Fray Bonnie Scotland

Having not learnt my lesson last time, I’ve booked another early morning flight out of London – this time from Gatwick. I don’t take the easy option, do I? I’m so used to jumping into Bruno and hitting the motorway, that when I was asked to go up to Glasgow for the day with work, my response of “is there a travel policy I need to be aware of, or shall I just book a train?” was laughed out of the bank by my manager, to the response of “Train? Do you not like flying or something?” Clearly, my colleagues at Barclays don’t know me too well yet.

So I book a flight from Gatwick to Glasgow and, in true tight Northerner fashion, I book the most cost-effective flights there are… the 7am out of London, returning at 21:00. It’ll be a long day. I doubt that Mr Jenkins will be aware of my efforts, nor is he likely to thank me for them. But in spirit of our values, I’m thinking about the bottom line and putting the needs of my customer before those of my wine. Own! My own 😉

The only snag with this itinerary, once again, is that London’s impressive public transport network doesn’t wake up before 5am, so my alarm goes off at 4:15 and by the time my seatback is in the upright position, my tray table is stowed and my seatbelt is fastened; I’m out for the count, bound for Glasgow.

I’m not really sure what to expect? Last time I visited Glasgow, I was about 10 and en route to the Isle of Skye. My only memories of the city were Easterhouse – what an awful place – and that everything seemed very cold. Since then, the majority of my time in Scotland has been spent in Aberdeen – the granite city – and Inverness – where there’s little to do but race the Northern Constabulary down the A5 towards Aviemore. Needless to say, I don’t like Scotland much.

Redemption required

If my Internet-savvy Gramps is reading this (and it’s more likely than Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, seriously) he’ll be cursing at this point! He and my Nannan live in Perth, Scotland. Gramps was… (Was? Is? Not quite sure) …recognised by the British Army as being quite a smart chap, and on the odd occasion when he’s taken me to Stirling for lunch at the Officers’ Mess, I’ve been treated rather well. Also, for some reason, Gramps is one of few non-Scots who is ‘allowed’ to wear the Black Watch tartan. But rather than a kilt, Gramps has tartan trousers – and they look fab.

They also have some stunning scenery. Fact. I can’t deny that driving over the mountains from Pitlochery to Braemar, listening to U2’s Joshua Tree, I am still lost for words.

Any just outside Perth, on a Hill called Moncrief, there’s a plaque and one (of many) trees to commemorate my late brother. I’ve never been, but seen the plaque twinkle many times, looking from my Nannan’s kitchen window.

So I really shouldn’t slate the Scotts, nor Scotland, but for some reason, I just can’t say I like the place. I’ve yet to meet anyone who feels like I do. Most people love it. And in fairness, I did love Skye, every year we went there when I was little. But the rest of Scotland, the Scots can keep. I’d rather go to Ireland.

Sorry Gramps!

Taxis in Glasgow are like buses…

So I shan’t bore with what I did at work today, but the journey home starts well.

I come downstairs to reception, and ask the nich young chap on reception if he could order me a taxi back to the airport. “Erm, yes, I guess?” he replies, “have you got a number?”

Hang on, I live 500 miles away, he knows this because he signed me in from Canary Wharf this morning. So I reply “I’m afraid not, I live in London, so not too familiar with Glaswegian taxi firms, I’m afraid. Do you have a company you usually use?” Poor boy looks totally bemused. The sense of power he feels by wearing a Land Securities blazer (which is too big for him) with a walkie-talkie strapped to his belt (which I bet he uses to chat to his mates in the pub down the road… “that’s a big 10-4 rubber duckie”) are actually just for show. I’ve found the chink is his armour. He’s actually not that bright. SO I rummage in my wallet, find the receipt from the airport taxi firm I used this morning, and call myself a taxi. Fortunately, my local Power Ranger has some use – I can’t understand a word the taxi firm say when they answer, so I pass my phone across and let him explain where I am.

