Ryanair kicked me in the ribs, Mr O'Leary
04 May 2013
Posted at 10:35 Comments (4)
I SUPPOSE it was fated to happen after all the bashings I’ve given to the airline the world hates to love.
Not satisfied with fleecing me of 50 euros on the outward trip, Ryanair kicked me in the ribs on my return flight to Alicante from Manchester.
Well, I’ve got to blame someone - and they’re used to it!
I’ve been doubled up in pain for the last 10 days, with the prospect of two more weeks explaining why I’m crawling about like a 90-year-old crab.
After my heinous crime on the flight to the UK (and the €50 fine levied by a human Rottweiler at the boarding desk who would have preferred the death sentence), I arrived at the departure gate in Manchester prepared for a handbag war.
I’d replaced the criminally large one I took to England with a mini-handbag which fitted easily into my hand luggage and took my place in the Ryanair ‘Priority’ queue ready for the flak to fly as it had at Alicante.
No such luck - Jonny Rottweiler and the Air Pirates were nowhere in sight, just a couple of polite lady pussy cats.
Here was the reality of ageism. The young Spanish jobsworths at Alicante had both been in their twenties. The British-Asian women who checked me through the boarding gate at Manchester were double their age – and consequently graduates in tact and diplomacy.
Before joining the queue, I had plonked my 10 kilos of cabin luggage into the Ryanair size rack and, surprise surprise, it just about fitted. But then, of course I couldn’t get it out. I pulled and pulled and eventually a male passenger did the job for me.
I half expected Rott-man to appear with a set of scales and weigh my bag in at 10.1 kilos. Which I presume would also incur a €50 fine.
Come to think of it, why do Ryanair not check the weight of hand luggage carried by passengers with online boarding cards? (I shouldn’t have mentioned that. They might get ideas).
Anyway, on to the meat of this article - how Ryanair condemned me to suffer.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere at Manchester airport, I was happy enough to get past the boarding gate. A particularly helpful gentleman (yes, they do still exist) helped me get my 10 kilos’ worth aboard and I settled into my reserved front-row window seat (at €10 extra, a snip for creaking oldies).
OK Mr O'Leary, you win. Please put us down
Two po-faced women were already filling the two adjacent seats. I smiled at the fatty wedged next to me and made a light-hearted comment designed to break the ice. She froze me out with one cold look. No problem, I thought, she’s probably foreign and didn’t understand me.
She turned to her pal and spouted something in fluent Jamie Carragher. There we are, I knew she was foreign.
As passengers without reserved seats (which was virtually everyone) funnelled through the plane, the male steward asked the Liverpool lasses if they had reserved the seats they were in.
‘’You can’t sit here then,’’ he told them, to my intense pleasure. “Anywhere after Row 6, please.’’
Reluctantly, the Liver Birds headed for the rear of the plane, to be replaced by two suited young Spaniards who DID have reservations. Great, I thought – convinced I’d get in a bit of Spanish practice during the ensuing two and a bit hours.
No chance. Los chicos babbled away so rapido that I barely understood a palabra – and I quickly realised they had nothing in common with a grumpy old geriatric.
Because of back problems, I have difficulty bending down. So when, soon after take-off, I dropped the Ryanair flight magazine, the sensible thing would have been to ask one of the Spanish guys if he could help.
But this was ‘Grabber Granny’ hour, so down I stretched to rescue the fallen literary classic.
After two or three failed attempts, I sat up again and thought ‘I’m making a fool of myself. I’ve got to get it next time.’
I lurched forward and felt a big crack in my lower ribs, accompanied by a fierce pulled-muscle type pain.
Since then, I have thought of little but Ryanair. When I’m not yelling for relief, that is.
I think of them when I wake up in the morning, when I sit down or stand up, when I get in and out of my car, in fact I never stop thinking about the floor of that plane.’ They had no right to put it there.
I’m in pain just about every second of the day. And I’m told the only cure for rib damage is rest and patience.
Michael O’Leary, you’re a cruel man.I have only word to say to you and your airline.
Back to Spain with a weight on my mind
06 January 2013
Posted at 03:03 Comments (3)
I AIN'T HEAVY, I'M
NOW that I’ve made it to the New Year, I’m about to get a huge weight off my mind. And off my chest. And off the equine girth that used to be my waist.
