Archive for July, 2012

Twenty-Eight Hours Later

I do this for a reason. I want you to donate to a children’s charity and write to me. Please see the About Lesley page or read the instructions at the end of this post…..

I have been blog-quiet for a couple of weeks. This was not intentional. I was in the US with work for 10 days and my sleeping patterns and long hours always mean that the brain is used up during the working day.

I was therefore full of great intentions last Wednesday when I started my journey home. The plan was simple – fly from O’Hare to Newark at 4pm and then from Newark to Belfast at just after 9pm, landing home before 9am on Thursday morning. Alas, quoting the man with whom I share a birthday, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men gang aft agley; the reality was not that simple.

I had checked my flight and the weather before heading to the airport. They had talked about storms coming in from the East but the sky was blue and the temperature was in the 90s farenheit (did I say how lovely it had been to see blue skies?) and all looked well in the mid-West. I checked in and was relaxing with my book in Departures when a muffled announcement came over the tannoy. I wasn’t able to make out what they said but the fact that my fellow passengers immediately lifted their phones to talk about delays gave me all the information I needed.

When travelling I try to be very relaxed, you have no control over the situation. However, you also have to be canny. I noticed a queue for boarding at a nearby gate and it said Newark on the display. It transpired this was the delayed 1pm flight to Newark so I asked the attendant if there was any space. He smiled and said sorry and sent me to the Customer Services desk.

Oh, the Customer Services desk – a queue of about 300 people, 300 hot, sweaty people. I joined the queue figuring I wasn’t getting home in a hurry. It was a remarkably good-humoured queue, we smiled and chatted as we shuffled slowly along. I had plenty of time to call my colleagues still in the US and to let home know I wasn’t getting home as it took two hours to get to the top of the queue.

Then the fun began. I record as much of the conversation as possible as it was highly entertaining:-

Service Rep (SR) – And what is your final destination madam?

Me – Belfast

SR – Oh, I’ve never heard of that, where is that?

Me – Ireland, Northern Ireland.

SR – Oh, how lovely, my mum and dad’s best friends were originally from Ireland (conversation carries on for a while here)….. So, how are we going to get you there?

Me (with slightly surprised expression)- Okay, well, you could fly me to Dublin direct or send me to a mainland airport and then arrange a connection to Belfast International.

SR – You know more than me, I wonder what those airports would be?

Me – Dublin is DUB. UK airports include London Heathrow, Glasgow, Manchester. I know there are flights from all of those to Belfast.

SR – So, what one will we try?

Me – We could go for London Heathrow?

SR – Erm…..

Me – LHR is the airport code.

SR – (Types) – I could get you to there tomorrow on a direct flight. (Aside to friend) – I am working until 6pm but if anyone is rude then I am walking out. (Back to me) Now we need to get you to Belfast, do you know anyone who flies there?

Me – I promise I will be very nice and I know Aer Lingus fly from Heathrow to Dublin.

SR – Oh, you are great, I will help you. Aer Lingus? Erm…..

Me – Try EI, that is the airline code for Aer Lingus.

SR – Oh look, there is a flight at 9:30 daily. What date will you be flying from there though? I can’t work out these dates!

Me – If I am flying to Heathrow from here on the 19th, then I will need a flight on the morning of the 20th.

SR – I can do that!

Me – Excellent, thank you. One small thing, I had treated myself to a new economy flight for the Newark to Belfast flight, I assume you will give me the same for the Chicago to Heathrow flight?

SR – Of course. (Lifts phones, talks) I have you in 29A, that is new economy. ~(Hands over a boarding card and a ticket for the Belfast flight).

Me – Thank you. Now what do I do tonight? (You have to ask) 🙂

SR (very business-like now) – Oh, we won’t be doing anything for a hotel, this is a weather issue, you have to sort that out. I can give you this voucher for a bus.

Me – I will go back to my hotel near work. And my bag?

SR – It stays here.

Me – Oh, okay then.

I have shortened the conversation as there was much typing and consulting throughout the process and it took about 45 minutes. I am glad to report that one of my friends came to pick me up and take me back to the hotel. All my colleagues who were also out in Chicago were sympathetic but we all know that this can happen, we just hope it doesn’t happen to us. I think it was just my turn….

I had no bag but the hotel provided me with toiletries. However, I had been standing in that queue for two hours and no-one comes out of that feeling fresh and clean. I had no clean clothes for the next day and was too tired to shop. The answer was simple. I washed all my clothes apart from my jeans in my room and hung them up to dry as I collapsed into bed before 9pm. I thought that was plenty of time for them to dry overnight. And yet again it wasn’t that simple.

