Pubs and beer and food and Indian and rain and cold and wind – but mainly pubs , beer and food

A proper English country pub

I mentioned before about my friend from school, H, who’s wife died a little while ago.

Unfortunately, I could only go to the funeral for the day but I made the effort and went over on our long holiday weekend – the one just gone, to spend some time with him.

I tried to let him do most of the talking. I thought it was the least I could do. We are blokes, after all, and we don’t do the opening up thing very easily – at least, face-to-face. But I think he did a bit and I really hope it helped him. But his story is not my story to write. I found the UK to be nicer than I had thought it would be. Admittedly, although not so far from London, this was the middle of the countryside and reminded me a lot of Herefordshire.

The first night we went out, with his daughter and son, to The Fox Inn in Rudgewick. It was a typical old English pub serving food. The food was wonderful (Steak and Ale Pie with mashed potato) and, of course, there was the beer. A very nice start to the trip.

The next day we we to his daughter’s new house. It was a lovely old house which she had started doing up. We went for lunch at The Crown Inn in Chiddingfold. Again, a typical English village pub with an open fire. Of course, I don’t eat so much and, in the end we had (H & I) some sharing nibbles. And some beer! God, I miss the English beer. Food was good and the place was very nice.

In the afternoon we did some shopping (for me) in Cranleigh, apparently the biggest village in England (or, maybe the UK?). It was very pretty. We were back there in the evening to go to The Curry Inn – not an inn at all but rather a good quality Indian restaurant. H had asked me if it was OK to go out with some of his friends and gave me a choice of Thai or Indian – which. of course, meant Indian. And boy, the curry I had was the best curry I’ve ever had. It was incredibly busy which, of course, means it must be good but the downside to that was we did have to wait an incredibly long time for the food. But, for me, the wait was worth it! Of course, it was Indian beer but you can’t have everything!

The next day it was raining all bloody day. However, H took me on a trip around and to his “baby”, some all-weather football ground (he’s very sporty) that he’d managed to get built. Then a bit more shopping and then, at my request, we went for a proper Sunday Lunch at The Chequers Inn in a tiny village called Rowhook. Again, a typical old English pub with an open fire (the wood smoke permeated the whole place and was so lovely to smell – I miss that atmosphere and that smell) and the food was fantastic. I had roast pork with gravy and asked for a Yorkshire pudding. And, of course, beer. The waiter/manager was Italian! Of course. I would have liked to understand why he was still there but the place was too busy.

Just before that we went shopping and I got my last bits and bobs.

So a weekend of listening, great food and great beer and meeting some very nice people.

So that’s what I got from it but, really, it was for him, so I really hope he got something from it too! And, maybe because I was with him, maybe because of the English pubs and the Indian restaurant – I didn’t hate being back in the UK – apart from the cold and the wet.

Connected! A wedding and a funeral.

Connected! A wedding and a funeral

Like the film. Except only the one wedding and not four.

The wedding I mentioned in the two posts below.

The funeral was yesterday. I had been feeling very anxious about it. I was going for the day. It meant flying to the UK, taking trains and it was going to be a long day. Plus there would be plenty of people that I should know but I knew I wouldn’t recognise. And, F was going to be in Japan.

So, he went to Japan on Saturday afternoon and, because of the funeral and the fact that he was away, that whole sinking feeling was back. The spiral into a blackness. But, I knew it was mainly because of the funeral.

I get up at 4.30 a.m. to take the dogs out. Poor things. It would be their only walk until I got back that evening. I felt bad about it but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I didn’t even have time for coffee. I had to be ready by 5.30 for the taxi I had booked. The taxi was there, on time and I got to the airport. I had already checked in and was only going for the day, so no baggage – straight through security and a cappuccino and then straight to the “smoking cubicle”. Then queue up to get through passport control (I was going to the UK – outside the normal rules for Europe – bloody British.

I was flying Easyjet. Not my first choice but I needed to make it as cheap as possible.

