Work’s out (for the next 5 days, anyway)

So a day at ACS, a Xerox company, and I saw more than I expected and was impressed. Xerox acquired ACS a couple of years ago and have since been adjusting the organisation, so we benefit from what they do well and vice versa. This also means our team is one of their clients, so I got to meet the faces behind the ‘black hole’ (the generic email address to which we send work, which just comes out the other end all done). They were great and I think appreciative of someone else from the team coming to see them. I also had presentations from other parts of ACS, which provide other outsourcing services to various big clients – this was really good for me; I’m a visual person, so seeing them in situ and hearing what they do made it seem far more real and understandable than any PowerPoint slide ever could!

Anyway, as the anorak I am, although this trip is not work related or funded, it seemed a great opportunity to see ACS, and I’m glad I did.

However, that now done, I’m on HOLIDAAAAY! So, on getting back to the hotel, my priorities were as follows:
1) log onto webmail and activate my “out of office” reply – done.
2) shower & change – tick.
3) find a bar, preferably on the beach…
Cheers! /Rxx

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British Airways, the Mile High Club and simple pleasantries

OK admit it; how many of you are reading this because it says “Mile High Club” in the title?! One of life’s great myths isn’t it? A club everyone wants to be part of, a few claim to have joined, and where proof of membership is somewhat lacking beyond taking their word for it! Yet I’m sitting on BA flight 482 to Barcelona, wondering how on earth they’d manage it anyway?

I guess it must be a long-haul thing; where there are large periods of time where the lights are out and even the cabin crew are grabbing 40 winks, along with the majority of other passengers. Yet two (?) eager beavers will sneak off to the toilets and pledge their allegiance to the club a mile above sea level. However, on short-haul flights, such as tonight’s jolly to Catalunya, the toilets are at the rear of the plane, sharing a tiny space with two very busy trolley dollies of varying genders (and given their mixture of genders, I CAN get away with calling them that!) So the chances of ‘sneaking’ in unnoticed are slim to none, and I reckon slim just jumped with the last parachute.

Assuming Flopsy and Mopsy did manage to sneak into the toilet, I’m wondering what the chosen position would be, if they even had a choice? There’s hardly room to swing a cat in there, let alone his dingle dangle! It’s have to be a functional activity rather than pleasurable, I guess. Although you could argue the excitement of their inauguration could make up for a lack of intimacy, passion or foreplay… oh lord, the thought of foreplay with you’re arse squashed up against a dis-used ashtray, or if  you were on the other side, the beauty of reading “these toilets are fitted with smoke detectors; smoking is forbidden in all parts of this aircraft.” How much of a moment killer would that be – there goes the post-intercourse cigarette then, damnit.

At this point, if mum is reading, her imagination will be going into hyperdrive! So to avoid any doubt, and to bring her blood pressure back to normal levels; Mum, the answer you’re looking for is “no”!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: if anyone reading this has managed it on a short haul, I’d be intrigued to know how!

So, going back to the trolley dollies. It’s been 15 years since I last flew with BA, but that flight was a hop from Heathrow to Schiphol – a 35-minute flight where, by the time we were up we were coming down again – not too dissimilar to the mile High Club attempt one would guess? So not really enough time to enjoy the experience really (I’m back to talking about the flight, not the club, just to clarify). But I recall being impressed by the quality of service.

So how does BA compare?

More recently, I’ve flown with Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Qantas – all established airlines with good reputations for quality of service, as far as I’m aware. Each has its good and bad points; Emirates to Colombo was exquisite, yet someone I know who used to be a cabin attendant for them, hated it and left after being regularly spat upon by Arabian male passengers (perfectly acceptable in some cultures, but perhaps not in modern day global aviation?) Qantas had me in hysterics wth their typically Australian laid-back approach to customer service “G’day guys, it the captain. Welcome to Brisvegas International…” and their check-in facilities in Sydney were faultless – technologically advanced, quick and easy to use. Cathay Pacific had very comfortable seats and plenty of legroom (and Hagen Daaz!) but the colour scheme felt somewhat dated – grab the pantone book guys, sort it out!

So now flying with BA albeit short-haul, I guess I expected a combination of the good and less of the bad. So what’s my view?

Pre-flight service, excellent. Despite the negative publicity I was ripping off earlier, I found T5 clean, spacious, clearly signed, fantastic for shopping and even the seats were comfortable. Boarding was efficient, until we had to queue in the air tunnel… can’t remember the last flight where I had to queue to board?… which turned out to be because everyone boarded via the front door and there was only one aisle, so everyone had to wait for each passenger to find their seat, stow their luggage and get comfortable. More an aircraft design issue than BA, to be fair, but it made the experience less smooth. (Harsh?)

