Tonight is the last night of being a certain age and moving swiftly into my next year. If you are like me you don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on the past year, it is usually thinking about how old I am getting. I decided that this year I would not move forward until I recognised and appreciated the year that was about to finish. So much has happened in the last 12 months it hardly seems possible it all took place in such a short period of time. Let’s see…four weddings, one wedding announcement, one baby announced and newly arrived, a visit from my Mom and Dad, an incredible trip back to San Diego to see all of our friends, the trip continued to Georgia for one of the aforementioned weddings and a wonderful visit with the happy couple, 4 trips back and forth to Pune India and a whole new world of first time experiences, one high school graduation, the trip of a lifetime, to South Africa, planned and paid for…those were some of the good things but like every year it has had its sad times as well; the loss of my much loved Mother-in-Law, the loss of a friend (way before her time) and the loss of my little Westie (Maggie). Alongside these major life events ran the little things in life; meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones.
It has been a full on 365 days and I didn’t want it to pass by without recognising, appreciating and learning from it before moving on to the next chapter of my journey through life. I hope before your next birthday you can do the same.
If you don’t do a lot of Business travel you are probably thinking how can First and Business Class have any downsides when compared to Economy Class. I think I have mentioned in the past that one unpleasantness when traveling long haul is the odour from flatulent co-travellers.
I now believe I have enough data to draw a scientific link between upper class travel and excessive amounts of intestinal gas. The cause of this is modern cabin design. You may be asking what is my proof? Well, after experiencing numerous (too many to count or remember) Economy Class trips and comparing that to the multiple Upper Class trips over a 21 year period I think I have a good data set to work with.
Here is my hypothesis: when travelling long haul in an upper class cabin travellers have room to stretch out enough to sleep. 21 years ago upper class travel was more specious but you were mainly sitting in a reclined position with extra leg room. However, with the modern design of upper class cabins, which allows you to lay fully in the prone position, people are much more comfortable and can actually fall deeply asleep. This combined with the pressure in the aircraft creates excessive amounts of intestinal gas.
The difference in Economy Class is that you spend the flight with your knees wrapped around your ears trying to drown out the sound of the wailing toddlers and grumpy pre-teens “who are bored and didn’t want to go on this dumb trip in the first place.” So, getting yourself in a position physically or emotionally for sleep is damned impossible! Hence intestinal wind stays put.
Whereas; if you are in upper class and are the type of person who likes to read or watch movies before attempting sleep you will no doubt be subjected to wafts of odorous fumes from sleeping passengers.
Conclusion, foul bodily odours are more pervasive in upper class cabins lending a smelly musk to the entire experience.
Have you ever wondered how people tend to lose just a single shoe? We can’t blame the washing machine or dryer in this instance like you can for socks. On our recent trip to Rhodes, Greece Pam and I saw a plethora of single shoes, these lost (soles) seemed to be everywhere but were missing their (sole mates). Okay I promise that was the last pun. But seriously how does this happen? A single flip flop might be explained by someone losing one in the water. A lost tennis shoe is puzzling but the best one of all was a lost hiking boot. Yes we saw one hiking boot with no laces. You could accidentally lose a tennis shoe out of your beach bag but if you were hiking how did you get home? Where did your laces disappear to and where are you now, wondering around wearing one hiking boot? Very strange indeed.
I am travelling to India tonight for work, upon arriving to the airport I find out that I had been upgraded to First Class. In all of my years of traveling I have only flown First Class once and it was a short domestic flight which just meant bigger seats. Never have I enjoyed First Class on a long haul flight so after what can only be described as a tremulous few weeks I welcomed the the upgrade with all of the joy of a kid at Christmas who just got the one gift they were sure Santa would say was one step too far.
I was checked in at the extra special secluded check in desks which led on to the new extra special Security checkpoint. I was then advised by a hush toned lady that I could proceed to the First Class lounge and yet another surprise, my upgrade included a lounge upgrade to the distinguished Concorde Room (which I never knew existed). It was a lovely, dimly lit area with fireplaces and cosy sitting areas. After a light dinner I boarded the plane. For the first time I got to turn left instead of right at the cabin door. I was escorted to my seat in “row 2” which was actually totally on its own with the nearest neighbours shielded from direct sight lines.
I was handed over from my seat escort to Paul the Cabin Manager who informed me I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. It was lovely to hear but at that very moment the one thing I wanted more than anything else Paul could not provide, that was my lovely wife to share this experience with.
The Business Class services I have been fortunate enough to experience have very good so I could not imagine how much more could be done to enhance the journey. My area could only be d scribed as a mini room instead of the Business Class pod I had in the past. There was seating for two, in case I was expecting a visitor to drop by. I had my own wardrobe, was given pyjamas, a wash bag and noise cancelling headphones. Wow, I was impressed!