I had forgotten that they allocated seat numbers now and got into any seat, to be reminded by a gentleman that I needed to go to the seat I had been allocated. Fucking hell! And it made me wonder why people would spend more money to have “speedy boarding” if they have seat numbers allocated. It became clear before we went through to the gate when the staff started tagging the bags which had to be put in the hold – they had counted them on and the overhead racks had run out of room. Still, it seemed to me crazy that you would pay extra just for that.

Then I remembered that I could also have “paid extra” to decide which seat I wanted rather than an automatic allocation, when I had checked in over the Internet.

We arrived at Gatwick. I absolutely hate the passport checks going back into the UK. Even with a British passport, I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed in – they make me feel like I shouldn’t be allowed in!

Through passport control and straight out to the smoking area.

Then to the station to collect my pre-booked tickets. Then I had some time but not really enough to go back to the smoking area.

It’s a bit cold – but I’m dressed like it’s winter here, so it’s OK. On the train. Got to Guildford. Checked with the taxi how long it would take to the crematorium (where the service was to be) and how much it would cost and, more importantly, if I could use one of the two £10 notes I had. Apparently, I could. The new ones have been introduced but it seems there is a while yet before the old ones go out of circulation.

I have several cigarettes and go in to Costa to get a cappuccino. “What size”, I’m asked. Erm, I have no idea. He shows me medium. I’m used to Italian now and that’s too large. “Something smaller”, I reply. He gets a “small” – which is still far too large, really. And I really want it in a cup not a cardboard beaker. But, hey, ho, I go with it. It’s a large cappuccino all right – but with a massive amount of really crap “foam” on top. But I drink it anyway. And go and have more cigarettes.

Then I get a taxi. I am at the crematorium early. The service before them is just going in. I have more cigarettes. I see people getting out of their cars in the car park and chatting to each other. I wonder if I’m supposed to know them. They head towards the building and me.

The guy in the light grey suit heads towards me. He’s unshaven but he looks like H, my best friend from school. I assume he’s D, his brother. I say, “D?” He says he is H. Oh, for fucks sake, I think. Why am I so crap. But my mind closes this off quickly. I can’t worry about it today. I give him a hug. I am pleased to see him and sad for him at the same time. I am introduced to his daughter and his son. This is the first time I’ve met them. His daughter looks the spitting image of his wife, T, who is the person we are having the service for today. She had a brain tumour and died a couple of weeks ago.

He is worried that I am OK. He introduces me to someone who I guess I should know but really don’t. It’s T’s sister. She is chatty and talks to me and introduces me to others that I don’t know and shouldn’t. We talk and chat.

I am introduced to M, who I do know although he is much, much older now, probably mid seventies. He was also a kind of friend from school days although was never really my friend and, anyway, was years older than us – but that’s a whole other story – if I can ever properly remember it.

M hangs around me. We go in together and we are to sit with close family, at the front.

There are so many people here that they are standing all around the room and, although I don’t look, at the back.

We have the service. T comes in inside a wicker basket thing. The service is semi-religious. It’s lovely, if you see what I mean. It is heartfelt and heartbreaking. She was younger than me – didn’t smoke or anything. Bugger!

We go outside. There are possibly 200 hundred people here. She was well liked/loved.

I am taken to the wake by some people who are neighbours. I hear afterwards that V (the wife) had been so pleased to meet me because T had told her how much she had enjoyed their trip to Milan. There is food and drink available but there isn’t enough for all the people here. I say that the number of people is a testament to how well loved T was. I say all sorts of crap to anyone that’ll listen. I don’t really want to be there. I think: this is the way it is now – I shall be coming to the UK for funerals – it’s an age thing.

I get to see H a bit. I hug him several times. M asks if I can come and see him. I say I had thought of coming in December when I have a couple of days’ holiday. M says that would be very good. I want to do this.

I am never without people to speak to. I am the centre of attention or, rather, the second centre of attention after H. They have all seen the picture of me and H after our first holiday together, on our own. The picture was taken by my mother. H disputes the date of it – I don’t know – it was my mother who wrote the date on the back of the photo.

H doesn’t burst into tears but almost, at several points. It’s been lovely and not lovely at the same time.

D takes me back to the station. I am very early. I have hours to wait before the plane back. I wish I’d booked an earlier flight but I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get back and wanted to be there in case H needed me.

