Come Fly the Friendly Skies

May 19, 2015

So we made it to Colorado, despite the best efforts of our airline which should really remain nameless although alert readers may just be able to take a guess at which one from the title. It didn’t help that we were booked to fly from Glasgow to Colorado Springs via Newark (sensible enough) and Houston (geographically senseless) – and when we got to Newark, we discovered our flight to Houston was delayed for three hours making catching our connection impossible. The airline-which-shall-remain-nameless was on top of the situation, though, and had booked us through on the next available flight from Houston to Colorado Springs, which was at 9am the next day.

‘So will the airline be putting us up in a hotel?’ we asked. The Customer Service woman looked at us as if we’d asked for the moon on a stick, dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. ‘No, we wouldn’t do that,’ she said.* Could we claim a refund? ‘Well, you can go to our website and click on our feedback form,’ she suggested, to a hollow laugh from the other half. Could she suggest anywhere we would be able to stay near Houston airport? ‘No I don’t know anything about the Houston area’ (Unfortunately she was not adjusted for sarcasm so this one went straight over her head). Could we phone our relatives who would otherwise be setting out to meet us? Well yes, we did at least get a phone call – after all, suspected murderers get nothing less – so while the other half was phoning up his parents to let them know the bad news, I went over to the departures board to have a look.

Back to the customer services desk. Could we get on that flight to Denver that was departing in an hour or so? She looked at her computer. Why, yes we could. And there was a connecting flight to Colorado Springs that would only get us in an hour later than planned – and with no need to go via Texas. Result. No guarantees that our luggage would go with us, but at this point we didn’t care (and it is, as we speak, being delivered by someone called Richard, having had an impromptu overnight stay in Houston; the luggage, that is, not Richard**). As to why the airline-that-shall-remain-nameless hadn’t thought of this itself, I have no idea. I suspect it just doesn’t have the sort of finely-tuned seek-out-an-alternative instinct that years commuting in London instils in you… Or maybe it just didn’t give a toss.

So after only 20 hours travelling we finally arrived in the lashing rain, to discover that the weather gods had preceded us by some days, presumably not having had to travel via US carriers, and the desert is looking a whole lot greener than it normally does. Indeed, the weather has been rather more Southwest Scotland than the Southwest. But the in-laws’ bikes have been brought out of the garage and patched up enough for another couple of weeks’ use … and checking the height of the water in the Fountain Creek is now the new checking the level of the ford.

*You know all that burdensome red tape that company bosses are always complaining the EU weighs them down with? Things like ‘if you strand your airline passengers in Texas overnight because reasons, you have to actually make sure they have somewhere to stay’? These are exactly the sort of regulations that those dastardly Eurocrats in Brussels are strangling red-blooded businesses with. The bastards.

** Update: just as I was about to post this, it arrived.

Lest we Forget

May 7, 2015

The problem with getting involved in something that leaves you stupidbusy for weeks, is that – when it’s finally over, and the thing you rashly got involved with a few days later is also over, and you’ve had the weekend when you didn’t manage to do anything except look dazed and delete an accumulation of emails, some of which you discover you subsequently still need* – then you discover that not only do you now have an accumulated month’s worth of stuff to do and about two weeks to do it in, but that your brain has quietly fried itself under the strain and is no longer capable of retaining all the things it needs to do.

Which is presumably why I have in recent days managed to schedule something on a Monday morning forgetting that every Monday morning is spent crouched over a keyboard frantically summarising 700 bike blog posts into one not-exactly coherent narrative, forgotten to do something I’d promised someone I’d do about a week ago, forgotten to pick up cocoa on my way back from Bigtown this afternoon, which is a problem when you’ve invited several hungry cyclists to join you for a 46-mile anniversaire jaunt at the weekend and you need to feed them brownies, and – just now – forgotten I’d left the washing out on the line with an overnight frost forecast (and while I’m at it, what’s with all the frost in MAY, Weather Gods?)

