A seasoned traveler? Me?

It’s been a long time since I had to get up early, and have my wits about me. So in the back of my mind, I was convinced that, this morning, something would not go according to plan.

I live 10 miles from the world’s busiest airport – getting there will be easy…

My flight to Barcelona is scheduled to leave T5 at 07:10. So I need to be at Heathrow for around 05:30 / 05:45. Challenge #1. My first flight as a London resident, I just assumed that getting from Putney to Heathrow would be straightforward, right? Wrong. The first tube westbound on the Piccadilly line starts at 05:30, but sets off from Acton, not the city. So I’d need to get to Acton by 05:25, which means getting a bus. But again, at that time in the morning, buses are still in night bus mode, and it’s Saturday, meaning not all routes are running that early. So I’d have to head into town, change, then head back out of town. Basically, I’d need to leave Putney at about 3am to hit Heathrow (10 miles away) at 05:45… erm, No.

So I look at car parking – I still have Bruno until next Friday, so I could always drive, right? But psychologically, the idea feels wrong – this is London; everyone’s told me I wouldn’t need a car living here. So to resort to driving 10 miles to the airport just feels wrong, especially when I’ve managed to do without the car on flights to Australia, Abu Dhabi and Budapest, flying from Stansted, Leeds Bradford and Gatwick, whilst living in Yorkshire… erm, No.

So the alternative is a taxi. Black cabs are notoriously expensive, so I look at Addison Lee, which proves to be more expensive than four days in T5’s on-site car park! So I check out local cab firms in Putney… with no idea which are reputable, reliable, or even still in business, I’m working blind. Then I figure, why not ask a local – obvious, right? So I ask my flatmate, Anna, who has lived in Putney for six years. She readily hands over the names of three firms, with varying degrees of ‘recommendation’ ranging from “they’re cheap and you may even get there in one piece” to “ he’s a darling and will look after you”. The latter, Robert, sounds preferable and when I tell Anna it’s for an early morning airport run, she says “ah yeah, I’d definitely use Robert for something like that”. So I text Robert and he responds almost immediately, saying it’s no problem, he’ll pick me up at 05:10. I feel very smug at having organised this four days in advance, until I get a text from Robert on Friday night to say he’d forgotten he’s going out and therefore won’t be up early enough! But he’s arranged for his friend Matt to do it instead. Hmmm… suddenly I start thinking (yes I know, at 36 it’s about time…) I’m being passed from one stranger to another, it’s all very friendly, should I be a bit more cautious? Pah; thinking back to Honkers last year, and the point I made about daring to try things and go with it, I figure that Robert’s been recommended by Anna, and is now trying to keep my business having made a boo boo. I also recall the number of times I’ve said I prefer to use a supplier who’s cocked-up before, and made good, as you know you can rely on them if things go pear-shaped. Therefore I decide not to worry about whether Matt will turn up in a 1982 Nissan Sunny, without a driving licence, and turn out to be an axe murderer. Taxi sorted.

Early night required… dream on, it’s an #f1weekend!

You’d think I would be a pro at packing by now, but the weather forecast for this weekend in Barcelona is not looking typical. It’s 17 degrees, with sunshine and showers. That’s not right? I only do sunny Grand Prix, except Spa, where I take more layers than sunscreen. My approach to F1 is to buty the cheap tickets, which get you into the circuit, then let you wander round, find a spot, throw down a rug, have a picnic and enjoy the race and a day in the sunshine. Rain? In Spain? That wasn’t in the plan. For a start, my waterproofs and F1 umbrella (yes, I have a designated race brolly, which is short enough to fit in my hand luggage ort across the back of a motorbike, yet still opens up to be a big golf-sized shelter) are all now in storage in Yorkshire, as I hadn’t expected to need them until Germany in July. Bugger. So what do I pack?

In true feminine fashion, I spend at least two hours bringing out all kinds of outfits, laying them on my bed and pondering. Over a glass of something cold. With the radio on. And intermittent yakking with Anna. And a phone call to the Mercedes garage to see what the weather’s doing in Barcelona. Eventually, at around 11:30, I zip up my case and fall into bed. As soon as I close my eyes I remember at least two things I’ve forgotten to pack. But because I’ve painted my toenails this evening, I’ve been barefoot for the past three hours and my feet (and the rest of me) are freezing, so there’s no way I’m hopping back out of bed to grab my Barca guide and Mercedes hat now… I’ll have to remember them in the morning.

I double-check my alarm (which I set whilst at work earlier, in case I forgot to do it tonight) and discover that I’d clearly been distracted earlier, having set it for 14:07 (no, I’ve no idea either?!!) so I reset it for 04:30, tweet that I need to be up early (you never know, if Lewis sees it he might just drop me a call at 04:31 to make sure I’m up?… I live in hope…) and I close my eyes again.