But, he didn’t. And, anyway, he had loads of people around. I catch an early train. At the airport I have a meal, as I had only eaten very little all day. Then I decide to go through security. This, being Britain, means no smoking as there are no “smoking areas”. Bloody up-their-own-arse people. I’ve been overhearing conversations whilst travelling and, to be honest, it’s painful. I can’t imagine living here again. I hope, really hope, I never have to. I try to buy chocolate. They need my boarding pass – which they don’t, by the way. I say no. She says “it’s the rules.” I tell her I don’t want them then. I go to Boots for Lemsip and pills. The guy in the queue before me is asked for his boarding card. He says it’s in his jacket so he doesn’t have it. The guy takes his money anyway. My turn and he asks me if I have my boarding card. I say I have but he doesn’t need it. He’s clearly pissed off but accepts my payment anyway. I go and get chocolate and newspapers from WH Smith. They don’t ask me for my boarding card.

I wait around, have yet another beer and, finally, the gate is up. I can’t wait to get out of this country. The funeral was fine but the people travelling make me want to go home – and this is NOT home. I should try to remember this when I complain about Italians.

On board, the guy next to me wants to talk. He talks. Then he goes to sleep. We are late. I worry about the dogs having been inside since around 5 until now – which is already 11 p.m. I don’t even stop for a cigarette but get in a taxi straight away. They are a little bit super-pleased to see me. I take them out. I feed them and have a cigarette. It’s gone midnight. I go to bed and they come with me, super-attached. And then normality will start in just 5 hours.

God, I’m knackered.

And the connection between the funeral and the wedding? Well, this was the woman that H, my best friend at school, married those 37 years ago and when he asked me to be Best Man and when I made that terrible speech. Life is odd sometimes, isn’t it.

Stockholm’s Underground

I have been here and used the Underground system, so some of these I’ve actually seen.

What struck me was that it felt less like going into an underground system and more like entering some huge cave complex that just happened to have trains!

Here is a report on it’s beauty.

I originally did this post in June 2014 but it remained in draft for some inexplicable reason.

Notes from a far-off country

Monday, 28th April.

It is very dark o’clock. The alarm goes off and I know that I must get up. I have only left myself 20 minutes before the taxi expects me to be downstairs. I’m hoping it will be enough.

The dogs stay with me, hopefully, for about 5 minutes until they lose hope and realise that I won’t be taking them out after all.

I leave the house at about a minute to 4. It is tipping it down. Miserable, bloody weather. Still, I will be out of it for a few days. Not that I want to be, you understand. I’m off the that far-off country. One that everyone agrees is “lovely” and I hate, almost without measure.

I get to the station for the train to the airport. It is still dark and still raining. I realise that this thing we have, with airlines leaving before about 10 or 11 in the morning – not before 9, anyway.

The sooner I am out of this effing rat-race, the better.

I have a cigarette – only my second so far – but I know this train – there is no warning it will leave so, even if there is 5 minutes to go, I get on.

Lots of people are on the train but it is silent. Some people seem to be sleeping and I wish I could. A woman gets on at the second or third stop. There’s lots of goodbyes to one or more people at the station and then she spends the rest of the journey on the telephone. I wonder who the hell she can be speaking to before 5 in the morning?

We arrive at the airport and, as expected for the far-off country, the check-in is “special” and requires the longest walks.

I go out for several cigarettes and then in through the security control with its massive queues and, again, I wonder at this need (real need) to fly everywhere so early.

I get through there and up to the gate area and head for the café for my shot of caffeine. And then a final cigarette.

On the plane, I stupidly offer the window seat to one of my colleagues, one of whom takes it up and then proceeds to sleep through most of the flight. Still, it’s not so important as I have a book. A new book; one of those supposedly for summer at the beach.

I read over half on the four-hour journey. This is not good. Obviously, I still have the problem of reading too fast. More books will need to be bought!

As we’re on the plane, I realise that I just don’t like people. In fact, I loathe them, especially in a crowded place. I’m talking people in general, making no discrimination between races, young or old, male or female. People are just bloody horrible.

