click click clicking from next to me and the snoring from the window and I did not have the most pleasant journey home imaginable.  I should note though, that even with all of this…and the typical latecomers trying to cram oversized suitcases into the full overhead lockers, by attempting to move and indeed crush my laptop bag…Ryanair should still pay attention about how to run a flight.

In other news…I get to do it again soon….something tells me I will be making a phone call to discuss my travelling companions in advance…they make you specify your size, the amount of technology you plan on using and if you have a FUCKING NUT ALLERGY but intend to eat them anyway….right?  RIGHT?

Christmas=Great, Travelling with amateurs…not so much

Day 11 - Oh TannenbaumLet me just say right now that I have had a fantastic Christmas.   I flew over to Blighty late on the 23rd and, after Dad had been robbed by the car park people for parking in the 15 minute car park instead of the short stay…30 quid for an hour!!!, arrived at my parents place at around 03:30.   Quick hello, quick bite to eat and a cuppa and then bed.   I had to set my alarm as Zak and Brandon were due to arrive at 10:30.

The boys arrive and we have a great day, we wander around Newark..do a bit of shopping for my Mum and meet Dad to walk home (after a mahoosive fish ‘n chip dinner of course).   It was great..tickle fights, drawing, watching TV, playing rugby in the back garden.   They saw the boatload of presents in the dining room, so I told them that Santas helper had been to see me in Germany, and asked if I could help get the presents to the boys.   This went down a treat and everyone was happy.   My Bro gave me a lift to drop them off, which was a drama in its own right…my brothers car is pretty small and this meant that some of the pressies went in the boot and the rest went…well, pretty much ON the boys.   Still, it gave them a giggle.

Getting back to my folks brought the Christmas Eve drinks…my Mum wasn’t feeling too hot and my other brother was at work (boo!), so it was left to Me, Paul and Dad to put in a good shift.   We did this by going on a pub crawl.   In pub 1 I can’t work out why I am so frickin’ hot…to the point of sweating quite a lot.   As we decide to move on because of the crap beer (British brewed Grolsch..eww) I notice that I have been stood with my head directly next to a 100w lightbulb…genius.   We head to another bar and discover Veltins (a regional brew from NRW in Germany).   I immediately settle in for a few bevvies and we have a great time.

Last orders is a little over 20 minutes away when Paul decides I must try Peroni, some Italian beer ffs!   Oh, and witness a Cider slushy type thing.   It was all going well until we see barmaid #2.   Holy frickin’ Mary mother of god…like Golums ugly sister that they don’t let out during the daytime.   Quite honestly it almost put me off my beer.   We escape to a corner of the bar where she is not in our line of sight and get chatting again.   When the next round is called, I decide that I can’t drink beer anymore thanks to this woman and tell Paul to get me a shot.   As he goes off to order it, I say to Dad “If he brings me a whiskey, I’ll punch him in the face”…sure enough, he brings me back a whisky.   I decide not to punch him in the face, but I can’t drink the whiskey..so Dad has a go…and it tastes foul..so he dumps it in his pint, thinking that will take the taste away…it doesn’t.   Paul then pours some of Dads beer/whisky combo into his cider.   This doesn’t kill the taste of the whiskey and we all say “sod it” and head home.   Paul and Dad wake up the next day with hangovers..I feel great (thanks German beer) and we settle in to watch a festive film.

After Die Hard finishes, we begin making Christmas dinner…screw turkey, screw roast potatoes and all that traditional crapola…what we wanted were steaks…steaks so big that you could only get 3 on a BBQ.   Oh, that’s right..we BBQ’d on Christmas Day.   Check out the results below.

Christmas SteaksBest Christmas Dinner EVER!

I met Pauls girlfriend, spent some quality time with my brothers and Mum/Dad, went bowling…had plenty of beers, built Pauls computer for him and basically had a whale of a time.

There is a subject I would like to mention though, and that is the “Amateur Traveller”.   Now, I place that in quotation marks, as this is my opinion based on…well…almost everyone around me both on the way to blighty and on the way back to Frankfurt.

I will do this rant’ette in bulletpoint form, so that hopefully this post doesn’t ramble on for too much longer.

1. Queues: Now, I know that it can be difficult to figure out who is next, especially when everyone else is in single file and directly behind the person in front of you, but maybe you could ask.   This is preferable to attempting to create a 2nd queue, when there is only one check-in desk.   Also, if a tannoy announcement comes on (literally) every 3 minutes to tell you to use the automatic check-in machines before queueing to drop your bag off….try not to look shocked when, after queueing for the better part of an hour, you are told to take your shit and find an electronic check-in machine and re-queue.