At approximately 01:30 I open them again., reach for my phone (clock), chunter a bit, and close my eyes again. Half an hour later, I’m convinced I’ve slept in and reach for the phone again. Nope, I’m still early. This routine continues until 04:30, when I’m awoken from a deep sleep by Fleetwood Mac screaming “Chaaaaaain, keep us together, running in the shadows” and I drag myself out of bed, straight to the cupboard to retrieve my Barca guide and hat, then wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

Sunrise in London

Convinced I’ve left nothing, but deciding to throw in a light cardigan just in case it’s chilly, I zip up my case, neck a glass of Barocca, and my phone bleeps. Lewis! He remembered! No, it’s Matt, telling me he’s downstairs and ready when I am. He’s 10 minutes early. I’m impressed. I totter downstairs and out onto the riverbank…

And am immediately happier. Not only has Matt turned out to be in a shirt and tie, driving a black Mercedes E Class, but the sun is just coming up over the river, it’s rained overnight (so the air smells fresh) and Putney bridge looks just beautiful with the morning sun reflecting of its brickwork.

Image

AN: I have a thing about bridges, no idea why, but I just love them. I loved the Orwell bridge in Ipswich when I was 10, I loved the bridges in Bordeaux when there on holiday in my teens, and my favourite of York’s bridges is Ouse bridge, where I could sit for hours and just look at it. Sorry, I’ll get my coat!

Putney bridge bears a vague resemblance to Ouse bridge, and this morning ti’s a welcome sight as my eyes become accustomed to daybreak. Matt takes my case, opens the car door, and I wonder what the flip I was worried about! In the car, he tells me that both he and Robert used to work for a local Putney firm, but have since set up on their own in Mayfair… makes sense now, Anna uses them for clients, they were always going to be respectable weren’t they?

BA do paperless, well; sorry Xerox!

Matt drops me at Heathrow and I head straight through security. This is the first time I’ve gone totally paperless but unlike the taxi, I’m not at all worried. The BA app on my iPhone lets me monitor and check-in for all my forthcoming flights, as well as creating digital boarding card, showing gate / boarding details and live updates. I’ve used this before, but always had a printed boarding card on me too, just as a back-up (I have to keep Xerox in the paper business for one more week, don’t I?!) But last time I tried the digital boarding card, I had a slight snagette. My 13:30 flight was delayed to 14:15 and as BA updated the airport information boards, my app kept in sync and was also updating… but by the time we eventually boarded (14:17), all passengers were at the gate so they stopped updating the information boards and my app therefore assumed we’d boarded. My boarding card and flight details were thus archived and my ‘next flight’ information had moved on to show the return leg of my journey. At this point, I was still queuing at the gate, so when asked for my boarding card, I had to rummage around for the paper version in my handbag, as the digital version was no longer available from my phone. Not great BA – bug fix required!

Image

So today I’m giving it another go, without a safety net. I hold my phone over the sensor as I go through security, and it beeps me through. I hold it over the tills in duty free (Chanel top-up and Anthon Bergs are a necessity, right?) and my transaction processes without issue. I hold it on the scanner at the gate, and am ushered straight down the tunnel onto the plane, and with a final wave of my phone in front of the welcoming BA cabin attendants, I’m in my seat in no time, and with no paper. I’m impressed BA, I like this. Just need to ensure my battery is charged (as we all know that’s going to happen at some point, right?!)

Not convinced I’m quite awake yet, but pleasantly surprised that my anticipated logistical stumbles have not materialised, I’m sitting in my window seat and the pleasantry that is our BA Captain comes over the tanoy: “Good Morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and a very warm welcome on board this British Airways flight to Barcelona. We are on time this morning, and the kind crew here at London Heathrow have managed to squeeze us a nice early take-off slot, in around 25 minutes’ time. We have about 20 minutes to taxi down to the runway before we take to the skies, so please ensure you give our cabin team your full attention this morning as they take you through the safety procedures. The weather in Barcelona is a little cloudy but a pleasant 17 degrees. As we get a bit closer, I’ll come back to you with more information about the local weather and our arrival time. In the meantime, thank you for choosing to fly with British Airways, and just sit back and enjoy your flight.” I do like BA – they speak to passengers as though this was their first ever flight, not as though they’re reading the same script over and over again, with little tone, pitch change or meaning to what they’re actually saying. Instead, BA always seems welcoming, friendly, respectful and have a touch of the old English classicism about them. I like this. A lot. So I’ll do as I’m told; I’ll pay attention, then sit back and enjoy my flight. (I didn’t realise the escape slides could be inflated manually? You learn something new every time. A-ha, breakfast…)

Adios amigos Bxx

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