We arrive. We go through passport control which is more special here. Don’t they realise that I really don’t want to be here?

“Why are you here?”

“Because I have to come and subject myself to this bloody horrible country with you bloody horrible people”

“Who are you coming to see?”

“Some of the most vile people I have ever had to deal with”

“Was it at their invitation?”

“Invitation?! If only it were so simple as something I could refuse? Believe me, I would have gratefully declined.”

Of course, the questions were real, my responses less so. A lot less so. In fact, nothing like what I have written.

I collect my case, I go straight out to have a cigarette. I go back in to get cash. I am told, by my colleague that the little fucker who is our agent here, has come to pick us up. Surprisingly, as he had indicated he wouldn’t.

Apparently, we weren’t grateful enough for this “sacrifice” but since he is a shit-stirrer, I couldn’t care less. I remember the last trip here. The trip just before Christmas when it was ‘too much trouble’ to take us anywhere!

Whilst driving to the customer, I made the mistake of asking how he was. We get the “holocaust story”. I really wish I hadn’t asked.

I spend the afternoon, sitting, bored to fuck while the engineers talk about dimensions and stuff.
I’ve already had enough!

In the case of the disappearing train station.

I like the Italian rail service.

I don’t use it much but I like to travel on Italian trains. I find them punctual and a good service. Of course, I don’t normally travel on the regional trains but, rather, the inter-city trains. And, always first class :-)

I usually buy tickets from their website, in advance. It always works fine for me.

So, my colleague asked me to look up trains for her daughter who will be travelling on Saturday from Diano Marina (on the Ligurian coast) to Milan.

Yesterday, I did it. However, today the timing had changed. So I went to the site and typed in the station name. Unlike yesterday, the drop-down menu of the stations did not appear, which was strange.

I told her that the station did not seem to exist. She explained that it was precisely this problem she had yesterday. Of course, yesterday, I thought she was just having a “blonde moment”. It seems not.

In my hunt for the elusive station, I changed the site to English. It sent me back to the front page. I typed in the station name again and, this time, the name appeared in the drop-down menu and suddenly the station existed! It would seem that yesterday I was using the English version of the site.

I tried it in Italian again – no such station. English again – the station exists!!

I feel sorry for the Italians using the Trenitalia website – it seems it’s much more difficult to buy train tickets in Italy if you don’t read English.

Who’d have thought it?

There are many advantages to being English in Milan and this is another :-)

Invisible flights.

F is due back from Greece today and I’m picking him up from the airport.

There’s just one problem. The flight (almost) doesn’t exist!

In fact, I had so much trouble finding any reference to it that I began to wonder if he had all the details wrong.

I knew which airport he would be flying from so, as normal, I checked, on Flightstats, the arrival airport looking for a flight from Greece. Not only wasn’t there one but there weren’t any late-arriving flights at all!

So, I try the other way, looking at the departing airport for a flight to the arrival airport. No flights to and from the airports.

Since I didn’t have the actual flight details, I texted him for them. He gave me the flight number and the departure and arrival times. I looked up the flight number on Flightstats. Maybe he had got the flight number wrong? The flight didn’t exist. I tried on the arrival airport site. The flight didn’t exist. I tried on the departure airport site. The flight didn’t exist.

I wanted to text back to say that the flight didn’t exist but I didn’t.

I looked up the flight number on Google. Nothing. I tried with and without spaces. Still nothing.

I found out the letters at the front of the code were for Ryanair. I tried their site. The flight didn’t exist. I tried to select the airports and find the flight. I had nearly given up.

I looked at the timetables. The timetables didn’t go through to tonight. But you can search. I tried Origin (departure airport) and Destination. There were, apparently, no flights today!

I tried the flight number without a space. Flight not found!

I tried the flight number with a space. The flight is there, at the times that F gave.

But this is the ONLY place I can find it. Flightstats doesn’t recognise it, the airports don’t recognise it and, mostly, the airline itself doesn’t recognise it! It seems very, very strange to me.

Once upon a time……

“Don’t wake up or Father Christmas won’t come and leave any presents”, so I was told.

