Monday 15 April 2013


Having recently written about discovering new words, I would now like to make one up - angerportia - the hatred of airports, and I suffer from an extremely acute dose of it! So how delighted I am today on arrival at one of Britain’s most miserable hotspots in the airline world, Bristol airport, to hear those immortal words ‘your plane is delayed’! For two fucking hours!
So far I have been here for two minutes, having got soaked on the way from the hire-car return depot, which is situated somewhere near Cornwall, and already I am a screaming psychopath whom every one gives a wide birth to. Why do airport security staff have to be so belligerently unfriendly? What is it about the job application that attracts the most unpleasant people in the land to apply? These failed traffic wardens seem not only out to make your airport experience as unbearable as possible with their barked orders and scowls that would curdle milk, but I am sure they go out of their way to make grown adults cry with fear or rise to the occasion with reactive aggression just to get their kicks. Oh how I would love to have delivered one of those!
In a bid to further inconvenience travelers, I note that this airport, along with a few more in England, have recently seen the need to charge for baggage trolleys. Now this I would understand, were it a returnable fee to encourage users to return them as they do in some supermarkets, but they don’t. This is a non-refundable fee of one pound or - get this - 2 euros! Yes, yet another wonderful display of discrimination against anyone non-British. No wonder the rest of the European economy is in such a mess with exchange rates like that? But then I got around to some smart thinking to brighten my otherwise miserable day. If I have paid for this trolley, that means they don’t want it back - SO I CAN TAKE IT HOME! Well I can’t today as I am flying to France and the old wobbly three wheeler wont fit in my hand luggage. But I will next time I am here. In fact I might buy quite a few. At a quid each I could get perhaps 50 if I save my pennies, and then fasten them all together and tow them home back up the M5. To research my cunning plan yet further I find that I could probably get a fiver each for them on ebay, which is an even bigger profit than the airport is making on exchanging one pound for 2 euros! Another idea would be to flog them to Tescos, or Lidls. Or perhaps other airports who don’t have enough. Watch the NASTAC index for to make it into the Footsie 100, very soon.
Anyway, back to the indoors of this godforsaken hellhole. I now need a seat for 2 hours, but there are none - save a few wooden church pews that would cause your coccyx to disintegrate were you to sit on them for more than 30 seconds. Not only that but there are no tables either; well, unless you want to sit amongst the debris that the last 8 fat families have troughed from, while their kids write graffiti in ketchup all over the Formica using words I am quite glad I don’t understand. At the bar I ask the bored 12 year old barman if they are short staffed, as his 3 colleagues watch me suspiciously. No, he says, looking round at his buddies. When I suggested that that may like to clear the tables he looked at me as though I had 3 heads, and then smirked. I must admit, I didn’t hold out much hope for a positive reply and was awaiting the excuse that he wasn’t qualified to do such highly skilled jobs, or maybe he hadn’t time as he had some homework to finish. However, it appears that someone was already allocated to the task, a lonely woman, but she was on her break. After an hour I did the job myself, just so that we could sit down. This got me a telling off from said lady, because I wasn’t qualified, obviously. ‘You trying to get me fired?’ she asked. ‘No Mamn, if I had anything to do with your employment, you wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place, as I would have trained your bar-monkeys to do it in their spare time!’
Next I get chance to use their free internet wifi, except that, before I can get online, I now have to register all my details on their database so they can sell it to every marketing company in the world in exchange for a whopping 30 minutes free use of their service, after which I will be charged £75 per minute. So blessed am I with this free time so I can check my emails and post on Facebook to people I have never met about how much I hate Bristol, England, UK and possibly the whole of planet earth. This inevitably gets me into heated arguments with some bearded man from Temple Meads who swears at me using symbols and acronyms that I unable to decipher. Just when it is getting meaningful I have to log off, for fear of spending my life savings in this futility.
Ok, so only one and a half hours left. What to do? I wonder around the glitzy duty free shops which are more expensive than Fortnum and Masons, as smiley staff grin at me with perfect teeth, and call me sir. I can’t help thinking that maybe they should apply a little role exchange in this place, putting these glamorous supermodels in charge of the security where they could be pleasant to people who need it. Then the power-crazed hideous aggressive bastards from security could take their jobs in the shops and nobody would buy anything and be ripped off! A win-win all round, I say. Maybe I will write a letter to someone and suggest it. Or perhaps post it in Facebook and see what my bearded Bristolian friend thinks.
Finally I take to reading the newspaper which is filed with a thousand pages about how wonderful Maggie Thatcher was, and that we should all pin pictures of her on front doors as a mark of respect.  Except that when our doorbell went ding-dong we would all be arrested for taking the piss! The witch IS dead, long live the witch.
Well, old iron knickers, although I will admit I was a fan of yours at the time and do have some respect for the way you stood up and stamped on socialism, I have to say that it is you I blame now, for allowing the masses to sell their Dad’s council houses and fritter the profits away on foreign holidays, thus cluttering up our airports with their screaming tattoed children and designer luggage - when all I want to do is sit in silence!