It is now time to take off so I will finish my 18 year old whisky and enjoy my flight to the fullest because once I’m off the airplane I will be in the land of over stimulation. Never ending throngs of people,traffic, car horns, vibrant colours, incredible food and light very people. See you on the other side!
This week I have had a new experience and one I do not wish to ever repeat. As humans we have evolved over millennia yet we still have a couple anatomical oddities, one the appendix, two the gallbladder. It is the latter that I had an unwelcome experience with. One has to ask why do we still have this organ that we can function normally without. Yes, it has a job to do but the liver is pretty good at holding its own, in the bile production stakes, considering we no longer have a need to digest such things as roots and bark. Yet the gallbladder remains and for many of us becomes an evil enemy causing literal gut wrenching agony. It is mostly due to these little stones made up of cholesterol and other biological goodies, that decide they fancy a vacation to another part of the body. So they pack their bags are hit the road. Their first stop is the bile duct and for some of our bulkier tourists this is a very tight squeeze. So tight in fact that it creates, for the owner of the gallbladder, excruciating pain that lasts over several days. Finally, when the human owner is ready to perform self surgery, using a steak knife and a hand held mini vac, the little bastards squeeze through and are gone on their merry way. The relief is tremendous, you come out of this pain filled fog back into the sunlight. Then it hits you, what if the remaining gallstone population decide to move on. The thought sends tendrils of dread through me. I can honestly say that never before have I wanted someone to cut me open and rummage around in my abdomen but the thought of those little bastards coming back makes it sound like a reasonable idea.
I know the title of this post is a bit befuddling but I hope it will all become clear. This past weekend is a great case for my question. I attended a family wedding on Saturday and it was fantastic. Everyone did something to make the day a success. Whether it was preparing food, decorating the village hall (which was the venue), creating flower arrangements etc. it all came off without a hitch even the weather did its part to make the day perfect.
It was back to work this morning so that meant an early night last night to be ready to tackle the week ahead which I knew would have its own set of challenges.
I had a feeling when I woke up this morning and found a cold sore that had developed overnight, that it might not be a great day. My taxi was booked for 7:00 a.m. and it arrived promptly giving me hope that maybe I was wrong and cold sore was not an omen for the remainder of my day. I ensured that the driver knew the route I wanted to take and mentioned that I might close my eyes for awhile (hoping this would say) “I’m too tired to chat”. However that message did not get across on the first attempt. An hour later as we approached a queue of traffic I took my opportunity to shut my eyes for a few minutes. When I opened my eyes and looked around I got the distinct feeling we were not where we were supposed to be. I caught sight of a mile marker post just as it flashed by and I thought for sure it said M40 (we were meant to be on the M42. ) Even if you don’t know specifically where I’m talking about I’m sure you get the point I was not on the correct motorway! I waited for the next junction sign to make certain I was right before speaking. Sure enough the next sign comes up and I now know I’m in the wrong place.
I said to the driver “we are on the M40 not the M42″ he said ” are we?” Which worried me even more. I wondered if he too closed his eyes for a while! He apologised profusely but the damage was done. That error added another hour and a half to my journey getting me to work at 10:45 instead of 9:00’ish.
Finally I arrive at work and there are 3 people waiting to speak to me. This was another bad sign. After these 3 impromptu meetings one of which contained more bad news I returned to my new desk (yes yet another seating change on Friday) to find out they did not set up my equipment properly and my laptop refused to play nice with my mouse or my monitors. Getting itself in such a tizzy that it eventually “blue screened” technical term for “going belly up!” I had to raise a HelpDesk call then wait for IT to arrive. In the end it was 12:05 when I was finally able to log in and start to work.
So back to my question “why does Yang have to follow Ying so quickly?” I had a beautiful weekend (the Ying) then the Yang (my rubbish day today) could not wait to balance the scales.
The good news is I will always remember the wedding and will completely forget the rubbish day.
There are certain events and special days that mark and shape our lives. Some of these are obvious and many of them are public knowledge such as birthdays, weddings anniversaries and so on. Most of the days in our lives when we wake up we have no clue how significant that day will turn out to be. Five years ago on the 13th of January was exactly one of these days for me. I was due to have lunch with someone I had been chatting to online. We had been in touch almost every day for about 2 months. I should have known, the minute I woke up and looked outside, that the day would be a good one because it was snowing. I love the snow and I still get as excited as a little kid when the white stuff comes down!