At least I did not forget to vote, although I did forget to post this in time to remind anyone else to vote, so there’s no point in linking to this.

Meanwhile, if I’ve promised to do something and not got back to you about it, now might be a good time to send a little reminder …

* Fortunately every email anyone sends these days includes the text of all preceding emails in it so all you have to do is wait for someone to send you a reply (and can also be quite illuminating when they get forwarded on to us trailing unintentionally revealing content…)


March 3, 2015

We’ve been visiting my parents’ for the last few days, enjoying an enforced broadband holiday due to either incompetence on BT’s part or the incredible coincidence of my parents’ router stopping working at exactly the same time as their engineers were doing something to the lines locally.

I’d love to say that I took the opportunity to free myself from the tyranny of the screen, reconnect with my loved ones, and made the most of this opportunity to get on with the things that really matter; I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how much time I instead spent pecking away at emails on my phone and fleeing to the free WiFi (but rather expensive beverages) of Costa Coffee in Berwick when things got out of hand.

However, it has allowed me to boil my blogging down to the following concentrated essence. I might not have gained much time out of the experience, but look how much time you have saved:


potato day sold out

Potato day. Starts at 11:00 am. Do not, whatever you do, arrive any later than, say 11:15…

Sally Port gate in Berwick

You’ve got to love a town that reserves a special gate just for you

snow on hills

Home again. Clouds gathering over Bigtownshire, as per usual

Ancient History

February 17, 2015

Of all the things I needed this afternoon, with a busy evening planned (of which, possibly, more anon), and an hour or so to kill in town, having the cash machine to decide to reboot itself in the middle of giving me some cash, was probably somewhere between ‘a hole in the head’ and ‘a slap in the face with a wet fish’.

Adding insult to injury, was the fact that, as it rebooted itself and I stood there staring at it, only just coming to terms to the fact that I was about to be left with no cash and no means of getting cash and no means of buying anything without cash, I noticed that the cashpoint was running on OS2 Warp.

For those of you of tender years, OS2 Warp was the operating system IBM brought out in the early nineties to challenge Windows and my first ever proper job in IT was porting software onto it, which will tell some of you just how ancient I really am, and certainly in IT years.* It was a steaming pile of matters arising then, and I don’t imagine it’s much better now. ‘Isn’t rebooting something supposed to make it work again?’ asked the other half when I texted him to bring me over some cash. From what I remember of OS2 Warp, nothing short of percussive maintenance with an axe was going to make a cash machine running OS2 Warp better which – curiously enough – was exactly what I wanted to do.

And how was your afternoon?

*Only last night I was reminiscing happily about the Y2K panic, which some of you may have heard your grandparents talk about.

Pass the Dutchie on the Left Hand Side

February 12, 2015

So you’re in a meeting, and there’s a plate of biscuits in the middle of the table, and you’re the only one who cycled there, and it took you 45 minutes and you had to cane it into a headwind because you were late. Everyone else is doing a sterling job of ignoring the biscuits but finally somebody does start passing the biscuits round but in the opposite direction from you, and some people take a biscuit and pass them on, and some politely refuse a biscuit and pass them on, and just as it’s coming up to you, someone takes the plate, refuses a biscuit and puts the plate down beside them without passing it on.

Seriously, how long before you crack and reach for the biscuits? I think I lasted 20 minutes. In my defence, some of them were chocolate ones.

Sometimes I think all meetings with the council are not so much meetings but carefully staged psychological experiments. Which, thinking about it, would explain a lot.

Small Victories

January 24, 2015

It sometimes seems as if the embuggerisation of modern life – the process by which large corporations gradually shave away at the corners of customer service in defence of their bottom line by making their customers do the work that they used to pay staff to do while simultaneously trying to squeeze as much cash out of them as they can – is unstoppable and unrelenting. But sometimes, just sometimes, the customers fight back. And sometimes, just sometimes, they actually win. And it seems that one such tiny victory has been acheived in Bigtown, at least for now.