Aha – stumped! Going through turbulence, so seatbelt signs have come on everyone has ro return to their seats and WASHROOMS ARE OUT OF USE! God help Flopsy and Mopsy in there – a right rough ride, you might say?!

Anyway, back to BA.  The plane itself is a pretty standard Airbus A320: six seats wide, with a single aisle down the middle, I guess it’ll seat around 150 people, with the first 10 or so rows curtained off as first / business / premier / premium economy class (although the only difference I noted was slightly more legroom). But as the crew prepared the cabin for take-off, the subtle differences started to show.

Simple pleasantries

The cabin attendants helped by putting everyone’s bags in the overhead compartments for them. This not only allowed the passengers to comfortable in their seats, rather than faffing with bags, it also saved the ladies in front from the decidedly dodgy looking patches under the arms of the chap across the aisle from them…

The dollies themselves look normal. I know that sounds crazy but, for those of us not lucky / bothered about being stick insects caked in make-up, with hair scraped into a high ponytail and teeth whiter than Richard Hammond’s, this does make a difference! The attendant who took my bag for me had freckles, was at least 6 foot tall, about a size 14 and had a tidy brunette bob. (The male attendant down the cabin looked much the same 😉 sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Then the captain introduced himself, and I could hear and understand him! Rather than sounding like Peter Kay’s impression of the wedding DJ, this guys was polite, clear, and didn’t sound like he was reading from a script. He spoke for more than 5 seconds too (rather than saying his name, introducing his cabin crew, then leaving them to say the rest). But what I liked a lot, was that he ‘asked us not to smoke on board his plane’ – just the fact that he called it his plane made me think he cared about his vehicle more? Not sure if that makes sense, but I liked it. He also explained (in not too technical terminology) why we had to do things, for example when he asked us to switch off electrical devices, he explained why we had to. And when asking the cabin crew to ‘cross check and prepare doors etc’ he thanked them for their work during the flight – recognition! Always good J

Eeeeeek, that’s the med down there! Whoop whoop! And the sunset s luuuuuurvley!

So, my verdict of BA is that they do the simple things well. They don’t have posh planes or glamourous staff (not on short-haul, at least) but they’re typically British and include the pleasantries in a way that feels honest and believable. I like BA.

So with a soft, smooth landing, a polite and honest welcome from our captain and temperatures in the 20s (at 9.30pm) – welcome to Barca baby!

ttfn /R xx

T5 – avoid Prosecco, G&T and stick to Espresso

So I’m back at T5, again. I feel like a piece of lost luggage on a carousel – no hang on, the luggage never actually got to T5 did it? Or did it get stuck there and never reach its intended destination? Not that anyone knew where that was, did they? Who knows, I don’t think BAA did at the time, maybe that was the problem?…

Anyway. I’ve now successfully made my way back here for the third time in a month, only this time it is me hopping on a plane!

The first time I experienced T5, was something of an expensive affair. The day I landed from Honkers, a friend was flying out to Asia on business, so we arranged to meet for a swift sherbet as our paths crossed. After a sociable glass of Prosecco and a G&T, the usual question was posed: “one for the road?” This proved to be the most expensive glass of Prosecco in history…

Has anyone ever heard / seen / read the ‘rule’ which says that, once you’ve checked in your luggage, you have to go through security within 30 minutes of it? Or that if you’ve checked in your luggage, you have to through security at least an hour before your flight departs? I’ve heard of being at the gate 30 mins before departure but never been stopped at security, and told your luggage has been offloaded!

Well we still dispute that this advice is published anywhere, but a replacement flight (not claimable on expenses) cost a mere 4-figure sum… I am therefore under strict instructions today to avoid the Prosecco bar at all costs!

My second trip to T5 was a far quieter occasion. In fact, I wondered if the terminal had actually opened yet, as it was Deadsville Tennessee. I was meeting the olds on their return from hols. They were flying with Qantas, but their UK flights were operated by BA. So, given that BA uses T5, they’d be coming into T5, right? But as a Qantas flight, they flew out of T3. So where would they land? Oh god, it’s the lost luggage feeling again… So, typical
Wallin; use your noddle and check the BA website – and there it was: due in on time at T5.

So I parked in the T5 car park and jumped into the lift… Hang on, big sign reads “For Qantas arrivals, please use T3″… Ok now I’m confused. Not that it’d make a difference, I check the website again… T5 (although quite how the existence of a status sign would affect the web content, I don’t know, but it made me feel better.) So, plan B: check the arrivals board: great, it tells me their flight has landed and luggage is being unloaded (how novel?!) but no reference to at which terminal. Given that I’m standing in T5, you’d think it was here, but this is T5, nothing is a given, especially not when luggage is being unloaded! So I try plan C: find an information desk, preferably one which has a person at it. Its my lucky day, I find one with two BA ladies in attendance. I present my dilemma and ask if the flight has landed here or over at T3. Classic, one says “if it’s a Qantas flight it’s T3″ whilst the other says if it’s operated by BA it’ll be here” – how very helpful! I show them my iPhone with the BA website saying its T5 but Doris and Doris can’t see the flight on their system. Joy. By this point, whilst its little after 5am, the Prosecco bar upstairs is seeming ever more appealing! However, I figure dad will want an Espresso when they land, so I take up camp in T5’s Costa and within minutes they appear.

