The joys of alternative signage

You don’t realise how accustomed you’ve become to your surroundings, until you go somewhere else, right? I mean things like signs and directions. At home, you know what to look for; the fonts, colours, positioning etc. you just know where to look for motorway signs, or street names, or underground maps don’t you?

So am I starting to get ambivalent now? Either that or the signage here is clear and I’m getting too clever for my own good! Let me explain.

I arrive in KL having never been here before, and manage to walk (confidently, as in, what Staffs would call ‘the strut’) straight through the airport to the shuttle train without so much as glancing at a sign (well of course I looked, I just did it subtly, without getting out my guidebook, or asking at the information desk, which I managed to clock en route, just in case…) I then fail terribly, and in full view of a family of three. 

Having considered the need for coins for the monorail in town, found an ATM, got out some Rans, found a shop and bought water (tick, mum!) to get change, found the KLIA Ekspres ticket machine, purchased my ticket into town, and spotted the (brightly coloured in purple) lift down to the platform; I was feeling suitably smug at how unlike a novice I must have looked! But schoolgirl error to follow… 

I clock that the Ekspres platform is on level 1, and whilst everyone else waits by the purple lift, I slip across to the empty one across the hall and press button #1 😉 I’m soon joined by mum, dad and their daughter, Gap Yar, who claims she knows where she’s going… In silence, we all descend to L1, only to emerge into a car park? Hang on, this isn’t right? I think back to how there’s a fifty-lane road separating L1 departures from L1 car hire at San Jose airport… Ok so back up, back across the hall, and back down in the purple lift (where everyone else who’s clearly NOT a novice was waiting ten minutes ago), and follow the signs.

#stoptryingtobeclever

Fortunately for me, the people waiting there ten minutes earlier are already safely on their way and not around to see my faux pas. In fact, the only people who are still around are mum, dad and Gap Yar who’ve made exactly the same mistake as me! We nod in acknowledgement, exchange libel about the ‘poor signage’ and enough is said… 

Now where’s that Ekspres?

#beenheremillionsoftimes

In flight entertainment

Last time I blogged about in-flight entertainment, I was referring to the AV system. But I’m back to my old tricks and this time I’m inspired by my fellow passengers.

Not long after sitting down, I’m in conversation with the chap beside me – Jazz. He’s in Marketing, lives in Twickenham, spent two years in India and a year in New York, has travelled extensively with his work, rocking up over 300,000 air miles, and is addicted to Alaskan survival documentaries. Surprising what you learn about someone in a few minutes’ in a confined space! But whilst the conversation is interesting, my attention is soon distracted by the passengers in the row in front of us. 

So Walter is by the aisle. From behind, I can’t see what he looks like, but I envisage a resemblance to the chap next door from the Good Life (not Richard Briers, the other one, the tall one). Walter is greying, going a bit thin on top, but still making an effort with his appearance (he’s wearing Prada specs). Beside him is Gloria; also greying a little, and somewhat shorter than Walter, but I suspect she also tries to make an effort, as her thinning hair shows multiple shades of red and blonde, suggesting to me that she has (or used to) dye it to cover the grey. 

AN: I’m not consciously trying to judge poor Wallie and Glors based on the state of their hair – it’s just that, from the seat behind them, I have little more on which to base my assessment!

Anyway, They don’t seem to chat much (well, not compared to Jazz and I anyway, we haven’t shut up since we took off?!) Perhaps they’re tired (we did have a slight delay on take off)? Or perhaps they’re reading or something? But I soon draw a new conclusion – it’s actually in Wallie’s best interests to say nothing. I come to this conclusion having just witnessed our first food service of the flight.

I’m not actually sure if Glors is vegetarian, has a nut allergy, or is simply accustomed to complaining? But it begins when the choice offered on today’s menu turns out not to be a choice any longer – they’ve run out of beef (we are on the back row of our cabin, so I’m not entirely surprised; like Glors herself, maybe everyone in front of her fancied the beef (I know I did), but clearly Glors isn’t happy with this. She doesn’t want the chicken. In fact, it sounds like she actually pre-ordered caviar, but for some reason, in this seat (we’re in Premium Economy) that particular blend is not readily available. 

Wallie keeps quiet.