Because this fat filly has had a ’mare of a festive season on holiday in Manchester trying to prove that she really can eat a horse.
I would NOT normally reveal my weight under any circumstances. But even allowing for the fact that I am, to use a colloquial expression, ‘big boned’, I’m ashamed to admit that in the last 12 months or so, my weight has mushroomed by some 16 kilos. Or around two-and-a-half stone in old money.
In mid-2011 I tipped the scales at a bit over 12st, still far too much for a 5ft 5in woman and considerably more than I weighed five years ago. Now I am well over 14 stone…and that is way, way heavier than I have ever been.
Many expanding expats in their 60s would put the increasing corpulence down to the good life and do nothing about it. Which has been my strategy until now.
I also have too many friends who enjoy the occasional Indian or Chinese banquet at least eight nights a week – and who refuse to take my incessant screams of ‘no, no, NO’ for an answer. (OK, that’s a little weight lie).
Anyway, I have devised an ingenious plan (well, I think it’s ingenious) which will encourage me to lose weight and also raise money for a charity that means a lot to me.
I’ve been in the UK over Christmas and the New Year, but when I return to Spain next Tuesday (January 8) I plan to get myself weighed professionally and then launch the official Dumpy Old Gran Diet 2013 in The Courier, the newspaper I edit, next Friday.
If you want to join in the fun (not that I’ll be having any!) I’m looking for sponsors. All the sponsorship money will go to CICRA, a charity dedicated to creating a wider understanding of Crohn’s Disease in childhood. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease - and incurable. The choice was easy for me because two of my granddaughters have Crohn’s, and one of them, Daisy, has it so severely that she has been off school for two months, much of that time in hospital.
For my own health’s sake I simply MUST lose weight – and what better way to do it than to raise money for a good cause at the same time? I already have three stents keeping my coronary arteries open while my leg muscles and joints are becoming increasingly weaker as Parkinson’s Disease begins to its toll. Great fun, this life.
Never mind a Prima Donna, I want to be a Leaner Donna…and the quicker the better.
Because, to paraphrase the old Hollies hit…She Ain’t Heavy, She’s All Blubber.
IF you would like to sponsor my Dumpy Old Gran weight loss campaign, details are on https://www.justgiving.com/Donna-Gee
Why aging expats swap Spain for the rain
16 December 2012
Posted at 22:11 Comments (10)
EVERY DAY'S A
I’VE always been mystified when elderly expats, who clearly love the Spanish life, up sticks and return to the rain and pollution of over-populated Britain.
I know at least half a dozen couples who have turned their backs on the Iberian sunshine, always reluctantly, citing fears of deteriorating health and/or losing their partner.
“Why worry about healthcare?”, I’d ask. “The Spanish system is generally regarded as superior to the NHS in Britain. And as for being on your own, the expat community is awash with widows, widowers and never-weds all in the same boat.’’
I certainly don’t mind being on my own. It’s been fun going solo for the last couple of years and I couldn’t be happier. Apart, that is, from the fact I’m too old to dismiss my ever-growing waistline as a ready-to-drop papoose.
I certainly have more friends in Spain than I ever had in the UK, many of them, like myself, without partners. And I am never lost for something to do on the odd occasion my eyes aren’t glued to a computer screen.
However, during my current visit to spend Christmas with my family in Manchester, I’ve begun to see the idea of repatriation in a different light…or darkness even.
Yes, I am beginning to question how I would manage on my own in Spain if, as I fear, I become wheelchair bound and reliant on the assistance of carers.
Regular readers of my column (if there are any) will know that humour is the weapon I use to fight adversity. I dismiss the intermittent trembling of my left hand by admitting I have Parkinson’s Disease and adding: ‘If the shaking gets any worse, they’re giving me my own chat show.’’
As for my blocked cardiac arteries, I joke about my visits to the stentist, an Irish lady called Angie O’Plasty.
No one wants to hear this, but I have so many health problems that I’ll soon have an entry of my own in the official medical dictionary. I can see it now.
Donnagitis: A multitude of different complaints. A person who craves the invention of oral stental floss. (Give me a break from those damned angioplasties!)