That was until I saw my mother creeping in one night with the stockings to put at the bottom of the bed, causing me to get up, wake up my sister and by 4 o’clock in the morning we were in our parents’ bedroom ‘having fun’ – although I never did let on that I knew about Father Christmas – just in case the presents stopped!

Don’t do that or the bogey-man will get you.  The fairy tales which were, in reality, scary tales – giving both a moral and a warning about the bad things that existed in this world to make sure that you were ‘good’.

But, of course, when you grow up, there is no need of these stories for you are adult and don’t need to be kept ‘good’ – that you do all by yourself.

Well, almost.  One wonders if the fairy stories for adults; aren’t manufactured for exactly that purpose.  Keeping us ‘good’.  Making sure we ‘toe the line’. As is pointed out in the article, to tell us that there is a ‘severe threat’ means nothing if you don’t then advise what we are supposed to be doing about it – otherwise, over time, people just ignore it. And, after all, if after some time of a ‘severe threat’ nothing actually happens, aren’t we quite right to become complacent?

As one of the comments points out (maybe a little cynically), perhaps it’s all just a wheeze to stop us thinking about the ‘economic crisis’ or, perhaps, it’s the work of what is now big business – i.e. the security industry.

And then I go back to airport security. Travelling through different countries (but within the EU) as I have done, it is quite remarkable that, for some countries some things are fine whilst for others they are absolutely prohibited.

And, I’m sorry, but I refuse to look at every brown skinned person as if they were a potential bomber. The guys who sell flowers at the stall outside my house, for example, who say ‘Ciao, capo’ to me every morning deserve a smile not a look of suspicion or, worse, hatred!

I’m with the author of the article and think that it is, in the main, all made up. I suspect I’m more likely to die in a car accident or through some health issue than be blown up by terrorists and I suspect that you are too – whatever the level of alert at the time.

Still, fairy stories have their uses.


Wednesday, 11th August, 2010

It’s 6 a.m. Actually, I’ve had less than four hours sleep. I wish I were back in Milan.

F, though adorable, is too stressed and angry with, well, everything and this is too much like V. This is both unexpected and unwelcome.

For me, a holiday is to be a relaxing thing – I would worry about getting to the airport on time, if we were flying somewhere – but, in general, it should be relaxing. Unless you have something to ‘catch’, then let’s not worry.

F had to work and the dogs had to go in for a haircut – he took them. He called me. The dogs would be ready before 1 p.m. and could I go and collect them. Of course I could.

I arrive a few minutes before, having received the text at 12.45. Not too bad. As it turns out there were other people collecting too and, as usual, they were not ready before 1 but more like 1.30.

F had pre-paid the haircut. This is a little annoying but not enough to spoil my holiday. He meets us as we’re walking back – it’s a surprise – I thought he would finish later. He hasn’t packed yet. That’s OK. Neither have I! Or, rather, I haven’t finished.

I am slow at packing – that is to say, I can be fast – but if there’s nothing to catch I just can’t be really quick.

Later I go to pick him up. We return to my place and load the car. He is unimpressed by how many bags there are! And, whilst I do understand, we’re going by car. Most of the bags are dog’s stuff.

He takes some stuff down to the car and I am to follow with the dogs and the last few bags. He phones, asking if I need help – I am taking longer because I have to close up the flat, take the rubbish out, etc. and this is all taking rather longer than expected and, certainly, rather longer than he would like.

The dogs are already driving me crazy. They know that something is happening and are constantly under my feet. I admit to being a little stressed by them but I know that once I have them in the car everything will be alright!

I get to the car, laden with stuff AND trying to keep the dogs under control. We get the dogs in (then I know they will be fine), then I start to put some bags behind my seat. And this is when it starts. He is frustrated, obviously, and starts taking it out on me – complaining that I have too much stuff (which is, probably true – a ‘dog-walking coat (in case it rains), shoes for walking in the rain, a jacket in the evenings(in case it gets chilly – we shall be in the mountains/hills, etc.).

He grabs some of the bags I have just arranged and puts them in the footwell, at his feet (which means he cannot sit properly), grumbling and complaining – “Why have you got 4 books?”, as an example.

I try to explain that there is room behind my seat but he’s not listening to me.