We had planned to meet at my local pub. This also turned out to be a bonus because I literally could not drive out of our neighbourhood, it was totally impassable. I got ready and walked down to the pub which is about 3/4 of a mile from my house. It was one of those perfect snowy days where there are only a few cars on the road and all sounds are muted by the blanket of snow. It was bitterly cold as well but that didn’t seem to bother me as I crunched my way down the path towards the pub. There was a sizzle of excitement running through me that I thought was a combination of the snow and the meeting now only minutes away. Like the weather outside I too had a flurry, this one of emotions buzzing around. Excitement yes but also hesitation, what if she shows up and has 3 heads? What if we find that after two months online there is nothing else to say or we don’t have things in common etc. I didn’t have to wait long to find out I had nothing to worry about. Once in the pub and the initial greeting hugs over we started to talk and did not stop. In one way It was like I had known this incredible person my whole life yet in other ways I couldn’t wait to get to know her better. I never wanted that lunch to end and in a way it didn’t. Five years have now passed and we still have not runout of things to talk about. We have been married for three years, have seen 4 grandchildren born and have a very busy and wonderful life. So, moral of the story, what appears to be a “normal” day can turn out to be one of the most important and special days of your life. I now try to wake up each day thinking “what incredible things are going to happen today?”
This morning I was dropped off early at the train station and started my trip into London. Thinking I now had the choice of 3 trains so no rushing required. As I arrive at the platform I see that the first two trains are delayed by 15-20 minutes. When the first train arrived it was standing room only, it was followed by another standing room only train directly behind it. So, now I have to just jump on and hope for the best. I stood for awhile and then a jump seat opened up. I sat down and realised that the dimensions of the jump seat did not match the dimensions of my backside. After about 20 minutes I could not feel my right leg as my bum was hanging half off the seat! There were a couple other things that I did not take into account when I took this seat. Firstly, it is directly in front of the toilet. Secondly, the jump seats are much lower than a normal seat. As the parade of gentlemen, who obviously drank too much coffee this morning, continues into and out of the toilet. I realise that when the train stops in Paddington I will have to hoist myself up out of the seat with a numb right leg. Not a pretty sight I will assure you.
Off the train and onto the platform I now see that we have come into Paddington Platform 1 which is the furthest possible point from the taxi rank which is past Platform 12. Oh well, off I go. I get to the escalator and it is not working…no way I’m walking up those stairs! There were actually queues waiting for the lift. I wait my turn and then as the lift opens I see the queue for the taxis is further back than I have ever seen in all my years of doing this journey. I look at my watch and the early start I had has now evaporated and I will be lucky to get to the office before my meetings start. Finally I get into the cab and I am immediately hit with the powerful smell of cherries. My driver had two plastic or glass cherries hanging from his mirror and this was his air freshener. It was more like an oxygen destroyer! I could not breathe without opening the window and sticking my head out. I know these guys like to keep their cabs clean and tidy but there is a limit to how much freshener is too much. I paid for my taxi and inhaled a deep breath of cherry free air. I finally made it to the office…now my day can begin.
I travelled into our London office today and the atmosphere on the journey in was very different. It is the first day back to school for many districts but the usual buzz that comes with this day was not in the air. Instead there was a strained and tense feeling at the station, on the train and on the streets as you walked. People were looking at each other a bit closer, checking out what you were carrying. The government raised the alert level last week and you can really tell a difference. I am sitting here in central London in what I am told is a bomb proof building. When I learned that last week at first I thought “how sad that we have to bomb proof our buildings” but then that knowledge actually made me feel safer. I don’t know how it is for you but for me I am stuck between wanting to know as much as possible about the threats we are facing and not wanting to know so much that I become concerned enough to change my plans and actions. It is that fine line between vigilant and overly cautious. I would like to say that it does not bother me and I will always do the British thing and “keep calm and carry on” however, I have to admit it I do feel a bit uneasy today on a journey that I would not usually think twice about taking. How are you feeling?
I have been very lucky when it comes to commuting to work. Before I moved to the UK I was lucky enough to to drive to and from work with views of the Pacific Ocean. I always made sure I never took that commute for granted. Fourteen years later and I still have the privilege to enjoy views that not many Americans can claim. This morning, for example, I arrived in Paddington Station, got in the taxi and within five minutes I was skirting the edges of Hyde Park, next came the Wellington Arch, quickly followed by Green Park on the left and Buckingham Palace on the right and the expanse of The Mall in front of me. Another 3 minutes and we pass Horse Guards Parade on the left heading straight ahead to cross Bridge Street passing Westminster Palace on the right. On the left as we cross the bridge The London Eye was reaching up into the sky as we near my destination at Waterloo Station. Wow, was that a commute or a grand tour of one of the most incredible cities in the world? I told you I was lucky.