But seriously, my mobility has deteriorated alarmingly this last few months and I know my problems will become progressively worse. Here in Manchester I have an amazing team of carers who are, quite simply, the best.
With two daughters and six grandkids here among the flatcaps and ferrets, I am beginning to ask questions of myself. I already struggle to get up from armchairs and sofas and get out of cars – so I’ve no hope of coping in Spain when I perpetually need winching up. The price of hiring a crane is outrageous as it is.
I never believed I would say this, but I am slowly resigning myself the fact I will one day return to the land of my birth. Still breathing, too..
Returning to the UK sounds so unlikely when I tell you I love every minute of living in Spain.
I live the dream – waking each morning to the accompaniment of bright sunshine and that indescribable atmosphere of ‘foreignness’. Just as I did 30 years ago, when family holidays in Spain were the highlight of my year.
I’d wake on the final morning of our stay and think to myself, ‘Hell, it’s so wonderful here and I’ve got to head back to England and work. I don’t want to go!’
This past couple of years I’ve been waking every morning and bursting (very badly) into song – my favourite being ‘’Every day’s a holiday in my house’’ (to no particular tune). It was going to be my anthem until that weird morning when I wake up dead.
Now I’m beginning to think I’d quite like to spend my final days ferreting for flat caps, if you get my drift (yes, even in the snow).
If I freeze to death, I’ve got to go sometime anyway. But at least my daughters will be there to wrap me up warm, look after me, and earn that inheritance they think I'm going to leave them...
Halloween expat bores pooped the party
17 November 2012
Posted at 22:21 Comments (0)
EVERY WITCH WAY
I’m not doing Halloween any more. I’ll stick to the Spanish version in future...or I fear I’ll be heading for the Old Fawkes Home pretty pronto.
It seems to me that the concept of dressing up on All Hallows Eve hasn’t got through to the older generation of Brits, as I discovered to my embarrassment on October 31.
|They always said I look like a witch
I suspect that most of them, like me, still find Guy Fawkes more interesting company than ghosts and vampires. But a Halloween party is a Halloween party, so I and three friends invested in some suitably demonic attire and eventually arrived at Retaurante St Joan in El Altet in full scary mode.
The other 32 guests got there before us – which wouldn’t have been difficult. Because only ONE person had made more than a token effort to join in the mood of the occasion.
It was all such a letdown…a ‘theme’ evening devoid of a theme. And the evening was only salvaged by the enthusiastic participation of the local Spanish community of all ages.
I can in a way understand the apathy of older Brits because when I was a kid, Halloween was an irrelevance. We were too busy celebrating the failure of Guy Fawkes and his boys to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
How weird…now had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded, that WOULD have been a reason to celebrate.
Back in the mid-20th century, we DID celebrate by hoisting effigies of the aforesaid Fawkes atop our bonfires on November 5 as fireworks lit up the sky.
Nowhere did we see ‘Trick or treat’ extortionists frightening grannies to death as they answered a ring on the doorbell. Instead, we con-kids would gently request a ‘Penny for the Guy’ from householders – and treat them to scowls and curses if they didn’t give us at least ten times that amount.
|Every witch way but fancy dress (apart from my quartet)
Those of us with a work ethic made an effort to create a Guy worth investing in. The lazy ones just shoved a mask on the smallest urchin in the gang and wheeled him from door to door in a battered dolls pram.
In Bonfire Night, we used to have a jolly good November celebration in the UK ...a celebration the whole family could enjoy..
But at some point, the Americans all emerged from Macdonald’s, put their fat mitts into the mix (yes, there were Mitts before Romney put on the election gloves) and shunted the Gunpowder Plot into oblivion.
As for selling Guy Fawkes to them, forget it. They say cutlery made specifically for men will never catch on in Albuquerque.
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) November 9, 2012
Diary of a special night in Guardamar
26 October 2012
Posted at 01:22 Comments (0)
WHY DO I HAVE FOUR
BIRTHDAYS A YEAR?
I USED to love birthdays. Particularly those big ones with a zero on the end. The ones when your boss would send you home early to have a quiet family celebration…only for all hell to let loose when you opened the front door.