2.   Check-In: When you finally sort out your queue strategy and get to the check-in desk, please try not to be surprised when the (very) stressed out woman behind said desk asks to see your passport.   She will also want to see your booking confirmation….oh, and probably the passports of the people you are flying with.   Also, you are flying RyanAir…these are notoriously unforgiving when it comes to their weight limits per person and will want you to either pay, or take some stuff out.

#1 You booked, you knew the limit, don’t fucking argue about it.
#2 Move…if you fucked up, do not delay the rest of us checking in, just so you don’t lose your place in line…you fucked it up…get out of my way.
#3 Have your passports and booking information handy…not in one of the overweight suitcases that you are now desperately trying to repack…causing the passports to fall to the bottom.
#4 Now that you have managed to delay everyone else 15-20 minutes…under NO circumstances try to invite your friends (that have just arrived to the airport) to come to the front of the queue.   This may cause a large Englishman, with more than a passing resemblence to Uncle Fester, to lose the plot and physically block your friends from getting through to where you are stood.   This Englishman may also turn, growl and generally intimidate your friends.   This is probably not a good start to your holidays.

3.   Security Check: You will notice, as you walk towards the roped area (cattle-pen anyone?), that there is a kindly uniformed person there, asking to check your boarding card and passport.   This kindly soul is also asking if you have any liquids (or other items) that need to be bagged before going on the aircraft.   This person is merely trying to give you a chance to sort things out before you head into the security check area.   They are also another reminder to the signs plastered in bright yellow ALL OVER THE AIRPORT.   If you have such items, please follow the lead of the few people milling around the entrance to said cattle-pen and sort it out.   As you follow the cattle-pen to the security check itself, please pay attention to the 4 television screens that are demonstrating to you what you need to do.   If you are unable to see a television that is a mere 3 feet above your head, please feel free to watch the process, right in front of you, as it happens to fellow travellers.   You will notice that they are being asked to remove their jackets, watches, belts and contents of their pockets.   With the right person in front of you, you may even see them remove a laptop and place it seperately in a box.

As we are all around 15-20 minutes late now, thanks to you and your family…please try to follow the travellers in front of you and prepare for your encounter with security.   Do NOT blindly walk to security and moan when asked to take off your jacket, forget the watch and belt and be told to go back to take them off.   Then again to remove the mobile/change and eventually hat.   Try not to tell security that there is no laptop, only for them to see it and have to reverse the fucking conveyor to place it in a seperate container.   Oh, and thanks for being considerate and moving out of the way, so that the people behind you…WHO PAID ATTENTION…don’t have to wait for you to redress your fucking selves.

4.   On The Plane: It is a very narrow walkway, so try and have a little consideration for those people that are desperately trying to get their things in the overhead locker.   Also, if you are lucky enough to get to the over-wing, extra legroom seating…try and pay attention to the flight attendant when they tell you that no luggage or loose items can be stowed by the emergency exits.

5.   Passport Control: Again…you will need your passport here.   Try not to be surprised.   It might also be nice if you could use the 30 minutes you will spend in the queue…TO FIND IT.   Oh, and this one goes to Stansted Airport…there will be more people arriving that are EU Passport holders, this is to be expected…so we would really appreciate it if you could lay on more than, say, 3 members of staff for the EU Passport holders passport control…especially when you have over double that number looking after the few dozen Non-EU Passport holders…mmmkthanks

6.   Baggage Claim: This one also goes out to Stansted Airport.   When you have 5 planes land at roughly the same time, I can understand it being a little hectic…but it surely can’t take a friggin hour to get the bags onto the conveyors.   If it does…seeing as you have 9 conveyors..wouldn’t it be prudent to put the contents of each plane on it’s own…we have all seen Toy Story 2, we know that they all start at roughly the same place.   Try to avoid putting the contents of 3 different planes on 1 conveyor….

And a special mention must go to the bus driver that got me back to Frankfurt last night.   When I ask you, with packet of smokes in hand, how long before the bus leaves…if you tell me “Now”, please don’t leave 25 minutes later…I really needed that smoke after dealing with all these frickin’ amateur travellers.   Oh, and to the Indian pilot who ended up sitting next to me.   If you insist on eating peanuts (or whatever the fuck they were) for the ENTIRE 2 HOUR JOURNEY…please use your other arm so that you aren’t knocking me every 10 seconds for 2 hours…next time, I may do more than simply stopping your arm from hitting me…do we understand one another?   Good!

This has been a public service rant.   Travel safe everyone.