When our polite crew member (Elaine) suggests she could try the veggie option (pasta) instead of the chicken, Glors argues her case. That’s not what she wanted (the fact that there is nothing else available, is irrelevant). Diplomatically, and I suspect to show how important they consider Glors’ satisfaction to be, Elaine suggests she speaks to her cabin supervisor to see what could be done… She disappears.

Wallie says nothing.

A few minutes later, as I’m tucking into my chicken, Elaine returns with her cabin supervisor, Shane. Shane begins by showing he has been brought up to speed by Elaine, and relays back to Glors what he understands the issue to be. But Glors is getting hungry. She’s been on this plane for nearly 90 minutes now, and still she’s had nothing to eat.

AN: I actually saw her eat the pretzels they brought round a while ago but, like Wallie, I’m saying nothing, this is far too entertaining…

Before Shane can get a word in edgeways, Glors is guiding his vocabulary with comments like ‘is there no sorry in there?’ for which Shane naturally apologies, as Wallie gently slides an inch down in his seat.

By this point, Glors’ argument is still not entirely clear to me – she’s taking up time in making them run around after her, without actually helping them find her a suitable solution? Instead of accepting that the Beluga she was expecting had not actually been loaded at Heathrow, and as we are now 29,000 feet up somewhere over Scandinavia, it’s unlikely to appear anytime soon; instead of telling the cabin crew (who are trying to help her) that she is hungry, that they should apologise, and that she is not happy; if she gave them a second to propose an alternative, the situation could potentially be resolved?

A third crew member soon approaches, and Jane has a far more businesslike look on her face. Wallie slides an inch lower, and says nothing.

Jane clearly has no need to demonstrate authority, understanding, or anything else. From the look on her face, you know she knows her stuff, and will be able to diffuse the situation, even if it means Glors going down the emergency exit slide.

Jane apologises (tick) for Madam’s hunger (tick) and for the misunderstanding which has caused this. She has now come downstairs from First Class, and has brought their menu with her. If there’s anything on there which Madam might like, they can arrange that. Clearly, as food in First is cooked to order, she may have to wait a few minutes – Glors opens her mouth to complain (I’m guessing that waiting is unacceptable?) – but Sally gets there first, saying that beyond that, there are no other options as we are now 39,000 feet up and not landing any time soon.

Glors is finally in her place. She orders the fish. Wallie gives her hand a little squeeze of approval – god help him if he actually spoke – and Jane disappears, job done.

I am stifling a grin, typing away, suitably entertained. Jazz clocks me writing and hands me his business card, saying “please can I read it when it’s published?”

#whatnocaviar

At least I didn’t pack a ball gown

When I jet off on my adventures, I tend to plan my packing (I plan everything in my life!) So last week, I check the weather forecast, look online at photos of what people wear in KL, and read a couple of travel attire blogs to make sure I was packing the right stuff. I then spend weekend (not the one just gone, but ten days ago) pulling out my summer clothes suitcase from beneath my bed, and deciding what clothes to take. I restock my mini travel toiletries and check the hotel website to see what they already provide. I check my chargers are working, review my KL rough guide and plan my itinerary. Once I’ve decided what to take, this is all piled up neatly in the corner of my room (not in my suitcase yet, unnecessary excessive creasing, obvs) and I set a task in my phone for Tuesday night to ‘pack’. I also set reminders to leave the office on time so I’m not late home, and cook enough dinner at the weekend (freezing individual portions) so I don’t have to worry about that on Tuesday night. All good, no?

I then get a call from Tabs, saying its Wills’ birthday, and am I coming out for dinner. Clearly, the logical thing in my plan is to say “No mate, I have heaps to sort tonight as I’m away tomorrow”. Unfortunately, is comes out as “Where are you? I’ll come but not a big one.” So I get home at eleven, get over-excited by birthday cards and presents, and start pulling out random clothes from my wardrobe and towing them into the mix, completely creasing all my clothes in the process.

I then sleep through my alarm and wake this morning reverting to plan A; I stuff things into my case, close my case, re-open my case, remove two t-shirts my cargo pants and a hairdryer, reclose my case, and am about to head for the door when my phone goes. It’s Tina in KL.

The conversation goes something like this:

Tina – Alejandra might have a spare ticket for Paddock Club, interested?
Me – Omg, are you serious?
Tina – yeah, let me check but should be good… You’re in. Marlborough Club with Ferrari. Ping me your email address…

At this point, I realise that the one outfit I had no trouble selecting (the standard issue teal and silver Mercedes team kit) may not go down too well with Kimi and Seb? Case open, stuff out…

After a quick decision not to sport my usual Mercedes attire, whilst not completely defecting to the opposition by buying Ferrari stash, I decide Black is the safe option, and repack accordingly.