One moment, silence and slight concern that nobody was in. Then, as you peered into the deserted hall, an explosion of noise as doors flew open, laughing faces appeared from nowhere, the kids rushed into your arms - and 100 voices burst into a chorus of you know what.
The party would go on forever as you ate, drank (too much) and caught up with the lives of surprise visitors from out of town and friends you’d all but lost touch with. Your boss and the colleagues who had masterminded the show would turn up after work and the party would go on through the night.
Yes, life was fun at 40…and blowing the candles out was a piece of cake.
How times change. Birthdays used to take forever to come round, yet I swear I’ve had four of them this year.
And the only good thing about the damned things is that if they keep coming, you know you are still alive.
I’d better amend that, because I don’t want my friends and to think I didn’t enjoy our little celebration at the weekend. Nineteen of us took our zimmer frames, hearing aids and skin tucks for a bit of a bash in Guardamar. It wasn’t a night at the Ritz, some would say more like the Pits. But, like so many local expats, my crowd love the bustle and boom of Vicente Jaen’s chaotic restaurant, where plates of freebie food fly at you from all angles before you even give your order – and then you are submerged by enough food to fill a herd of starving elephants.
There’s no written bill and the only till is the wad of notes tucked away in Vicente’s pocket. It’s all a bit of a shambles, really…but as irresistible as the march of time.
In the chaos, my plan for a table for 20 was redrawn as a 12 and an eight and I spent the evening sitting with my back to most of my guests. The experience confirmed my mathematical theory that the volume of noise generated by a boozing Brit is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. The longer we celebrated, the louder some of us got (not me, of course) - and the more disgusted looks headed like daggers in our direction.
It was all good fun and great to have so much support in the absence of my family, who are all in the UK. Thanks for the good wishes, cards and presents, guys, but you’ll have to remind me who gave what because everything got mixed up in the chaos of the evening.
One thing I did notice in the haze of alcohol (two gin and tonics - I can’t even get drunk these days) was that there were no candles on the cake.
Perhaps Restaurant Jaen is a no-blow zone, I thought. Because I could definitely have seen off all those little sticks of flaming wax. Well, three or four anyway - I can only eat a few in one sitting.
Anyway, in two years I’m due to hit another BIG birthday. I want whoever provides the cake to make sure it displays one candle for every year of my strife (pun intended).
I promise faithfully that when it comes to blows, every one of those candles will be extinguished in a couple of seconds.
And maybe the grandkids will let me help...
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es), October 19, 2012
The answer to burglars in Spain and the UK
07 September 2012
Posted at 02:22 Comments (9)
DEAD RIGHT, AMERICA!
IT’S not often that I praise the laws of God Bless America, but the fattest nation on earth have got at least one thing right.
If a lowlife breaks into your home, you are free to play The Terminator and save the cost of keeping him behind bars for a few years. (We’re talking heavy-handed Yanks here, not namby-pamby British wimps who’d send the villain on a luxury cruise on the QE2).
I’ve always been against free public ownership of firearms and America is testimony why. The evidence is overwhelming - countless massacres by nutters who can walk into a shop and buy a lethal weapon over the counter. That’s as mad as the archaic UK law that allows a homeowner only to use ‘‘reasonable force’’ to deter an intruder.
The fact the scumbag is trying to bludgeon you to death is merely coincidental. Just take your punishment like a good victim and the government will see you get a nice funeral.
Alan Duncan: Support for victims
I am told that Spain, surprisingly, has similar laws to the UK when it comes to burglars. Guardia officers from Guardamar advised members of my local Neighbourhood Watch this week NOT to take on robbers because the law favours them rather than their victims.
Just as it seems to have done with the Leicestershire couple arrested this week for firing a gun at four men who broke into their home in the middle of the night.
One of the villains called an ambulance, another went to hospital (nothing trivial, I hope) – and the husband and wife were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.
Although the intruders face prosecution for aggravated burglary, local MP Alan Duncan, a government minister, said: "The householder is the victim here and justice should support them and prosecute the burglars."
Problem is that Duncan and his cronies – the people who make the laws of the land – have yet to change the archaic legislation that burglars can treat their victims as if they were BBC TV’s Mrs Brown doing a head-hitter’s job on Grandad with her frying pan. Talk about a pain in the feck!