All fun and games, but a point proven; if in doubt, alcohol is fun but can end up costing a fortune – the morning after, coffee’s a better bet!

Right, where’s the bar?…

ttfn /R xx

Value what you have, hold onto what you love, and fight for what you fear to lose

With my track record over the past 12 months, you could justifiably argue that I’m the least qualified person on the planet to write about the above! However, as this is my blog, I think I can write about whatever I like! And in fairness, my experiences over the past 12 months could place me in a more educated position than most here! So I’m allowing myself a little slack, and tonight I’m writing about something which, up until now, I’ve kept well and truly offline.

Why do you use social media?

To begin with, I refused outright to join Facebook. I saw it as the online equivalent of putting yourself in a shop window on Warmoesstraat – ‘this is me, here are a few pictures, feel free to view, comment and, generally, copy what you like’. However, after a year or so of seeing people I knew sign-up and use it to good effect (ie reconnecting with friends they’d lost touch with, keeping track of what their family were up to beyond an annual Christmas letter etc) I gave in and signed up. But since then I’ve seen Facebook evolve into Faceache – whilst many people still use it to good effect, I see an increasing number of people using it to vent spleen, lash out and at worst, for the equivalent of playground bullying. Each to their own, and all that, but personally, my view is that if you’ve something to say to someone, you should have the courtesy and guts to have a conversation with that person, not hide behind social media to have a pop. In most cases, I’ve no idea what the issues are, or why people are having an online argument, but it’s changing my perception and inclination to use Faceache. What was intended as a two-way platform for communication, is now being used (by me at least) as a one way channel – to share information and have limited conversation with those who are polite / sociable / sensible / adult enough to use it for what it was intended – a social communication platform.

So, I now find myself drawn more towards Twitter. I guess this was the opposite of Faceache, and intended as a one-way push of information. People tweet about whatever they like and others chosing to follow them; jumping on their tweets, retweeting, quoting, favouriting… but so far, rarely using it to hurl abuse. Ok, so Piers Morgan and Lord Sugar are perhaps the exception to the rule, but even then, in banter and abuse toward each other and from, generally, American anti-followers (who claim to hate Morgan, yet still chose to follow him and comment on his every word) it’s managed well my Piers who uses it for extra publicity and popularity! So I’m finding Twitter to be the ‘Private Eye’ or ‘Have I got news for you’ of social media – and I like that.

Anyway. Having explained my current take on social media, why is this post entitled “Value what you have, hold onto what you love and fight for what you fear to lose”? Well. For me, the hiatus of the Faceache to Twitter switch came after I experienced the negativity of the former personally. I shan’t go into the detail (see, even now, I can’t bring myself to publicise the detail! It’s airing dirty laundry in public and I hate that!) But I have this belief that, whatever happens, if you care about something or someone, voluntarily letting it/them go is something of a last resort.

Staying in touch – regardless

Now whether this comes as a result of involuntarily losing someone close to me, I don’t know. But even if things go sour, I tend to keep bad experiences in the back of my mind (so as not to repeat them) and stay in touch with people (as good friends are hard to find). Quelle surprise, therefore, I am still in touch with a chap I lived with, who told me (as we were going out for a New Year’s Ball), that he ‘didn’t love me anymore, but could we just pretend for that evening please, so as not to attract a fuss?’… I’m closer now than I ever was, to the guy who did the dirty on me not once, but twice (who I’d been told was a rat but I trusted him – doh!). And I’m still in touch with my husband, even though we’re no longer together, and still consider him my next of kin. But tonight, I did something which, whilst a small thing, felt significant to me as I finally accepted that involuntary loss of someone once close.

In my bedroom, I have two photo walls – one is a series of frames with pictures of those closest to me. Each is a head/shoulder shot of us; most are in bars, one is at Wimbledon and all include alcohol! The other wall is my family wall, with framed pictures of my parents (when they were younger and more recent ones), my brother and his godson and one picture from my wedding day. This evening, I added four more frames to the family wall (of mum and dad as happy as I’ve ever seen them) but I changed one on the other wall. A small thing, and I still have two great photos of this peron in the living room, so it’s not complete removal! But it felt significant. Having been friends for over 20 years, we haven’t spoken in over 9 months now. People change. People move on. Sometimes is voluntary, others it’s involuntary. But whilst I wish we were still friends, I’ve finally accepted that we’re not. Maybe one day we’ll talk again. Who knows. But sometimes you just realise what and who is important and where you should be focusing your energy and attention.