By the time I get to work, I’ve had full details through from Tina, explaining that the dress code is ‘casual – must wear red’… Fugger. Rethink.

#ferrarifriends
#caniwearmercedesunderwear
#letsgoracing

Big birthday trip

I started my last post by saying I’d been planning, and it’s all about travel, and the F1 season has started again… Then continued by writing about my weekend? Slight sidetrack? Nothing new there then! So what is the planning all about?

Well, I’m a wee bit excited. And I’m smiling at the thought. And it’s nothing to do with being on a tube out west listening to Taylor Swift (guilty pleasure). It’s because I’m going on another crazy trip and I’m excited about it!

This time three years ago, I felt a bit like this. I was heading off to Hong Kong on my first solo long haul, into the unknown, not sure what to expect, and blogging about everything from in-flight entertainment, to getting lost in Kowloon, to two Aussies hurling projectiles on a train in Sydney.

Since then, have I become a bit complacent? Or have I just got used to traveling? I’m not really sure. I don’t get as excited about the little things as I used to, maybe because I now know what to expect. But one thing has not changed – the sense of appreciation. Most of my friends don’t have the freedom I do, to just pack a bag and go (their jobs don’t let them, they have young families, or other responsibilities etc). I recognise that and that’s part of the reason I blog about it – some of them say they feel they’re there with me, experiencing it with me. I truly hope so, as it can get lonely traveling alone! Writing my blog feels like I’m telling my best mate about it, the only difference being the blog doesn’t get a round in…

I’m going off on one again, aren’t I? Right, focus Boxy; where are you going with this?

  

Kuala Lumpur. In three days’ time, I’ll be hopping on a big bird to South East Asia! It’s my birthday on Friday and I wanted to do something different for it this year, rather than just drinks in the pub. Also, BA are changing their Avios points system, meaning that after April, the points I’ve been accumulating over the past year or two will buy me just a third of what they do now. So if I’m going to get the most from them, I need to spend them now. The Malaysian Grand Prix falls on my birthday weekend and it’s one I’ve never been to. This all had ‘why the hell not’ written all over it – so I just did it!

With a little persuasion from the F1 paddock (it doesn’t take much), who were testing in Jerez at the time, tickets were booked, a rough guide purchased, and that smile which finds its way onto my face whenever I’m planning my next trip, managed to find its way onto my face. So over the next week or so, I’ll post a few updates from my big birthday trip. (That’s a big ‘birthday trip’ as opposed to a ‘big birthday’ trip, just to clarify, I’m not into my forties just yet…!) I’ll try to make them interesting and will be my usual shameless self – if I walk into a lamppost you’ll hear about it, don’t worry!

#bigbirthdaytrip

#letsgoracing

Bxx

I blame the King’s Ginger

So over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy planning… surprise surprise. Of course, it’s travel related. And yes, the F1 season started again last weekend, although my performance was more like Manor than Mercedes.



Fine time

It begins with Friday night and a Black Tie dinner at the House of Commons with one of my oldest friends (after 19 years, I should know this has carnage written all over it!) Conscious I’m playing hockey on Saturday, I set out with all good intentions of sticking to a single tipple and getting plenty of water on board throughout the evening. However, nights out with Charlie are rarely so conservative; a few bottles of wine, a Welshman bidding on a fishing rod, dinner with Admiral Roebuck, and a spot of the King’s Ginger for good measure, and I rock up to hockey on Saturday with a stonking hangover and an ‘A game’ left somewhere under a backbench in the Commons. Fine acknowledged.



But the match starts remarkably well. Despite playing top-of-the-table Chertsey (who nailed us 8-0 before Christmas), we hold a clean sheet and go into the break 0-0. Charlie comes down to watch the first half (nothing to do with the fact that Wimbledon Ladies 1s are playing on the next pitch…!) and he leaves at half time with the advice “you’ve got this, you can take this game…” So naturally, we then concede 5 goals and duly lose the match, albeit to a side which significantly ups its game after the break, and against whom we are admittedly inferior. Nevertheless, the team agrees that The King’s Ginger is to blame. Fine acknowledged. 