When TKO Radio disc jockey Rachel Angus confronted an intruder wearing a balaclava in her living room here on the Costa Blanca recently, the villain was probably more frightened than she was.
But had he moved menacingly towards her, what was she supposed to do? Leaf swiftly through the law books for an explanation of ‘reasonable force’ before he landed the first blow?
No, she should have whacked him over the head with any available ‘weapon’ – and if it killed him, tough.
Fortunately, I suspect the joke they call political correctness (and which chokes anti-crime activity in the UK) is not always respected in Spanish Guardia circles – particularly when they catch these scumbags in the act.
A friend once asked an officer what she should do if she and her husband ever cornered an intruder.
“Just put him face down in the nearest river - we won’t be rushing to find him,’’ was the Guardia man’s reported answer.
Why I am not the Murraying kind...
15 July 2012
Posted at 20:54 Comments (2)
MUCH as I would like to see a Brit win the Wimbledon men’s singles title, the Murray misery mob are not my type of heroes.
Yes, despite the fact I live in Spain, I was delighted when Rafa Nadal's exit opened the way for the Scottish sourpuss to go all way. And I felt for beaten Andy as he choked out that emotional Centre Court apology for losing last Sunday’s final.
But I switched to Federer’s side after it became apparent that the Murray entourage was shrouded in a grey cloud of depression. Even after he had won the first set.
Ever-dour Andy presumably inherited his semi-permanent sulk from his mum Judy, whose po-faced intensity frightened the life out of me every time the cameras focused on the old battle-axe .
And even Posh Spice’s pouted posturing was a more attractive alternative to the Scots racketeer’s expressionless girlfriend Kim Sears. To top it all we had to endure the mask-like mush of Ivan Lendl, the most miserable Grand Slam champion of all time, glaring across the court .
It was inevitable, then, that a big black cloud would bring the roof down on the Scottish sourpuss’s day.With the rain came the sun...in the form of the ever-pleasant Roger Federer and the irresistible tennis that permanently keeps the Swiss Master ahead of Murray in the world rankings.
Touching as the sour Scot’s on-court concession speech was, I found myself immersed in the smiles and waves of the Federer family. They may hail from another country but I felt as if I belonged in their world rather than Murray’s.
Give me the beaming faces of the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa savouring the action any day.
Or better still, the unbridled joy of Yorkshireman Jonny Marray (almost a Murray!) at becoming men’s doubles champion.
The 31-year-old Yorkshireman did what Murray didn’t – and you can be sure he’d also have compensated with a big smile even if he had lost.
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) July 6, 2012
Checking in the Ryanair way
02 June 2012
Posted at 11:48 Comments (3)
ONE IN THE 'I' FROM
I admit it. I’m paranoid about Ryanair. And it’s not fair on my pet cheapskate airline...or on me.
My tongue-in-cheek account of my flight to Manchester two weeks ago was, I now confess, a little over the top. I even blamed them for the ‘lobal’ warfare between my handbag strap and left earring at the security desk before I had even set eyes on anyone from Ryanair.
And the paranoia resurfaced last Thursday when I spent at least an hour trying in vain to check in for my return flight to Alicante. The check-in section simply would not accept my reservation details...and my warped mind decided there was only one possible reason. They had turfed me off the flight because of all the negative coverage I’ve been giving Ryanair in The Courier.
Either that or they had hatched a plan to charge me an extra 60 euros at the airport because I hadn’t checked in online.
Yes, this was Michael O’Leary versus Donna the Old Deary – and the Irishman had decided there was only going to be one winner.
You’ll gather from that last sentence that at this point I was also suffering from delusions of grandeur. Yes, Michael O’Leary actually had someone as insignificant as me in his firing line.
And he was now taking the Michael – for deliberately mixing him up with the other silver-tongued O’Leary who used to present the X Factor.
My reservation details listed the booking reference as QY312V – two letters, followed by three numbers and another letter. Quite simple and clearly noted at the time on my mobile phone calendar.
However, every time I attempted to ‘manage my booking’ in order to check in, I got a message saying the details did not match their own...and that I should re-enter them correctly.