I woke with a start at 4am. I showered, checked my clothes and they were soaking. What to do now? I could turn on the heating to full and wait but that wasn’t going to work too well. At this time it was 5am and breakfast service didn’t start until 6am so it would be very quiet, not too many people about. The hotel has a laundry with dryers. So, commando was the only way to go. I put on my coat (at this point very happy that I had brought it) and my jeans and placed my damp clothes in a bag. I needed 6 quarters, I only had 2. So, I toddled to the front desk and asked for a dollar to be changed, avoiding eye contact on the journey. I then snuck round to the laundry and was able to dry my clothes. By the time I went down to breakfast I looked almost human.

Then into the office to surprise a few people. There was no point in lurking round the hotel and I had things to do. I also checked my seat on the flight and guess what, no New Economy seat. They placed me in the first row of economy and a part of me thought that a very cruel trick by United Airlines. I called the help desk and in five minutes had a new boarding card so at least was able to sort it.       I finished my work, was given a lift to the airport at lunchtime and am glad to report that I landed in London early the next morning. Nice to see all those welcome notices for the athletes:)

One other little tale from the flight to Belfast. There had been a lot of redirected passengers on my flight to London and a few of us were on the Belfast flight, many, many tired people who had come from further than me. I did note one couple who checked at the desk to ensure their boarding cards were valid, they were assured they were. We all boarded the plane promptly but didn’t move. I may have dozed off but was then woken by loud voices. A woman’s voice shouting ‘This is outrageous’. Much to-ing and fro-ing of cabin crew and 20 minutes later the couple was taken off the plane. I have no idea why this happened, I am certain it was not the couples fault and I had great sympathy for them. The lady stomped down the plane and turned round before she exited. She faced down the plane, shouted ‘Never fly United!’ and stomped off. That is what I call a classy exit.

We took off almost 40 minutes late but landed happily in Belfast shortly after. My bag of course didn’t come off the carousel so I went to baggage reclaim. My bag was there before me, had landed earlier that morning and I only had to wait another 20 minutes to get it.

And there we have it, twenty-eight hours later, I was home. Next time, please let it be like this!

I close, as always, with this:-

  • Please donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice.
  • Visit this blog and comment about your donation. Please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I still want to collect those tales and hope that some child will read about your words and deeds and want to do the same when they are older.

I will:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • Store all comments so that everyone can read them.

Thank you for reading.

Lesley

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July 25, 2012 at 9:23 am 4 comments

One Weekend in Dublin.

I do this for a reason. I want you to donate to a children’s charity and write to me. Please see the About Lesley page or read the instructions at the end of this post…..

A small warning on today’s post; not necessarily one you want to share with your children with some ‘flowery’ language and viewpoints that you may consider extreme. My words today represent the opinions and words of others, my opinions don’t really figure. This is about my weekend in Dublin and I hope you persevere to the end, this one has character(s), a few powered by the black stuff.

The old man and I were celebrating a few decades of marriage and decided to take a relaxing weekend in Dublin. No queuing for flights, just a relaxing train ride watching the world go by. I should have known what kind of a weekend it would be before we actually boarded the train. The two young girls in front of us were going home and with their shopping. As we neared the platform, tickets in hand, we had a Primark avalanche in front of us, not once but twice. Much giggling and stuffing many small tops into random bags and we were able to board. So far so good, you need an eclectic bunch to make travel interesting. The train journey was uneventful except for the lady who came through our carriage twice. She may have been lurching slightly and not because of the train. Bless her, she was a tad confused, she tried twice to open a cupboard that wasn’t actually there before my husband helped her locate the loo, a relief from the smile on her face afterwards.

Friday night was reasonable uneventful. We went to O’Donoghue’s Bar, an old and famous establishment where live traditional music is often a feature.

Thanks to http://www.odonoghues.ie/index.htm for the Pic!

It is always a thumping place to visit, people of all ages having a great time. This included the girl who, as the old man passed by on the way to use the facilities, disappeared from view. OH was wearing his shining armour that night and helped her up with the recommendation to ‘make sure you place your ass *on* the stool next time pet’. Such charm and panache….

However, the most excitement came from Saturday. It was Gay Pride in Dublin and we watched the parade down O’Connell Street. There was a huge buzz with much dancing and laughing, it was great craic. I am full of admiration to those who wore little clothing as it was a brisk enough day. I applaud those transgender ladies who carry off high, high heels with aplomb, they do it much better than most.

There is always time for a gossip!

By then it was Saturday afternoon but there was one problem, my feet. Miles (I am sure there was more than one of them anyway) had been walked and my comfy boots were suddenly not comfy any more. I had packed light and didn’t bring any other shoes with me. Many women may be disgusted that a female goes on a weekend away with only one set of footwear but there was an upside, I bought new shoes. I bought Compeed plasters too but that wasn’t fun. I limped back to the hotel to sort myself out and himself went to the pub to wait for me.

And this is where Saturday starts to get really interesting – three characters you could not make up!