As this is our last home game of the season, and because some of us can’t make the End of Season dinner – fine acknowledged – our skipper decides that the 2015 fines should be awarded and consumed after today’s game. As Finemaster, I duly order a couple of jugs of refreshment, and set up court in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, in the absence of the Kings Ginger, which managed to accrue a number of fines in the closing stages, most of the refreshment comes my way… 



A flying start

By Saturday night, I’m somewhat tired – a late night on the sauce, an early start for qually, hockey with hangover, and a couple of fines for good measure, I should just go home to bed. Especially given I have a table booked at Jetlag for a 04:30 start on Sunday morning! But no. Instead, I toddle off to Clapham to indulge in a Chinese banquet and more wine, courtesy of F1 Tom and the usual suspects. I’ll never learn…!

Once again, all best intentions; I diligently set my alarm for 03:45 and make sure I’m home by 11. At some point during the night, the Aussie one joins me, and we’re both deep in the land of nod, until we’re awoken by a call from F1 Tom, asking why our table has been given away and where the hell are we?! Fugger! Throwing on the clothes carefully laid out the night before (in anticipation of slow tiredness, rather than adrenalin-fuelled lateness), we’e out the door and in the car in 4 minutes, generally trying to make ourselves respectable in the 23 minutes it takes to get from Putney to Belgravia!

We get to Jetlag and all seats are taken, so I’m left to sit on the naughty step, literally, and watch the race from a barrage of banter from the barman. F1 Tom, meanwhile, has once again pushed on through, and spends the race topping up from last night. By Lap 50, he’s sloshed and causing as much entertainment as the barman. We decide breakfast is in order, and make a swift exit to Polo24.

Let’s hope I’m on time for the next race – a flight to KL is a bit harder and more expensive to make up than an Uber to Belgravia…! 


#letsgoracing

A bank in Bank? How confusing

Don’t you just love those calls you get from the bank, to tell you that whilst they believe that some of their data has been ‘compromised’ and that your details are included, they are being extra helpful by stopping your card just in case and issuing you with a new one?

Am I just unlucky or do other people get those calls too?

Then they check your recent ‘suspect’ transactions, all of which are legitimate, but they’ve already stopped your card anyway, so you’ll need to update any transactions that use your old card details and wait for your new card to arrive, in the next 7-10 working days.

Great, thanks for that!

10 days later, no card. I call HSBC. They decide the safest thing to do is to stop the new card, and issue a new new card. And this time I should collect it from my local branch. That’s in Putney, yes? Yes, but I don’t want to collect it from there, as I’m in the city during the day. Can I collect it from a branch in the city please? Yes madam. Which branch? The one at Bank. We have lots of banks madam, which one do you want to collect it from? The one at Bank – Bank is a place in London, where you have a branch. I’ll look on my system madam. I can see your postcode is SW15… No that’s my home postcode, but I’ll be at work, so I need a branch near work, hence why I want one in the city. What’s the postcode of the one in the city madam? I don’t know, it’s your branch! Can’t you find it on your system? I’ll have a look for you madam, where is it? It’s at Bank…

I tell you what, I’ll Google it…

#theworldslocalbank

Bxx

The annual Christmas shopping trip

For the past three or four years, my cousin has descended upon York with the sole purpose of fulfilling his Christmas shopping requirements. The flow of events has been pretty simple and consistent: Tom comes to stay, my large sofa becomes his home for two days until day three (before heading home) when he remembers the shopping he came to do. We take a leisurely stroll into York and start the proceedings at the Guy Fawkes Inn (a traditional York establishment, with an authentic dark wooden décor, lots of candles, good beer and fine wine – ideal for a winter’s day out). We consume a beverage whilst constructing a detailed plan, to avoid all other shoppers, spend as little as possible on presents, and take in the sights. Once the plan is agreed, we realise that staying exactly where we are actually fulfils all our objectives. We congratulate each other and order another beverage. A pang of guilt then hits, as we realise we really ought to purchase at least one Christmas present, to justify this being a Christmas shopping excursion. In any problem solving situation, understanding the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ needs careful planning. We order a beverage and have a think. Once we’ve decided on the lucky recipient and considered a suitably appropriate gift, we realise that HMV closes in 10 minutes and ANOTHER Disney DVD is perfect for Amy. So we run round to Coney Street, squeeze past the bouncer on the door (who’s clearly more interested in the 13 year old girl trying desperately to peel off the security sticker from the latest 1 Direction CD) and emerge 3 minutes later, Snow White in hand. We congratulate ourselves on a successful outing, and head back to the Guy Fawkes to reward ourselves with a beverage…

This sequence of events has become tradition. Even though Tom and I both now live in London, we still make the pilgrimage to the Guy Fawkes in December each year, to plan our Christmas shopping. So when I contact Tom to let him know I’ll be arriving in York on 12th December, his response is appropriately focused – “meet you in the Guy Fawkes then, yes?”