So. Value what you have – maybe if I’d have done this, we’d still be friends? Who knows, but after quite an eventful past 12 months, I now value those close to me more than ever.

Hold onto what you love – you never know what will happen round the corner, so whilst it may seem an effort at times, if they’re worth the effort, hang onto them.

And fight for what you fear to lose – at the time, I thought I did this, but on reflection I could probably have done more. It’s hard (and sometimes impossible) to get them back once they’re gone, so if they’re important to you, fight til the death to hang onto them.

Enough – shut up Rebecca!

Right, that’s enough philosophical b******s – and the closest I’ll ever get to airing dirty laundry in public! From here on in it’s good stuff, I promise!

I started packing tonight, what a laugh that was! But that’s another story…

ttfn /Boxy xx

Flying off into the sunset, but not me this time!

Travelling is an easy topic to talk about isn’t it? “When I was in….” “When we went to…” “Have you been to…” “There’s this cool bar in…” “If you go, you’ve got to do…” Far more exciting as an icebreaker that talking about the weather, although at the moment, despite our fast approach to the holiday season, the British weather still seems to be dominating both the news and people’s conversations.

So to avoid the easy route of the squirrel there, I shan’t be going into weather chat, and will focus on what I was going to blog about (blimey, that’s a first?…!)

Something happened today which has been months in planning, includes airports, flights, excitement and faraway shores. No this time it wasn’t me – my ickle cousin Sophie (aka ‘small person’) set off on her travels to the other side of the world. (We Wallins seem to be doing a lot of this at the moment, don’t we?!

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Sophie is the youngest of seven cousins on my father’s side. The oldest was Simon, my bro, followed by yours truly, then the three Leamington babes (Matron Kate, Hanxy B and Charlie Dimms) then the Cambridge contingent, Tom and Sophie. Despite living across the country, we’re all very close (thanks to our Welsh grandmother) and as the youngest, Sophie has the (enviable) joy (no, really) of the rest of us acting like over-protective siblings!

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As the oldest one of us able to comment, I can say this, because she’s far enough away not to give me ‘the look’ and because she’s more like me that she can ever appreciate! But like it or not, Sophie has an army of cousins (and a brother) who love her to bits and, whilst sad to see her leaving our shores, are all desperately jealous that she’s doing this at the wee age of just 19.

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Soph is currently on a plane to Borneo, to spend the next month working with a great team who look after the ever-decreasing number of Orangutans out there. I know they’re a good team (and thus feel safe in letting her leave without me) because Dimms did the same a few years back, and can vouch for them (see, I told you we were over-protective!)

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Anyway, when I spoke to Soph earlier, I got more chat out of her on the phone that I have in the past ten years (she doesn’t talk much, unless she’s in a strop, then we know about it!) So the trip is already having a positive effect on her, and I’m sure that the next four weeks will leave their mark in nothing but an amazing way. I know she’ll be careful (she’s a sharp cookie) and I know she’ll make the most of every second.

I’m very jealous but my overriding emotion when she left today was one of utter excitement. I now understand that “oh my god I’m off, and I’m on my own, and it’s going to be amazing, even though I don’t know what it’ll be like, I just know I’m going to love it!” feeling. I think I even did a little cowboy whoop for her?!

Happy travels Sophie Wal – have a ball darl, stay safe and don’t forget we love you more than the orangutans do, so make sure you come back babe! xx

ttfn /R xx

Here I go again (on my own)

After my first attempt at blogging, I got some pretty remarkable feedback *insert embarrassed smiley, somehow*. So, when I asked the question: “should I continue writing or should I shut up now?!” 80% of those who answered said “yes”. Fools! You’ve only got yourselves to blame – I’m going to carry on!

At this point, I better just clarify – I’m not planning any amazing trips to South East Asia (at the moment), nor do I have any plans to dive with Nemo, jump out of a plane, or drive down one of the most spectacular coastal roads on the planet. Therefore subject matter may be slightly less stimulating than last time!

Actually, hang on; I am going to another Grand Prix in 10 days’ time (whoop whoop!) and am off to Barcelona (a city I’ve never visited before). So I’ll undoubtedly be posting about that. And the run up to it. And the nightmare that is packing. And the quality of the in-flight entertainment… OK so life is never dull, you just have to look for the good stuff I guess? And if you can’t see it, create it!

So, who knows what I’ll end up blogging about! But I do like to talk, I generally have an opinion on most things, and with my iPhone or Vesper to hand, I’ll gladly write about it! As before; I’ll try not to waffle, I’ll try to keep it interesting, but above all, I’ll say what I think, will share what I can, and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

ttfn /R