We go. Most of the journey is in silence except for the CDs he has made and his ‘baby talk’ to Dino.

I am not stressed but I am silent since I don’t know what to say and I am not stupid enough not to know that anything I might say may spark him off. I lived with V for 20 years. I know he hates me driving (but hates driving himself even more). He needs to chill out a bit – in general. Of course, I could suggest that but I’m not that stupid. Still, the journey is good with light traffic, so not stressful – at least, not for me!

We arrive at his brother’s place and everything seems good.

As we get our bags out of the car he says that we look like gypsies – so many bags. There is no point in arguing – and I can’t be bothered to argue with someone who won’t listen – this much I’ve learnt.

A, his sister-in-law, has prepared something to eat and we sit in the garden drinking and eating. It is lovely but although the weather is warmish, it is considerably colder here than it was in Milan! We go to bed – early. Johnny has to be up for work early in the morning and, anyway, we are tired (and some of us are fractious, it seems).

We discuss taking the dogs to the beach and decide to wait and see what time we get up in the morning. He watches some television and I start to sleep. He switches the TV off. Unfortunately, that’s when it all kicks off. Dino, having had his ears (I mean to say, ear hair, of course) trimmed, finds, as in the past, that it is tickley. Every minute or so, he shakes his head vigorously, causing his ears to slap, rather loudly, on the sides of his head. Or, he scratches them – again loudly. Or, because he can’t settle, wanders round the very small bedroom, bumping into things. Whatever it is he is doing – it is keeping us awake.

F suggests, after much ‘cazzoing’ and ‘va fan culoing’, that he will go and sleep in the car. I say (because it is true), that I had already thought of me taking Dino there and staying with him. He replies that if I do that he will go and get a train, in the morning, and go back to Milan because ‘I am crazy like that’. He is angry – but what can I do? I say ‘I guess’.

He is obviously looking for someone to fight with.

He starts. ‘You made me come down here’. ‘You wanted to come and forced me to bring you’. Blah, blah. I wait until he is finished.

‘That is neither true nor fair’, I reply.

He gets up and leaves, taking the car keys with him. Oh well, if he’s going to be a stupid arse then let him be.

Dino almost immediately stops most of the scratching and head shaking and moving around – of course.

I resolve: tomorrow, after breakfast, I and the dogs are going back to Milan!

I wake at 6 a.m.

I have a shower

There is little time. Even for this post. Everything is catching up on me and, soon, things will start to fall off the table. It’s my normal state.

However, it doesn’t help that I am having to go away to a customer and F is already away in Spain this week. OK, so it’s only one night – but two, very long days. And there’s the dogs (and no F to look after them). Even he asked why it seemed that, every time he was in Spain, I had to go somewhere for work too! And he’d be right.

In addition, I have no hot water (still) and have had none since about last Wednesday night – so almost a week. Luckily F only lives five minutes away but, still ………..

And so, with everything to do last night (as I am going away today), the last thing I actually needed was to be traipsing over to F’s house to take a shower. And, just in case you’re wondering, yes, I do have a key and no, it’s not mine – it’s his and I am only borrowing it whilst he’s away. I come back about midnight on Wednesday and he comes back in the early evening of Friday.

And I have to explain to him that, sometimes, I just can’t not touch him and, so, sometimes I do things to make it difficult for me which he could misinterpret.

Anyway, last night, I combined the going to his place with taking the dogs out, so it wasn’t too bad. Dino got very excited when he knew where we were going but after a quick search of the flat realised that F wasn’t there after all!

He lay down at the bathroom door. I had a shower.

In the event that a volcano erupts, please panic!

When I was young, so less than half a century ago, we went abroad once. I was 14. Actually, that’s not entirely true. When I was about 5, my parents took me and my sister to Guernsey. I remember it because we had a thing called ‘High Tea’ about 5 p.m. This was for kids only and was something like beans on toast. I guess we didn’t have ‘Dinner’ later but I don’t really remember.

Anyway, I digress. Our holiday, when I was 14, involved a caravan trip. My parents reckoned (and they were right) that this would be the last holiday that we would go on as a ‘family’.