#cantwait

Bxx

The day I met the boy

11 May 2014 – the day that could’ve been so different; plenty of last minute random decisions which led to this…

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1. Shall I go to the race this time?

To start with, I only bought my race ticket on Wednesday! I knew I was coming out to Barcelona, but having watched this race live a few times, I was pondering whether to just watch from a bar in town and come to the track for testing instead (€15 rather than €115). Makes financial sense, but since when did Financial sense and Formula 1 go together?! Come on Rebecca, it’s your first race of the season, Mercedes are owning the championship, the boy’s on flying form, and to watch him win would be just awesome. So I decide to get a race day ticket.

2. Shall I sit in the grandstand this time?

I nearly always buy a General Admission 3-day pass, which gets me into the circuit, leaving me to wander round, find a spot with my blanket and settle in for the day, enjoying the action on the track as much as the banter and people watching around me. However, because I’ve left it so late, there are only a few grandstand tickets left, and they’re trying to get rid of them by selling them off cheap. So for €180 I can get a seat! Being a tight northern lass, I decide that I could spend the extra few Euros on something I haven’t done before, so opt to stick with general admission.

3. What no taxi?

Having booked so much F1 already this year, I have very little annual leave left, so I opt for the early flight Saturday morning. This is fine – I can just get an early night on Friday and get up early Saturday morning right? Well any normal person would, yes. But what do I do? I go to a ball at Kensington Roof Gardens Friday night, consume silly amounts of champagne, get two hours’ sleep, and drag myself out of bed for my cab at 5:15am. And I did well until 5:20am, when I texted my taxi to see if he was on his way, only to receive a reply 5 minutes later saying “No, didn’t know I was meant to be picking you up…?” Right. Plan B then! Can I get the tube? Not enough time. Can I book another cab? Can’t get me a car for another 25 minutes. Hailo it is then. And £65 later (there goes my General Admission savings) I arrive at T5 at 6:01am – breath Rebecca!

4. Shall I sit and stay or walk the track?

Because I arrive on Saturday rather than Friday, I miss qualifying (and my chance to walk right round the track). So on Sunday, I decide not to sit in one place for the whole race, instead watching it from various vantage points throughout the day. So I find a spot on the straight for the start and see Lewis come flying down in front of the pack – woo hoo! I then walk round to turn one, to see his name topping the timing board after lap one – yee haa! And by the time I get to turn eight (my usual spot to put out my blanket, I see he’s still out in front, with a gap of around 10 seconds between the Mercedes’ and the cars behind – brilliant. Given that this could be the case until the first pit window (around lap 20), I walk on a little further, listening to the cars flying around the track, the cheers as Alonso comes past, and admiring the usual crazy outfits of the day (I’m sure this guy was at Valencia in 2012 – going by the name of ‘Lola’…?)

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5. So glad I wore my trainers

I brought my running kit to Spain this year, hoping to run the circuit during testing (when the fans, paps and associated security have all gone). With no sign of sun this morning, and an emerging blister from yesterday’s flip flops, I opted to go for the comfort look today, and wore my running shorts and trainers (with a Mercedes AMG Petronas top, of course). So by the time we reach lap 61/66, and I’ve reached the last turn on the track, I suddenly realise I’m in with a chance of running faster down the finish straight than most people around me, meaning I could even get under the podium for the champagne! Challenge! So after jumping up and down squealing as Nico closes the gap on Lewis each lap towards the end, I am so excited to see Lewis take the chequered flag, that my adrenalin is pumping and I’m poised for a faster start than Valteri Bottas!