Normally I avoid buying my paper in WH Smith ever since they abandoned the honesty box system in favour of making you stand in an enormous queue made only longer by the need for the poor cashiers to upsell something to every single customer (would you like a bottle of water for 50p with your paper? Unfeasibly large bar of chocolate? Or how about a useless voucher that gives you 50% off everything except newspapers, books, magazines, unfeasibly large bars of chocolate and indeed everything else we actually stock in this shop?). Then, just before Christmas they brought in self-service tills, an act of genius in a shop that sells things like newspapers (which are often bought with vouchers which are enormously fiddly to use on those machines) and tobacco – which now has to be kept under the counter.

Naturally, the good people of Bigtown studiously ignored the self-service tills, as is only right and proper, and simply queued up for the remaining tills, and when I went in this morning it seems as if the customers might have won. Bigtown WH Smith still has the loathed self-service tills in place, but when I went in this morning I found they had simply turned one of them round and put a cashier behind it to ‘help’ the customers by basically scanning everything through herself, taking their money, dealing with the vouchers and issuing receipts. Presumably as far as head office is concerned, the self-service tills are doing wonderfully well – and as far as Bigtown is concerned, things are back to normal. Indeed, we’re rather better off than before, because the machines aren’t expected to do any upselling, so we no longer have to fend off huge bars of chocolate when we’re in a hurry for our change, although we do still get the useless vouchers. All they have to do now is bring back the honesty box system and my life will be complete, although I suspect what will actually happen is that head office will discover the ruse and crack down on it, and we – customers and staff – will be re-educated to use the self-service tills if it kills us all. It is, after all, the modern way.

Squatters’ Rights

January 22, 2015

I suspect just by posting this I will reveal just how very unsuited I am to yoga – no doubt I should be all about letting go of material things and concentrating on inner beauty and all that – but there is a problem: someone has stolen my spot in yoga class. I’m not sure if this is the normal way of things in yoga classes, but everyone else has been coming for aaaages and they all have their favoured spots, so newcomers get directed to a free place, usually the emergency newbie spot beside the teacher, but I lucked out early on when someone dropped out and I got a yoga-mat-sized slice of prime real estate in the corner under the heater and right by the mirror so I can discreetly check that my downward dog is channelling a stretching whippet rather than, say, a giraffe at waterhole, in so far as my hamstrings will allow.

All was going well until I had to take a break from yoga due to my hernia op. The first week back after Christmas, the class wasn’t very full and I could resume my place without any problem. But then last week – disaster. The class was rammed with both all the old timers and some newcomers and when I got there SOMEONE WAS IN MY SPOT. To add insult to injury she was wearing a top with ‘Yoga Bunny’ on it, which I feel is a low blow. I think she may have started coming while I was away and been assigned my favoured place, meaning I am now back to square one, relegated back into the newcomer’s spot alongside someone who was there for the first time. Or worse – for this week not only was yoga bunny still in my spot, still wearing the yoga bunny top, but I was assigned to a temporary place because someone couldn’t make it that week. I am now effectively homeless in my yoga class, a transient, carting my yoga mat from place to place, with a new neighbour to get used to every time. This is seriously unsettling

The only solution, other than turning up half an hour early and reclaiming my territory that way, which I suspect is a major breach of yoga etiquette and besides may start an arms race I can’t hope to win, is to wait it out and hope that yoga bunny sees the light and takes up pilates or Zumba or something more suitable, leaving me with vacant possession. Barring any further surgery, I should be able to outwait her. She may be more punctual than me, but I have both time and patience on my side, and besides, I’m not having to do yoga with me glaring at me resentfully from an inferior temporary spot in the draught from the door, if you see what I mean. At least it gives me an incentive to turn up rather more regularly than I was in the past, which should be good for my neck and back. Or at least it would be, if only I could ungrit my teeth…

And breathe…


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