Saturday 13 April 2013


I don’t know about you but I love that programme for anoraks on TV entitled QI. So much so that today I have downloaded a book of its 1200 most interesting facts, which has whiled away a couple of amusing hours, causing me to chuckle out loud (COL). I feel immediately obliged to share a few of these with you this month, in the name of factual entertainment - if only so that you can pass them on at dinner parties.
For example, did you know that in 1997, 39 people were admitted to hospital with tea-cosy related injuries? A little known fact, indeed. Or that, in 1915, Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest and came 11th? Canned food was invented 48 years before the tin opener, Mark Roget, who invented the thesaurus, also invented the slide rule and that, if you so wish, you can rent Liechtenstein for 70,000 dollars per night, for a minimum of two nights. It sleeps 900!
Now these are not things that any human is deemed to be aware of, unless of course you are planning a massive lederhosen party, but none the less, fun to know.
My reason for discovering these facts and, indeed, for having the novelty of a few hours of spare time to digest them, is that I am currently on a Ryanair flight back to UK, to do some research. No I am not writing a new version of Johnson’s dictionary, just more of the cattle research that is currently occupying the majority of my working day. For the next 5 days I will be touring Aberdeenshire, visiting some rather clever people who have added their mark to the history of that magnificent beast, the Aberdeen Angus. Among these include a rather heraldic lady, whose titles include Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire, by the name of Lady Quiet-a-few-surnames, from Ballindalloch castle, whose great grandfather was one of the breed’s founders. I also have to see a 88 year old man who once sailed to Argentina with a boat load of cattle, to hear first hand the story of one particular bull which firstly fell ill and then fell over the side. The fact that he had cost upwards of 20, 000 guines, was subsequently discovered to be infertile, and was well insured, apparently had nothing to do with his coincidental midnight swim!
My only hope is that the April weather will not dump me in snow drifts higher than the Cairngorms, as UK continues its extensive winter.
Having said that, our pilot just announced that the weather in Edinburgh airport was 5 degrees warmer than the day we have just left behind in Bordeaux. Yes, France has suffered at the hands of mother nature too, although our odd frosty night and chilly day doesn’t quite stack up to the depths of weather seen in Rock over the first few weeks of April. Ok, I won’t rub it in, but I did get sunburned last week whilst trimming a hedge in my shorts!
Aha, moving on just in time, my rant this month is a little disjointed as the captain announced that he was about to land the plane and would I turn that bloody machine off as it was disturbing his concentration. So now I continue from the middle of a snow covered forest near Ballater, 200 miles and 24 hours later, where a large stag is eyeing me suspiciously through the trees. For the last few hours I have traversed the Cairngorms via single track roads as the satnag directs me the shortest route from here to there. Were there an override button that suggested we avoid snow drifts over 1 metre high I might have pressed it but, without the aid of a map, I have little or no choice but to follow her mundane commands. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised to find myself on a ski-run, but evidently it was the shortest route and we did enjoy some majestic scenery. It was only a green run though, although I do have to apologise to those couple of beginners who fell over when I blew the horn for them to get out of the way as I slid down towards the drag-lift. Anyway, all is now calm again, although I have no idea where the hell I am. You see, satellite navigation is only really helpful when it can directly contact the metal transmitter that is orbiting the earth. In this instance, this would be nigh on impossible, judging by the depth of this forest, coupled with the thick black cloud looming over head, but hopefully they will all be reconnected soon enough for me to reach my destination. Otherwise, would someone kindly alert the mountain rescue services within the next few days and send me supplies, and possibly a rifle and a stove. At times like these it is nice to comfort myself with learning new words, such as ‘Nomophobia’ - the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. Strangely enough, I just went through a village called Dunniken, a few miles back. And there was I thinking that name was just a Scottish myth!
Assuming I do get out in one piece, on my return to France next week we have the builders in to install our new septic tank. I know it might appear a little strange to be excited about such an event but, due to a mountain of French bureaucracy, we have actually been waiting for this for over 3 years! Even now, a power-crazed little man in a white van will have to make no less than 4 visits to check we are doing it right, at the right depth, in the right place and woe betide us if we don’t. Then will follow 3 frantic weeks of jigsawesque pipe assembly in a hope to get it all connected so that our late April guests wont have to pee in the bushes.
Meanwhile, the invites are out for our annual May bash, which this year will also encompass a 6 nations championship all of our very own, as we have arranged golf, table-tennis and pool to be undertaken in order to spice up the event and give folks something to occupy their time instead of drinking themselves into oblivion in the summer sunshine! By evening, this will culminate in a quiz - hence the swatting up on irrelevant facts - and prizes will be handed out to the soberest team. Judging by the current entrants, I don’t hold out great hopes for Scotland!
They say deaths come in three’s, a bit like busses and nuns, and this week has seen some of those. Firstly I learn of my Auntie Gina, my mother’s cousin, whom I barely knew, save for photos of her and Mum swanning around the French Riviera in their bikinis, glamourously wooing the local boys and posing for the cameras. Then, we hear about the Iron Lady herself, which signals the end of an era of unparalleled democracy. As notes of respect for Maggie come flooding in from world leaders, you have to marvel at the hypocrisy of most these people who at the time either couldn’t stand her or were terrified of the old dragon. Can’t say I saw one from Galtieri though, nor Mr Scargill for that matter, but maybe she has seen them off in more ways than one?
Finally I get sad news of the death of one our old sheep breeding adversaries, Big Gavin Shanks. Now Gavin was a gentle giant of a man who for many years excelled at the Highland Games and once tossed the caber for Scotland. He was a large as life character and extremely popular amongst sheep breeding circles for many years and will be sorely missed. I hope the Big Yin is up there handing round the drams and entertaining Gina and Mrs T in the same way he had always done when I was in his company.