6. Go! Go! Go!

Once all finishers have gone past to complete their last lap, I’m squashed up against the railings at the top of the pit straight. The stewards finally pull back the gates and I’m off. I get a flier, passing a couple of Ferrari (fans), a Vettel shirt (tempted to wave the infamous finger), and I’m down to the pit wall ahead of the pack. As soon as I reach a gap in the pit wall I stop, in full view of the podium, ready to see my boy emerge. Once the bubbles have flown, I move further down to where my friend Mr P would’ve been only minutes earlier, hanging over the wall with Nico’s pitboard, waving home the 1,2. I drop him a hopeful text to say I’m there and he soon emerges with a champagne flute to say hello! Much to the jealousy of those around me, he also brings out a handful of jelly beans from the garage! I hand him my phone and ask if he can get a photo of the trophies close-up? Of course he can! And he does! Star 🙂

7. Stay, just a little bit longer…

Having eaten his sweets and enjoyed the anthems and champagne, I contemplate whether to head back to the merchandising area and buy myself a souvenir programme of the day. The merchandising area will be quiet now, so could be a good time. But I’m enjoying hanging over the pitwall, watching Suzy, DC and Eddie wander up and down, and Ted Kravitz filling up his infamous Notebook. So I decide to stay and watch a bit longer.

After a few minutes, Mr P pops back over to say hello and the look on my face turns to disbelief… I know what that is in his hand! It’s a green (VIP paddock) pass!!! His red (pit lane) pass is still round his next, so it can’t be for him!!! Oh… My… God…!!! I’m handed the pass and told to ‘pelt it back to the turnstiles…’ and that’s it, I’m off again! I run as fast as I can back up the track to the gate, round the grandstand, and down to the media tunnel, still not quite able to believe that I have a pit pass!

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When I meet Mr P in the media tunnel, he tells me ‘Lewis is still in the garage, if we’re quick you might catch him…’ Oh sweet Jesus, I run faster than ever, taking the stairs three at a time, and buzz my pass through the turnstiles. We dive through the FIA garage and down the pitlane, overtaking Pinky and the Sky Sports F1 cameras, and into the Mercedes garage, just as Lewis is walking towards us! Mr P says ‘get your camera, I’ll introduce you…’ By this point, I’ve no idea what I’m doing, I can’t find my phone in my bag and Lewis has stopped right in front of me. I am introduced, I ignore looking for my phone, and shake hands. All I can think of is don’t mention watermellons… so I constructively come up with ‘Great to meet you Lewis! Awesome drive today, congratulations!’ Not a watermelon in sight Rebecca, well done. Camera? Damn! Where’s my phone?! I fumble for it for a few seconds and he waits, he flipping waits for me! Unfortunately, I can’t find it, so I tell Mr P to tell him to keep going. Just as I find my phone! We cut back to the back of the garage and as he approaches the door, Mr P asks him if we can get a photo? ‘Sure, man…’ Eeeeeeeeeeeek! I get two photos with Lewis Hamilton!

It all went so quickly, that I didn’t have time to prepare or to get excited. I could’ve not bothered to go to the track on race day, but I got a ticket. I could’ve taken a grandstand seat, but I chose to be trackside. I could’ve worn flip flops like usual, but I opted for trainers. I could’ve left the pitwall after the podium, but I hung around. Even when I got the paddock pass, I didn’t know he’d be in the garage. Even when I got in the garage, I didn’t know I’d get close enough to really see him. And even when I couldn’t find my phone, I thought I’d missed the chance as I’d already been introduced to him. But I did.

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I once said opportunities don’t fall into your lap, you have to go and make things happen. After today, I don’t know – I made some things happen, albeit without knowing the outcome would be so amazing. But I also got a helping hand in the closing stint. So maybe opportunities do fall into your lap? But I still think you have to do as much as you can to get there – and if people recognise how much you try or want it, they’ll help you get there…

#letsgoracing

Rxx

Your delivery has been dispatched

Yes, it’s that time of year again. We’ve seen Grand Prix in Australia, China, Malaysia and Bahrain, it’s mid-May and I haven’t left the country for at least a fortnight. To many people, this constitutes little more than normality. But for me, it signifies the start of my F1 season. So as Bernie brings the circus to Europe, my effort to fill up a third passport in seven years begins. I’m excited, of course, and have been for some time. But things really started to ramp-up on Friday… (did I just say ‘ramp-up’? Oh lord, I’m spending too long at work, taxi…)

