A Quest For Sunshine

Some say it is the journey that counts, not the destination
They clearly don’t use public transport

Asleep in Cornwall, I was woken by the alarm at five thirty. FIVE. THIRTY.


Sure it’s early but you’re off to have fun on your travels” you might be thinking. Yes, but that isn’t the point. The point is that I was supposed to set my alarm for SIX thirty. Then snooze for 30 minutes before getting up at the far more reasonable hour of seven a.m.

After all, I needed that sleep – I didn’t expect to be getting any more for a very long time.

Ninety minutes of snoozing later, I woke, showered, breakfasted on bacon, sausage, eggs & coffee – made by my lovely parents for me – I’d give them a great review on Trip Advisor but then everyone would visit! Jumping in the car we set off for the one hour drive to Plymouth. In rush hour.

One hour later we arrived at Plymouth Coach Station (come on, this is Cornwall, our rush hour is lovely compared to yours!). I waited for the coach to Bristol. It was freezing cold. Luckily there is an old biker trick which involves wearing your wife’s tights under your jeans so I’d popped a pair of long johns on earlier (no wife so I had to settle for long johns unfortunately). My nose was dripping away like a tap that is, um…er….well dripping I guess! Thankfully, my long johns were ensuring my chestnuts were toasty as roasting on an open fire.

The coach arrived at Bristol where I needed to change to the Heathrow coach. This gave me an hour and a half to see the main tourist attraction of Bristol. Enthusiastic with anticipation, I set off. Leaving Bond Street, I headed towards The Horsefair, gently ambling along as any greater speed would result in my suitcase doing an imitation of a bucking bronco, flipping wildly from wheel to wheel, as I dragged it along behind me. I strolled through an alley and there it was! McDonalds – the best that Bristol has to offer. A few minutes later I was back at the coach station, McDonalds coffee in hand, nose threatening to fall off under the weight of the ever growing icy snot stalactite protruding from my left nostril, chestnuts still roasting.

Now I’m a big fan of McDonalds. £1.50 or so and you have a lovely coffee. Now go to one of the big-name coffee chains. Ask for filter coffee and you get “Sorry, we don’t have any at the moment – can I get you an Americano?”. Well I bet the “Americanos” wouldn’t put up with that rubbish! You see, an Americano is a shot of espresso topped up with hot water. That’s why it tastes watery. And it’s double the price at around £3.00 (or 23 minutes work if you are on minimum wage. Before tax). Some say “you could always go for a cappuccino” and they’d be right in that a cappuccino IS tasty. However, it also comes with an enthusiastic tooth-brushers overflowing mouthful of froth and let me tell you, froth is no good for a man with a beard such as myself – I end up looking like Santa-bloody-Claus with frothy white stuff all over my beardy wondrousness. For those men for say “well just shave your beard off” I’ll just leave this image over here on the right for you:

An ice age later, my coach arrived marked “Gatwick” which did not fill me with confidence. Fortunately the driver did and an uneventful ride to Heathrow ensued. I say uneventful….uneventful apart from the 20 minutes standing with crossed legs waiting to use the toilet at the back of the coach until I realised there was no one in it. Bah.

Heathrow went well. The ever helpful and lovely British Airways staff allowed me to check in my suitcase 3 hours before bag-drop opened so I got to spend five hours air-side walking around and around in the hope of finding some sort of fried chicken that wouldn’t require a mortgage application to buy. Failing to satisfy my craving, I settled on the best alternative I could find – Guinness. Eventually my gate was called and it was just about then that I remembered that I had work to do. Work I was going to do while waiting air-side for 5 hours. If only I could be paid to procrastinate I’d make a fortune – I’m an expert at it. Still, on the positive side, at least I “got my steps in” as my fat friend likes to say. He does five thousand steps a day. Has done for months. He has yet to correlate this monumental achievement with the complete lack of movement on his bathroom scales. He should eat less fried chicken probably. Sigh. Yes, yes, OK, I admit, the “friend” is me. Much time later…

I’m finally on the aircraft!

Now, I do LOVE flying with British Airways. However, I do have one “quibble” and one “GRRRRR I’m SO ANGRY!” with them. The quibble is that their loyalty programme has somehow inspired disloyalty in me for around five years now – since I joined the loyalty programme in fact. However, that story is for another day. As for what makes me positively angry, well….bear with me and I shall enlighten you:

There is only one thing more annoying than reclining seats in economy and that is someone who reclines their seat to the max while people are still boarding. Trying to squeeze into one’s window seat is hard enough without becoming a contortionist to get behind the reclined middle seat. So annoying in fact that I barely noticed that the massive womble in front of me mistook his seat for a trampoline for thirty minutes. So annoying that I was too busy seething to do anything more than briefly note-with-interest that the wing was covered with an excess of oil that was no doubt leaking from some critical part of the aircraft and shortly we would enter a Top Gun film approved tail-spin and crash into the Arabian Gulf in a ball of fire and water reminiscent of a Star Bucks Americano (don’t worry – we didn’t).


I accidentally took this photo with my mobile as I wrestled my way into my window seat

In the main though, British Airways are a delight to fly with. Confident pilots with a great sense of humour. Cabin crew that have been trained to say “Yes!”. As opposed to that other airline whose cabin crew, it seems to me, have been trained to say “No but let me see if I can make things more difficult for you? Would you like to buy a lottery ticket?”. Being so very helpful, when the lady next to me asked to be moved to another seat (her audio wasn’t working apparently but I didn’t see her plug any head-phones in so I reckon she didn’t like me much. Maybe I smelled or something), the sweet BA member of cabin crew happily found her another seat. With a grin to each other, Aisle-Seat Girl and I dumped all our stuff on the now vacant seat between us, stretched our legs into the adjacent, newly-freed up leg room and I changed the centre entertainment screen to flight map so could see where we were AND watch films!

And so I relaxed and conveniently and totally accidentally forgot the work I was supposed to do that I had already forgotten to do whilst waiting air-side and instead settled down to a long stint of television and film time. But first – dinner! Airline food is never great but I have always found it edible. I made a mistake this time though, when I was asked “Would you like chicken biryani or tomato & cheese pasta?” I answered “Whichever you have to most of” and was given the curry. It was a mistake because I was once forced to have the vegetarian option as they’d run out of curries and let me tell you, to my complete surprise it is AMAZING! The best airline food I’ve ever had! But in a moment of foolishness I thought that maybe the curry would have magically become much nicer. I was wrong. It wasn’t. I regret not having the veggie option even now….just thinking about the pasta is making me salivate. If you get the chance, try the veggie option – you heard it here first!

The Arabian Gulf From Above (featuring Small White Fluffy Clouds)

Eventually the sun rose along with my sense of anticipation as I looked down, past the scattered little white clouds to see the beautiful blue Arabian Gulf waters and then the sandy deserts of the Middle East.

The Dubai Coastline

A short while later, I walked down the steps from the aircraft onto the concrete apron. Looking out, I see the familiar Dubai skyline that I’ve missed for so long and with a smile on my face, I look up to the glorious sun (with shades on of course) and I think to myself “I wish I wasn’t wearing long johns”.

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