Waiting in the sunshine (yes, it’s sunnier here than in London!) outside, I get a call from Gary, the taxi driver, telling me he’s 10 minutes away. Seeing an airport taxi pulling up outside the main door, I ask “you haven’t just pulled up outside, have you?” to which he replies “no, don’t get into a cab with anyone but Gary!” Right, I have my orders! So I wait.

In due course, Gary arrives, just as my phone rings again. Same number. Different taxi driver. “Rebecca? I’m outside, is that you standing up the road?” Now I’m confused. Gary has pulled up in front of me, whilst another taxi is 10 feet away, but with ‘Airport Taxi’ livery on their vehicles. It’s like Scottish buses; you wait for ages, then two turn up at once, and they’re not even buses, they’re taxis! I pick the closest – it’s Gary – and we head back to the airport.

SqeezyJet to Glasgow airport

So, after a few blog updates about Yorkshire Airlines, and the excitement that is Leeds Bradford INTERNATIONAL Airport, today I experienced another ‘new’ airport.

My first impression of Glasgow airport, was that it was right up there with Leeds for manliness – by this I mean, every man needs a shed. Leeds Bradford is a shed. Or it was, until Jet2 (aka Yorkshire Airlines) started flying Hale and Pace out to exotic locations.  

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Glasgow airport is very similar. But more orange. As I approach the gate, the walls are bare breeze block, painted orange. The ceiling is a pitched metal roof, with plastic skylights. The carpet is threadbare. Yet people still chose to sit on the floor, rather than on the chairs? Is that a Scottish thing?

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The décor on the wall shows a word cloud of the desirable locations to which you can fly, with SqueezyJet, from Glasgow. Inverness. Maastricht. You get the picture.

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Having said this, when I arrive back at the airport to return home, I’m taken aback by the contrast between departures and arrivals. Whilst the arrivals (I want to say lounge, but it’d be a huge overstatement) gate feels like a painted shed, the departures terminal has more technology than Gatwick. To get to security, unmanned scanners scan your boarding card, be it a paper version or on your mobile device. Security itself is über-efficient, and I’m through in minutes. I guess is down to the attempted terrorist attack a few years ago, where some idiot tried to drive into the terminal with an explosive device. Luckily, they didn’t do much damage, just instigated a worthwhile upgrade to the technology in the airport, making a better traveller experience. Until you get through security, then it’s back to basics and more like Leeds Bradford again.

So I return to the orange shed, wait for my orange bird to open its doors, and hop on board.

“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, my name’s Reuben and I’m your cabin manager today…” is Reuben male or female? I’m honestly not quite sure. I’m on the row 26, right at the back, and aside from feeling naughty, I’m blind as a bat and a bit tipsy from necking the red wine I bought in departures just seconds before my flight was called.

To my left is Theo. A quiet chap, who looks frightened to death, but bears a slight resemblance to he of Dragon fame. To my right, a petite frame, wearing a beige mac, and bearinbg a slight resemblance to Holly Golightly. Just without the Pradas. Neither speaks. Perhaps they’d chat to each other? But I’m sitting between them, have just ordered a coffee (trying to sober up) and am typing away on Vesper, hoping to God they’re not reading what I’m writing about them!

At this point, I’m giving up on trying to type whilst being paranoid that my coffee is going to spill all over Holly’s beige mac. So I close Vesper’s lid and sit with my Starbucks.

By the time my coffee is cool enough to consume, the captain comes over the tannoy “cabin crew prepare for landing” and I’m asked to ensure my seat back is in the upright position, my tray table is stowed, my seatbelt is fastened, my electrical devices are switched off, and Reuben is shaking a bag at me, waiting for my rubbish and empty (empty?) coffee carton.

We touch down and I switch on my phone. I’m meant to be meeting my SW19 partner in crime at Waterloo once we land, so I’d logging off and planning another (these are becoming an enjoyable habit) crazy Anneka Rice style dash across London’s train network!