On Friday morning, the problem persisted, so I took a deep breath and called Ryanair on their unexpectedly cheap reservations line. Within two minutes I was actually talking to a human voice with a body attached to it. A male one.
I had expected to be hanging on for 20 minutes and probably to run out of patience before I got through and slam the receiver down. But this was NOT the sort of treatment I had expected. I hadn’t even had time to work myself up into a very minor frenzy, never mind get angry.
The operator wasn’t interested in my name. He just asked me for my reservation reference . “I have it down as QY312V,’’ I said. “Q - Y - three - one - two - V.’’
‘’I tink you may find that is incorrect,’’’ came the reply. (No, he wasn’t Irish, I accidentally left the H out of think and don’t have time to go back). “It actually says QY3I2V, that’s Q - Y - three -the letter I - two - V.’’
I can see Dermot, sorry Michael O’Leary laughing at my stupidity. That’s one in the ‘I’ for me, he’ll be saying. What else can we do to annoy her?’’
Annoy her, paranoia... help, I need to see a psychiatrist!
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) June 1st, 2012
Are Spain's anti-smoking laws heading for the ash can?
31 March 2012
Posted at 15:59 Comments (44)
BEYOND A SMOKE!
THERE are growing signs that Spain’s long-overdue legislation to curb the fag brigade is going up in smoke.
I suspected at the time the anti-smoking laws were tightened in January 2011 that tobacco-obsessed Spaniards would not observe it.
And I’ve also been horrified recently that some Brits seem happy to risk a fine of up to €600,000 (as well as a horrendous death) by either smoking illegally themselves – or, in the case of some bar and business owners, allowing people to light up in enclosed bars, restaurants and even offices.
Clearly these people are playing with fire - both literally and metaphorically. They don’t seem to realise it only takes one puffed-off colleague or customer to turn them in...and they could be relieved of every cent they own. At least, that’s what the law says.
Realistically, we all know that the Spanish police and bureaucrats are about as straight as Julian Clary and Alan Carr pairing up with the Kray twins on Strictly Kill Dancing. And since the protectors of the state smoke just as heavily as its citizens, the words ‘nudge nudge, wink wink, puff puff’ come to mind.
Last weekend, a friend and I sat in the glass-fronted dining area of an upmarket, sea-front restaurant (I’m not saying where) and ordered a late lunch. Since the pullback roof was closed, we naturally we assumed the area was non-smoking. Until, that is, we noticed ashtrays on the tables.
To add fire to the fuel, three members of a loud, ignorant group of Spaniards proceeded to manipulate a suspicious-looking substance into a trio of pathetically thin roll-ups and to set them alight.
Within seconds, my pal and I were being passively poisoned via noise and nostrils combined.
“How come you allow smoking?’’ I asked a waiter. ‘’The room is closed in.’’
‘‘It is permitted for people to smoke,’’ he countered, pointing to a tiny gap between the slats of the removable roof. (Well, he indicated a gap – though I couldn’t actually see it). “We have ventilation and air conditioning, so it is not a problem.’’
Now, either I have got it all wrong, or the law brought in on January 2, 2011, banned smoking in enclosed public places. In bars and restaurants the exception was to be establishments with a maximum of two walls or without a roof.
Since diners in this particular restaurant are visible to every passer-by, I can only assume that the police choose to ignore a seemingly blatant flouting of the law. Or maybe there’s some obscure small print which frees the restaurant management of compliance?
There is, of course, another possibility…but I wouldn’t dream of suggesting anyone in Spain is corrupt.
Non-observance of the law is even worse in some places. A few days ago, for instance, a non-smoking friend went into a local Spanish bar for an early-morning coffee and was greeted by the sight of two Guardia Civil officers smoking away next to people eating breakfast.
“It goes on all the time,’’ my pal assured me, adding: “Personally, I wish smoking was allowed in set smoking areas in bars but not in restaurants or eating areas.’’
Sounds to me like they don’t need a law for that...they’ve designated the smoking bit already.
So much for the Spanish - what about the Brits who tell the legislators to go to blazes? The people who would not dare to defy the law in the UK, but seem to think it’s OK to bend the rules in Spain?
