Thursday, 14 April 2016

Tata folks

Well, that’s lambing more or less done and dusted. Not been the easiest this year but we have a decent crop of lambs except for maybe the final pair, born to a yearling, which are so thin my wife has quite cruelly named them the Belson twins. Coincidentally, that is not the only reference to that ghastly atrocity of World War II as there has for some strange reason been a statue constructed in the centre of the Marmande bypass depicting the event. Although the origins of this bizarre stainless steel three metre high model are unclear, it shows three hunched people trudging along, chained together, and is apparently a reference to how the town played a prominent part in providing the train service for the crimes. One assumes it was erected to exorcise their guilt.  
April has, for me, been a month on the road, mainly in a hurry. Those lovely people working in air-traffic control disrupted my first trip, causing me to have to traverse the country by train, bus, taxi and finally, air. Just how in this day and age a few dissatisfied workers can cause so much commuting chaos is beyond comprehension but they do, because they can. With a four day business trip to Scotland condensed into three by their subsequent flight cancellations, the hours were long and painful as I also slotted in a 36 hour stint tiling the bathroom in our seaside house. Just 24 hours back home and we were off again to Paris, via Bordeaux, both of which, it has to be said are beautiful cities. This time we took in a rugby match en route. From there to London, the Midlands, London again, Calais and then finally home, for a week in my own bed – bliss! That week is very short, as I try and tie up far too many loose ends – I currently have 4 writing projects on the go – and get some well deserved sleep before it’s on the move once more. Next up Nottingham, Sheffield, Glasgow, none of which lay claim to UK’s best hotspots! Never being one to wish my life away, I certainly will be glad when the month is over and May brings some harmony and sunshine.
Anyway, hours in hotels, train stations and airports do give me occasional time to observe, and then rant. To start with, we have James Martin, that TV chef and apparent sex god who has, among his portfolio, a restaurant in Stansted airport. Ideal for a spot of breakfast you might think? Wrong. Well, not entirely incorrect, just that a big sign saying ‘proper breakfast here’ is not accompanied by that basic requirement, a menu. Me: can I see a menu? Chef: What is it you are looking for, darling? Me: um, breakfast. Chef: well, you certainly are in the right place, what did you have in mind, darling? I resisted the temptation to sarcastically demand a concoction of Belgian Duroc bacon and south Rhodesian hens eggs, in case they might actually have them! Me: errr, ehm, what have you got? This absurd conversation went on so long my flight is being called. Eventually I settled on a bacon roll, with no idea of what I would cost nor what else I was missing out on.  Twelve quid later and I realise that pretty-boy James is not such a mug after all!
12 hours later I am in my hotel room, battling with technology in order to connect to the internet, whilst simultaneously running a bath. Have you ever noticed how powerful the water pressure always is in hotels? No, nor me, really – until not only is the bath full to the brim with scolding water, but the entire bathroom. Stepping through two inches of the stuff in my socks to try and switch the tap off resulted in near third degree burns and then the hour long job of mopping it up, with one towel, took me past last orders for dinner and I have to take the car to a local garage for a pack of sandwiches.
Just four days after that I get another chance for that oh-so relaxing bath but this time a knock on the door disturbed the peace. Obviously the words ‘who is it?’ translate into French as ‘enter’, and in comes a maid, her eyes like saucers as she hastily retreats with a face as red as a London 2-decker. Thankfully she later resisted to opportunity to mention that ‘she didn’t recognise me with my clothes on’ whilst serving breakfast!
Finally a stay in a rather plush hotel near Stansted airport which has an incredibly large wine tower in the centre of the bar. Holding a good few thousand bottles, the only way each one can be collected from its slot is by a ‘wine angel’ - an athletic girl who ascends the tower in mesmerising fashion supported by a couple of thin wires. En-route she incorporates a few well practiced gymnastic moves, swirling head-over-tail like a beautiful starfish until she gracefully lands back behind the bar and hands it over. I have to admit my wine was a little too shaken up when it arrived - especially the tenth bottle!

The next time I write this column it may be as an outcast citizen as the nation goes to the polls. The subject of politics is something I tend to stay well clear of, despite the temptation to ridicule the phoneys who haplessly head up the common government. However, these last couple of weeks listening to their childish bickering on every media has made up my mind – which is basically to bid Britain Cheerio faster the country has said Tata to its steel industry!

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