When I bought tickets for the Canadian Grand Prix a few months ago, I was told they’d be delivered by UPS a couple of weeks before the event. So after some initial squeals of excitement, the novelty soon died down until I received emails from both UPS and Gootickets this week, suggesting ‘my delivery had been despatched’. At this point I naturally reverted to a mental age of five and became fidgety at my desk, much to the amusement of those around me. That was, until Alix pointed out that I probably wouldn’t be here when said delivery was delivered, as I’d be gallivanting around the Catalonian countryside chasing racing cars. She also kindly pointed out that, if said delivery (unlike the despatch notice) actually bore any markings which gave away its contents, said delivery would most likely be delivered, coveted, and auctioned-off to the highest bidder before my return.

At this point, I recruited the help of the someone else who has shown a tendency of getting excited when the post team approach her desk with packages. Michelle sits beside me at work, and last week was heard to mutter ‘I do love a delivery’. (She could, of course, have been referring to her ASOS parcel at the time, but hey). I then forwarded to Michelle all email correspondence I’ve had with Gootickets, UPS and the organisers of the Canadian GP, giving her full responsibility to sign for my delivery on arrival, and strict instructions to protect its contents with her life. Needless to say, such empowerment left Michelle totes emosh and the prospect of the UPS man walking up to her desk again suddenly became amaze balls.

AN: my lack of understanding of descriptions such as ‘totes emosh’ and ‘amaze balls’ caused further entertainment, and any potential misuse of such language should be excused entirely.

My tickets now scheduled to have more security that Lewis Hamilton’s dog Roscoe, I happily went off to my Friday morning meetings. As I returned to my desk, a strange air of silence (typically unusual of our office) was noticeable, only to be broken by Alix asking whether my morning had, so far, gone well. Slightly bemused, I answered cautiously with not bad (token non-committal answer), from where Alix continued her coy interrogation of my state of mind, asking whether it could possible get any better in any way. Still bemused, I answered again, cautiously, that it could, possibly, I suppose? At this point, she produced a UPS package and, you guessed it; my five-year-old self returned, the typically unusual silence was broken, and the more normal excitement that is working in Wealth Management resumed. In other words, Rebecca got all excited about F1, Scott tutted a bit, Janice opened a can of Dr Pepper, Michelle got totes emosh, we can’t talk about what Alix was doing and Mark was nowhere to be seen (probably grabbing coffee).

So excited, I think I’ll go to Barcelona and watch a Grand Prix!

Hasta Luego! #letsgoracing
Rxx

How hard can it be?

I’m loving this… sitting in Le Pain Quotidien having lunch, and a couple have just rocked up at the table beside me. They sound like they’re from across the pond – I’ve no idea where, could be Canada, could be America, who knows – but they’re causing me much entertainment in making their selection of food and drink such a rigmarole.

Let’s go back to their arrival­­­­­­. No, their attire. He is wearing a Gore-Tex North Face coat, still, (they’ve been here for a good 20 minutes so far; I removed my coat on arrival, and my jumper, and I’m still hot). She has made herself a little more comfortable in the bench seat against the wall and appears to be wearing the trousers. Having spent a good ten minutes deciding whether their table is acceptable, (it’s busy here today, and given the queue forming by the door, I’d say they had little or no choice of table, so if it’s not good enough, this could be a very quick lunch) they finally turn their attention to the menu.

Meanwhile Paolo, the waiter who is covering our patch today, has already made at least two speculative moves past them, clocking the menus sitting untouched on the table as they discuss their location. He glances at me and smiles, I can’t help but giggle. And unable to control my excitement any longer, Vesper quickly emerges from my bag and I power up my blog…

Divided

At the prospect of food, North Face is now busy taking in the menu, both the cardboard in his hand and the chalk on the blackboard. He’s saying nothing, giving nothing away; I’m intrigued as to what he’s thinking…

Meanwhile South Face is scrutinising, no, criticizing everything on the menu. She finally decides that they will have a salad, and divide it, then they can have a cake, and divide it, afterwards… North Face is saying nothing. South Face tells him again …so they can divide it. (Is that the number of times she’s told him, or the food itself, or perhaps their opinion? Who knows, he’s keeping his Gore-Tex very close to his chest.)