I joined himself at the pub. He was sitting quietly at the bar with a pint of Guinness and ordered me a coffee. We were browsing the papers when the man next to us started talking to me. I will relay as much of the conversation as possible. He had a pint in his hand and it was evident that it wasn’t his first. He wasn’t in bad shape, just a little loose round the edges. The conversation went like this – ‘Are you in here often?’. I replied that we were just down for the weekend. The reply to this was ‘I haven’t been here in about four years. I’m from England and when I moved here about eight years ago I was a regular. I did I hit it hard at first but I don’t do that any more, I stay conscious these days’.

At this point I was glad I have the ability to keep a straight face. The man then looked at the other half and then back to me. ‘You two are married?’. I confirmed that we had been married for thirty years that day. He looked at the OH again and stated ‘You don’t look like you are together but you obviously are’. He then asked OH ‘Did you look like this when you met?’. I said that he was greyer but wasn’t that different. He then looked at me closely and asked if I drink, I replied yes. Our new friend nodded and said the the OH ‘I would have said she looks the healthy one of the pair, you look more like a pisshead’. To be fair, my old man looked much better than our new pal. He also maintained a pleasant expression, I may have been laughing at this point.

The conversation then meandered on. It transpired that our new friend was a poet. That rang true for me; he moved to Dublin to be amongst the writers and poets, he just seemed to be taking more of a Brendan Behan route. He added that he didn’t take drugs but had been out with the young ‘uns the night before so dropped a tab. Because of this he had taken a lady he did not know for his estranged sister. The tale wandered a little further and finally petered out. This allowed us to move on and wish him well, it seemed the best thing to do.

It was then early Saturday evening so we headed back to the centre of Dublin and stopped at the Palace Bar to finish reading our papers in a quieter manner. The sun was shining so I sat outside with yet more coffee. A very spruce gentleman was sitting near me and started to chat. He looked very dapper so I honestly wasn’t expecting any more surprises, shows how little I know…..

The gentleman, we will call him P, was slowly sipping on one half of Guinness and we talked about the lovely weather, a very safe topic. What happened next is down to me, I mentioned that OH and I had watched the Gay Pride Parade as a few participants danced past. P said, ‘Who would have thought we would have this in Dublin even ten years ago. It is great to see the power of the Church going away, isn’t it great, the b**tards and the nuns weren’t any better the feckers’. I was thankful again for my skill at keeping my face strictly neutral. P then happily told me that he would be 70 this week and had been educated by the Christian Brothers, I think this may have influenced his views. I did respond that many people find a lot of  comfort in their religion but P wasn’t having any of that and was most insistent that he knew there was no heaven but that he hoped that those involved in  his childhood were burning in hell. He then moved the discussion to the ‘historic’ handshake between HM Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness where he felt that Mr McGuinness had gone too far. I disagreed with him politely and we had a short and mannered debate on the two sides of the ‘Irish’ argument After that unburdening, his wished the politest of goodbyes and went homewards.

I thought I would be safer inside the bar at this point and went inside. It was almost 7pm and I asked himself if he would get me a glass of wine as we would shortly head for dinner. The only room in the lovely Palace Bar was at the bar so people were ordering their drinks around us. I promise we were finishing off the papers, minding our own business when Mr M approached us. I think this was Dublin’s way of telling us that you will always meet just one more interesting person. Mr M started chatting and, hearing our Norn Iron accents, shared with us that he was a Mason and proudly loyal to the Crown. He actually chatted at length about his Masonic roots and his loyalty to the Crown while we smiled and nodded politely, just as we had smiled and nodded politely to P.

I am happy to report that our dinner was delicious and the Comedy Club we went to in the International Bar was certainly worth the 2 hours of standing. I have to single out the last act but the noise was such that I didn’t hear what they were called. A double act, two blokes, one guitar and laughs that almost bought the roof down. Thanks to the pisshead that is my OH, I now know they are called Totally Wired, @totallyW on the twitter. Thanks lads, you were awesome!

Before you assume that my weekends in Dublin consist only of bars and their characters I will add in one more thing. Having previously visited most of the art galleries we wanted to visit the National Museum of Ireland, specifically the Decorative Arts and History exhibition. The best bit for me was the permanent exhibition for Eileen Gray, a 20th Century designer and architect. I have seen works by Frank Lloyd-Wright and Rennie Mackintosh and her work was very reminiscent of both for me. An amazing mind shown well in this Museum, well worth a visit if you find yourself in Dub.

So, this is my account of one weekend in Dublin. You should visit, you might get even better than me! 🙂

I close, as always, with this:-

  • Please donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice.
  • Visit this blog and comment about your donation. Please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I still want to collect those tales and hope that some child will read about your words and deeds and want to do the same when they are older.

I will:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • Store all comments so that everyone can read them.

Thank you for reading.

Lesley

July 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm 4 comments


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