The six of us, with the caravan trailing behind us, overloaded with the awning in which the kids would sleep, made our way to Portsmouth (or maybe Weymouth) on the south coast and then, by ferry to France. We then motored through France to the south west, somewhere near Bordeaux.

It was before package holidays took off.

Before that, when I was about 10 or 12, I remember my father going to the USA on a business trip. I remember it because he brought back a gonk for each of us kids


and a pair of bright purple loons for me!

Loons - but not mine

Which I loved, by the way. And, anyway, no one in the backwater of Hereford had them, fashion not quite having reached Hereford by then (has it now?).

Certainly, when we went to Guernsey, we flew. This must have been very expensive as this was the days before package holidays and easy air travel. It was all more ‘exclusive’ then. a little bit special.

How different is it now? Now, we think nothing of hopping on a plane to go to the other side of the world. In fact, we consider air travel first when we think of going abroad – just like we shall be going to the UK at the end of July. It never even crossed my mind to go by rail or coach or any other means. It was just a matter of searching for the cheapest flight.

Which, of course, leads us to now. Now, with a volcano erupting and throwing ash everywhere. How very inconsiderate it is?

I feel sorry for the people ‘stranded’ far away from home. I know some that are. It is difficult. However, it is also an adventure! The adventure being to find another way home or to find something to do or somewhere to sleep or eke out savings or credit cards. It could be fun, if you put your mind to it.

I also feel sorry for those whose businesses rely on people being able to fly in and out of any country they wish – hotels, restaurants, the general hospitality industry. Then are those flower sellers in Nigeria (isn’t that close to some countries where people are currently close to starvation?) having to throw away all the flowers because they can’t fly them to Europe. Then, of course, there are the providers of exotic, perishable goods – with warnings that the shops will soon experience shortages (I’m sure it won’t make much of a dent in Tesco’s record profits for next year). Yes, all these people whose lives and businesses are affected – it’s really dreadful for them.

But, those of you who do read my blog often enough will know there’s always a ‘but’, lets’ take a little step back from this.

No one actually MADE these people go abroad for their holiday. If you have a business, think how it was done back in the 60s – one rarely flew abroad for business then, did one? So, if you ARE stranded, before getting angry that no one has yet come to save you, think, perhaps about why you are there and get on with getting back. There are ways. They still have ships plying between New York and the UK, for example! And, apparently, you can book from (anywhere) on board some freighter ships!

If you’re stuck in the EU or the USA, remember these are civilised countries and there will be help available, if you look hard enough. If you’re stuck in some shit-hole, please try to remember that you CHOSE to go there. If it’s not ‘civilised’ – well, what was the point in going there if all you were going to do was stay in a four-star hotel and sip drinks on the terrace?

And then there is the coincidental loss of business.  I do feel sorry for the Nigerian ‘farmers’ forced to throw away all those exotic flowers they grow so that (said in voice using received pronunciation – i.e. like what the Queen speaks) ‘one can have a rather glorious flower arrangement for one’s table’ – but I just can’t quite get my head round the fact that, on the same continent, there are people dying for want of food!

No, there’s something wrong somewhere, for certain.

To be honest, our little experience was all rather fun and interesting – but, then, it wasn’t me with the problem – I was just helping. And, as I write this, I see that flights are, again, coming in to Malpensa and Linate and, in fact, flying all over Europe!

But the things I have written above was brought about because people are starting to get angry, it would seem. Angry? Are you joking? 40 or 50 years ago only the rich would be in this position. Now everyone is at it but still they expect it to be ‘handled’ by the government. They expect that they shouldn’t be ‘ripped off’. The world is a crazy, crazy place.

But I kept thinking about the air safety drill, given on board aircraft before you take off. You know?

In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, masks like this one will come down from the panel above your head.

In the event of us landing on water, you will find the lifebelt under your seat.

In the event that a volcano erupts, please panic!

>p.s. I just want to add that there are some people for whom I feel genuinely sorry. Not everyone has a credit card to enable them to get home or family or friends who will help. It’s just the people that get so angry about it all and I keep on thinking – but no one actually MADE you go there in the first place!