Last one there buys the first round, and Sarah’s already specified hers is a G&T…

TTFN Boxy xx

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Planning my Sunday (it’s only 12:54)

Twittering with the Aussies

So I made a rash promise on Facebook this week, to write a blog update today.  I do miss writing my blog, because I love just talking about what I think, see and do. It’s almost like having an imaginary friend or a diary, with whom you can just chat or just twitter (in the literal sense, if such exists? ‘Twittering’ could easily have just been a term introduced by my father, grandfather, great grandfather etc which I’ve used for as long as I can remember…) I digress. Not unusually. Anyway.

So, I’m sitting in the kitchen at home – home now meaning Putney – and am chatting to Kari (my flatmate) about nothingness. L;ike the fact that we both think we need new kitchen knives (it’s been bothering me since I moved in, on one hand because I know I have an expensive knife block in my lockup in York, complete with sharpener to keep them in good shape (also good for Geena Davis moments* and letting off steam); and on the other hand, because most of our knives here are serrated, making the simple option of buying a sharpener, pointless.

Our conversation moves onto sport – not unusual living with two Australians! – and I smile as I’m asked who’d won the rugby yesterday. In the interest of international peace and relationship management, I pointed out that, in the first half the ref had played by Southern Hemisphere rules, giving the Wallabies the advantage, so the unfortunate slippage causing them to miss the final (match-winning) kick was only fair justice, and made for a more even game / result…) The conversation moves swiftly on.

It’s that time again

So on Thursday, I have my best mate coming to stay. Very exciting, it’s that time again… The sun isn’t anywhere to be seen, yet strawberries are on sale, Pimms ads are appearing all over the place and quite appropriately for Sarah and I, there are also more Spritz ads this year too…? Yes, my SW19 partner-in-crime and I will soon be heading towards the All England Club.

This year, however, we won’t be camping in ‘The Queue’. We usually do this on the Sunday/Monday between weeks 1 and 2, it’s become tradition, and even if we get tickets for another day, we’d want to camp anyway because it’s such immense fun! Calls of “let me out!” and the fizz of people in the next tent opening another Stella before the sun’s even up, all add to the attraction. However, whilst Sarah’s husband usually has no choice but to accept me kidnapping his wife on the night of his birthday every year. This year is his 40th and therefore sacrosanct.  Luckily, we got Centre Court tickets through the public ballot, and therefore won’t miss out on the tennis. Any because I’m now living in SW, we have accommodation and can both drink, as neither of us have to drive back to Yorkshire – bonus!

So Kari and I are discussing buses. Living at the bottom of Putney Hill, the route to SW19 should just be up the hill and across a couple of blocks, I think? So getting there must be a doddle, right? We’ll just jump on a bus up the hill. That said, this is me; I rarely leave the house without a plan of action! It’s not that I’m obsessed with planning, we just live up eight flights of stairs, so you kinda need to know what you’re going to do before you leave, as the prospect of having to come back upstairs when you forget something, is far from appealing!

So I’m going on a recce of South London.

Avoidance tactics

It’s worth noting here, that my original plan for today was to find a gym I will actually use. My Fitness First membership expires in July, and I joined the gym at work over a month ago, but since moving to London I haven’t used either. The closest FF I can use is either Victoria or Hammersmith, neither of which is in the right direction or close enough to easily just go. The work gym is in the basement of our building in Canary Wharf, making it close enough, but after work I just want to get home and hit the sack. In the morning, I get up at 6:15 as it is, so getting up any earlier so I can go before work is a non-starter! Also the treadmills there are no good for interval training, which is what I spend 90% of my gym time doing. So whilst I’m currently paying for two gym memberships (both subsidised) I’d rather pay for one I know I’ll actually use! However, every time I say I’m going to sort this, something more exciting comes up, hence I’m still paying for two gym memberships and complaining about the strange disappearance of my toned stomach…?!

So correction; today I’m going on a recce to find a gym and play on the busses!

Laters, Rxx

*the Long Kiss Goodnight