Thursday, 26 April 2012

Your on-board entertainment this evening shall be provided by those sitting in 53B and 53C

Well, it's over, dear readers. I've put my watch forward, I've packed a considerable about of unnessecsry things into my bag, and I've gone back to not understanding a single word. No, silly! I have not gone back to studying A-level history! Oh dear, it pains me to even joke about it... Fortunately, that is not the case, but with a considerable amount of regret, I must announce that I have left Britain once again. I'll leave you all a few minutes to grieve.

Right. That's enough. Pull yourselves together.

I did have quite a nice time, though. Nice. Hmm. It's strange, isn't it? Not fantastic, not amazing, not lovely, but 'nice'. All my life I have been educated to avoid using the word 'nice' like it's the plague, but it seems to fit here. I can hear the teachers of my youth shouting at this very moment, "What's wrong with you boy?! Can't you think of a proper adjective?!" Rude. But I'd like to defend 'nice', because there is honestly no other word that would be appropriate in this situation.

I know it is a bit cliché, but nice to me is sitting on a slightly old armchair in my dressing-gown, slowly dipping biscuits into a cup of hot chocolate and watching them go soggy. Before you ask, yes, I am fully aware that the above is quite a weird, and yes, we Brits do drink other things besides tea. But that is what nice is to me: it's comforting, it's cosy, it's homely. Although, my association of 'nice' with that image could have something to do with "NICE" biscuits that I was given as a child. Yes. That is what they were called, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was a bit optimistic.

So, after my nice little ramble around Britain, I was once again loaded into the metal toilet-roll-tube and fired into a world of troubles and torment. You see, my flight out of Blighty was a night flight, and next to finding out that that last packet of chocolate digestives you'd been saving has gone out of date, it is perhaps the most traumatic ordeal that one can ever face. No matter how hard I try, I cannot, I cannot sleep on a plane! My friends keep telling me, "Oh if you keep saying that you can't, then you won't be able to!" GO AWAY! Of course I don't say that to myself! How the bloody hell do you think I realised I couldn't sleep on a plane?! It's not as if I thought, "I wonder what would make this flight more interesting... I know! I'll develop an inability to sleep! That'll make the next five-and-a-half sodding hours pass quicker, won't it!!" Honestly. If I wanted some rubbish advice, I would have called the customer-service line at Asda.

This time, though, I though that I'd struck gold. I had an epiphany. Why don't I just go to bed really late the night before? Then I'd be tired enough to fall asleep on the plane! Well done me. What a brilliant idea. Wasn't that a great way of depriving yourself from a proper sleep in two days.

Now, although I do seem frustrated, my feelings are incredibly lessened for one simple reason. No, not tranquillisers. It was because of the wonderful elderly couple who were seated on my right. I have always had a soft spot for senior citizens, and not just because they like to feed you chocolate cake. Apologies for the use of 'senior citizen', by the way, but our nation's obsession with not wanting to cause offence has gone so far that I am afraid to use the word 'old', so please excuse my poor substitutes. So anyway, these aged specimens of the human condition just sat there, perfectly innocently, yet I was sitting close enough to enjoy their little commentary of one bloke trying to fit his hand luggage in an overhead compartment. "Oh here he goes again. No, the silly plonker, he's doing it wrong! Lengthways you muppet! No, no, oh, wait a minute! There we go! My my, it took you long enough, didn't it?"

Isn't that just brilliant?! I love catching snippets of other people's own private humour. To be honest though, it wasn't exactly private, because after her small muttered rant, her husband turned to me and smiled with a look on his face which seemed to say, "Oh dear, what's she like!" What truly wonderful people.

And that, dear readers, was the entertainment for my flight. Well it was, until they went to sleep, that is. Lucky wrinkly people. But once again, here I am. Thousands of miles from the place I once called home, and faced with the enormity of the task to settle in once again. Oh dear. Here we go again...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hooray for the Nanny State! Kind of...

What ho old chaps! How are you all on this fine Thursday? That’s good to hear. And what is that I hear you asking? Am I in London? Did I arrive safely? Was my flight alright?

Well, how jolly kind of you to ask! After, well, let us call it a bearable flight (I seem to have developed an inability to sleep on a plane), I am indeed back in Blighty! Now, after living on nothing but scones, crumpets, and steaming mugs of PG Tips for the past eight days, I am beginning to feel my old British habits creeping back. I never really lost them, don’t you worry, but I am finding myself tutting much more than I have done recently. Yes, you did hear me correctly. I have been back in Britain for just over a week and I am already complaining about everything and anything.

I’m not too surprised, to be honest. We Brits are rather good at complaining. In fact, I would feel pretty damn confident in saying that we all enjoy having a good old splutter at the daily headlines, and this is exactly what I did today. Well, not quite exactly. I guess I’ll have to explain.

There I was, sitting with my bowl of Weetabix and my oversized mug of tea (milk and two sugars, if you wanted to know), and I happened to pick up a brochure for a large supermarket chain. I’m not sure I should publicly embarrass them on my blog, but lets just say their name sounds an awful lot like Besco. The first part I thought was fine; food and drinks faded into household products, household products faded into electronics, but the transition from electronics to sofas saw the pages get turned upside-down. I never knew that sofas were sold, let alone advertised, any time other than in the month before Christmas, when the country suddenly decides that after being lumbered with their sofa for a year, they must change it. Why? Because the telly said so. I had always presumed that with the vast lengths that DFS go to over their advertising campaigns in December, that that was the only window in our calendar that sofas could ever be sold. Clearly I was wrong. Fair enough. It happens so often now that I don’t take notice of it anymore.

But that wasn't the thing which bothered me, and I’m sure you all noticed the catalyst for my frustration: the flipped pages. After getting over my immediate annoyance of having to turn the brochure the other way up, I got thinking (brace yourselves). The only reason why they would have flipped the pages would be to present a clear difference between sofas and the rest of their products. Wow. How useful. I never knew that sofas are different from wireless keyboards! I’m so thankful that they put this in, because for the past four years I have been watching the telly whilst sitting on a rather lumpy hoover! Finally I know what I am doing wrong!

Seriously though, I think we as a nation deserve a little bit more credit than that. And on that note, if you are going to flip the pages, then you might as well put it somewhere where there is a distinct change, like, I don’t know, between food and electronics perhaps?! If any of you out there happen to work for Besco, think a minute. Your customer service hotline is hardly being bombarded by thousands of numpties who have covered their new Toshiba laptop in tea after mistaking it for a Hobnob, and if we can tell the difference between products there, why do you see a need to make a separation for furniture? The mind boggles. It really does.

I wouldn’t want to leave you all on a sour note, though, because being back in London has been lovely, and to be honest, I did mange to find one benefit to this nanny state of ours. It wasn’t much, but it was the most useful sight that I have ever seen. After landing at Heathrow airport and beginning the endless shuffle to baggage claim, there was a little yellow sign displaying some vital information. The sign warned that the upcoming toilets were the final set of facilities before border control. That, dear readers, is genius. Not only did I choose to relieve myself there an then (making waiting in the queues at the border much more bearable), but if any of you have ever travelled with children, these sings are vital. Pure gold. Because we all know that after offering the children the use of a toilet, they will inevitably reject them, but fifteen minutes later, in the most inconvenient place possible, they will innocently look up at you and state,"I need the toilet. Now." That is possibly one of the worst things that one could ever hear, and that is why Britain might have finally got something right with their obsession with health and safety, signs, and other such nonsense. The fact that they ended up not being the last set of toilets, though, is beside the point. At least they tried.