Suddenly, he pipes-up suggesting that the wine looks… and is immediately shadowed by the South Face, who proclaims that they’re not doing wine during the daytime, no way. The North Face returns to his menu, perhaps he’s only perused the beverage section so far?  South Face is still making more divisions than Carole Vorderman, and the decision is made. Right? Right. What? Her companion throws her a curve ball; I fancy soup. What’s the soup? Whoooo hold it right there, how can he want soup when they don’t know what it is? They’ll have to ask the waiter. They could ask the waiter. They don’t know what the soup is.

You’re welcome

Now being frightfully British, in this scenario, is it not customary to help out? I’m sitting no more than two feet from them, the gap between our tables is less than six inches, so it’s not as though I’m eavesdropping (however entertaining they are!) I look up from my trying and casually share that today’s soup is sweet potato and chorizo, the waiter told me as I sat down earlier. The reaction? Nothing. North Face continues to read the menu, South Face just repeats my words and asks North Face if that’s what he’d like. Far from being disappointed not to have a response, or the faintest sign of social skills, or desire to engage with the locals (as I try to whenever I’m traveling), I find the lack of reaction just makes them funnier! I return to my typing, cracking up inside, the edges of my mouth turning up as I contain my amusement at my transatlantic neighbours.

Within a few minutes, they decide to get two soups, a salad to share and, if they are still hungry, they can then have a cake afterwards, and divide it. Right, now. Where’s the waiter? The service is this place is really bad…

No sausage please

Paolo, by this point, has pretty much given up on this table. So when he comes over to bring me my top-up of English Breakfast, I nod in their direction and out comes his notepad. As South Face conveys their order, she asks again, just to make sure, about the soup (she can’t be asking them to divide it, surely?) When Paolo explains that the soup today is sweet potato and chorizo, she suggests that sounds ok, but what is chorizo?

AN: you know when you something makes you laugh whilst you’re eating or drinking, and you cough on your food / drink, then over exaggerate it to try and hide the fact that it was caused by what you saw / heard? How can a dish with two ingredients sound ok if you don’t know what the second ingredient is?…!

Paolo explains that chorizo is a kind of Spanish sausage, a bit spicy, very nice. Oh no, it can’t have sausage, why would you want sausage in soup? Oh no, that won’t work. So they just have the salad. And divide it. Then they can have a cake afterwards, if they’re not full. Paolo pauses, and explains that the salad is quite small, that’s why it’s listed in the Sides section of the menu. North Face is, by this point, losing the will (I suspect Paolo is not far behind), and he throws in a random suggestion of a salad platter. South Face concedes but wants some water. No not tap water, bottled water, still, not sparkling. Paolo writes nothing down, but relieves the climbers of their menus and hurries away before they can change their minds.

The bottle doesn’t work

Since placing their order, they’ve said nothing, just sat in silence; the North Face examining the pattern on the wall behind the South Face, as she peruses the room with mild critique. Eventually, my neighbours’ food arrives and, once again, their lack of reaction to their food makes me smile – no that looks nice / I hadn’t realised how hungry I am / hhmmm not what I expected. Just silence until South Face realises that her bottle doesn’t work. Looking across at her, the North Face expression suggests he suspects it’s actually South Face, rather than the bottle, which needs attention. He takes the bottle from her, but is equally unable to make it work. South Face is rolling her eyes – I can’t see her, but just know she is! They beckon Paolo back to the table and hand him the bottle – it doesn’t work, this bottle is broken.

AN: remember the scene in Pretty Woman, where Edward takes Vivienne to the opera, and she can’t get the hang of her little binoculars? Trying to flip them into place, she says something like “these are broken. Mine are broken…” and Edward delicately turns them the other way, and they ‘work’.

Paolo takes the bottle from them and twists the top, it opens perfectly. I’ve no idea what they were doing wrong, but it just adds to the entertainment of their ordeal!

…then they have a cake, and divide it

Having finished their salad platter and consumed their water, their plates are cleared and they are ready to order a cake. Paolo, who clearly learnt from the earlier experience, decides not to bring the menu back, and instead makes some helpful suggestions on what cake they might like – smart work Paolo – they go for a lemon curd tart. Sounds lovely, and when it arrives, they divide it, as South Face can’t eat the whole thing. The slight flaw in this, is that South Face then proceeds to leave it alone completely? Was she actually too full? Did she not fancy lemon curd? Or was it not divided enough for her liking? Who knows. But she can’t eat that, there’s far too much sugar in cakes…

Bill please!

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