One publican admitted to me that when it’s cold, he takes a chance in the evenings by allowing smoking in the closed-in extension to his bar near Torrevieja.
“I know I’m taking a risk,’’ he said. “But my customers want to smoke and I don’t want to send them out into the road.’’
On the contrary, I could give him 600,000 reasons why he SHOULD send them out into the road.
I’m even more amazed by the smoker who lights up regularly in the open-plan office in which he works, just yards from his non-smoking boss and the entrance door.
Since smoke rises, the fumes drift to the office upstairs, not that the fumador is bothered. His defiance, despite the fact that the office’s few other addicts go outside to indulge their habit, astounds me as much as the fact that no one has made an issue of it. At least, not yet.
I just hope the person concerned sees the light before the law moves in. Or, worst-case scenario, a misplaced dog-end sets fire to the building and his boss suffers a fate worse than debt.
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) March 30, 2012
Going on a motorway trip in the UK? Join the queue!
05 January 2012
Posted at 22:47 Comments (1)
WHY DO ENGLISH ROADS
ALL LEAD TO GROAN...?
IT can only happen in England – and predictably, it did.
A rare venture onto a motorway during my three-week stay with my family in Manchester...and I spend seven hours crawling less than 200 miles down the M6 and M5.
Yes, the MDM struck again, just as it does every time I visit the UK. I’m talking about what is clearly a government order to the Maximum Disruption of Motorists department to cause drivers as much stress as possible through traffic delays.
I do as little driving as possible when I’m in England. It’s a pleasure to tootle around the Costa Blanca in my little Kia Picanto because traffic jams, diversions and road closures are as rare as a Manchester football team losing a Premier League match.
But while it takes me ten minutes to travel 10km from my home to the Courier office at any time of day, driving the same distance across Manchester is a good hour’s toil, thanks to heavy traffic, copious sets of traffic lights and random holes dug in the tarmac and dubiously titled ‘road works’.
I arrived in Manchester way behind schedule on the evening of December 16 - thanks to a morning snowstorm in Lancashire which delayed the departure of my flight from Murcia by five hours. After a quick visit to see my newly-born grandson at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital, my son-in-law attempted to drive me back to North Manchester via the M60 motorway, which encircles the city.
We were trying to travel anticlockwise from five o’clock up to to midnight but when we got to roughly 4 o’clock, damn it, the motorway suddenly came to an end. Flashing lights and diversion signs told us the M60 was closed anticlockwise. No reason...just a loopy re-route that took us back onto the clockwise carriageway.
So 20 minutes of the orbital clock became 40 minutes in reverse. Thanks guys, maybe in 100 years’ time you’ll reveal the reason why it’s necessary to shut down major motorways, just like that, with no explanatory notice, and force thousands of motorists to make 30-mile detours.
A five-minute lesson from the Spanish roads authority might be a good idea. They have this outrageous idea that you should keep major roads open at all times. Yes, even after a major incident involving the loss of life, they actually try to AVOID shutting down the road for a week? Or even a couple of hours!
Then, two days after Christmas, I set off in my daughter’s Rav 4 to visit my stepmother in Cardiff, accompanied by my two young granddaughters Talia and Daisy. ‘’There won’t be a lot of traffic,’’ insisted my son-in-law. ‘’Everyone is still on holiday.’’
So off we headed at 11am for what in the past has normally been a three-and-a-half hour drive - though admittedly I had tended to travel after the evening rush hour.
MDM time: No prizes for guessing which country!
Four hours after leaving Manchester, we pulled out of tha near-stationary 60-mile queue on the M6 and into Stafford services, hoping to find some sort of guide to the traffic ahead. A TV screen with a bold caption reading ‘Live Traffic Information’ told us precisely nothing about the gridlocked traffic ahead or behind – because the monitor was unplugged. The Highways Agency weren’t any help, either – because we couldn’t find anyone working for them.
Presumably because, like much of Britain’s 21st-century workforce, they were on their 14-day Christmas break.
As it happens, the queues did ease soon after we left Stafford services and crawled past junction 14. For the previous 30 miles overhead signs had been flashing regularly warning of ‘Long Delays, Junctions 14-12’. It was inevitable there would be no delays whatsoever between those two junctions...and of course, there weren’t any.
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