Monday, 5 January 2015

Man on a mission ...

5am at the Ski village ...

That's Gatwick airport, where you fight your way through the boot bags, cases, skis, snowboards and their owners to check in. Not many skiers heading my way but who knows, after the recent weather in Greece.

My how things have changed at Easyjet, I went to hand my case to a human, and,was directed to the bag drop area. Bag drop is, two humans managing a visual document check and directing you to the scales.

Scan your check in voucher, pop your bag on the scales. Is it under 20kg ? Yes proceed it prints your luggage strap and you attach it to the case. Stick a small one on your voucher, and another on the side of your case.

Press yes to go and your bag is accepted, and off it goes into the computer generated and managed luggage warehouse under the airport. Presumably doing battle with all the skiers kit.

I did notice the chip and pin reader, if your bags weigh over 20kg. Remember the tv programme where the great and the good, argued for our entertainment? Next year's version will be a hidden camera, live stream of someone arguing with a set of scales.

How many flights will be missed, whilst someone there, argues with the scales about how many shoes they need in Skiathos ...

Under 20kg you fly, over 20kg you pay or stay behind, as a no show. Must admit it's a brilliant way to run a business. Make money on the strength of someone else's bathroom scales ...

Security, extremely swift, efficient. Just like arrivals, however no one shouts at you from behind the equipment.

You emerge into the neon world, that is the shopping mall that used to be the departures lounge. You have to pass through the entire duty free lounge, to get anywhere else.

Since the airport was privatised, the architect took a shopping mall like Blue waters, and bolted it onto the airport. It's visually stunning, . I did not recognise most of it from before. I had to look around, because I was lost in the retail machine ...

Tired, sleepless and hungry, where to eat? Frankie and Benny or Cafe Rouge?

Cafe Rouge, which was a mistake. We do not have sausages, pastries, the list went on and on. I asked if they had any eggs, making light of what must be a very bad morning for the people working there.

It was worse, it was their last day. They closed that evening. They were being fired, some had found jobs, some had not. They looked tired, they were working their last night shift, and some had problems ahead. I did feel sorry for them ...

Years ago Cafe Rouge was where the bar was located, it was a wall of floor to ceiling cigarette smoke, even at 5am. It must have come in handy for the nicotine effect paint job when Cafe Rouge took over.

It has 'Location Location Location' and still has a great view of the fire engines, racing to meet an arriving aircraft. Which is just what happened as I awaited my Eggs Benedict. Who needs the plasma screen BBC world news, when you have live emergency action outside on the tarmac ...

Back in duty free, the service was painfully slow by the little old Asian ladies. The East European lady was serving customers at a rate of three to one and smiling. Some oik was extremely rude to her about the wait. I saw her shake her head in disbelief, and smile for the next customer.

Little old Asian lady, no greeting of acknowledgement, slapped my goods on the counter, and pointed to chip and pin. I thought about the lady serving in Cafe Rouge, if I was someone like Alan Sugar, someone else may have been getting fired ...

Back into the shopping centre, where the plasma video wall, said go to gate 90. This is where Greece was besieging the desk, regardless of the announcements, as the rest of the world does not speak Greek.

However Easyjet LGW speak English-language, OK with a West Indian accent, and smile to match, and expect you to obey the rules. So it takes time to get the 'non so speedy boarders' and 'easyjet pluscard' holders through the melee. The kids and pushchair eventually made it through and down the stairs.

By the time I got on board, the returning Greeks had boarded, and stowed their ten pieces of hand luggage. I sat next to a Greek guy, seemingly untouched by austerity.

Clearly he ate well, and overflowed into my part of the seat. Presumably it was his seat, as he was firmly located in mine. The curved section of fuselage more of use to him than me ...

We departed, a few minutes late into the rain and grey skies, turning right towards London, emerging into the sunrise above, heading east climbing very swiftly.

Easyjet service, seamless efficiency, they tried to flog me a copy of the Sunday Times, and Hello magazine, which years ago I used to get free ...

Very bumpy over the Alps, the captain advised us to fasten seat belts. The crew told us to stay seated, the toilets were out of use until further notice. The announcement was made in Greek, guess who ignored it and went walkabout?

I admire the patience, of any steward, stewardess on any form of transport dealing with the public, who always know best. Especially when told in English, 'You should speak Greek' ...

We landed 30 minutes early, my bag made it through the computer, and one of the last onto the conveyor. I later found out it had been opened, and checked somewhere on its journey. I was carrying goods for impoverished, and starving islanders (as usual) ...

Thessaloniki was sunny but cool after the recent snow. Wind from the north chilly, and breezy. Fought my way on to the bus across the city. A 55 minute ride for just €2, you must buy your ticket before the journey from the lady in the kiosk. Validate it or if caught expect a hefty fine.

From what I saw about half did, mainly young people. Many of the older ones travelled without paying, perhaps keeping an invalidated ticket in their pocket just in case.

The KTEL bus terminal very busy. Ok it's holiday time, no problem, made my way to window 18, three very sour people on duty. Second time today I thought about the lady in Cafe Rouge, as the money snatched from my hand. The change and ticket slapped on the counter. Welcome to Greece ...

Into the cafe, a slice of Pizza, as recommended by Simon and Donna, whilst I waited for the bus. The Volos bus departs from Bay 18, along with five others. Make sure you put your bag on the right one.

Departing on time, sitting in my allocated seat under darkening skies. Angry clouds starting to deposit rain. No announcements, in fact the coach in silence apart from the young lady across the aisle. Streaming cold, coughing and sneezing. Bet I have the cold soon ...

I sleep when I can, just like on the aircraft, it's the only way to travel like this. Non stop to Volos, only dropping people off on the way. Approaching Pelion you see the snow, the hills blanketed in it, we turn off the motorway and the national road is a slush run. The melting snow and all around the land is a winter landscape.

Volos has snow piled up by the road, where the snowploughs had left it, slushy pavements, but it's Christmas here, the decorations, pipped music, people sitting outside in the rain drinking coffee, having a great time.

Street decorations Volos style ...

I must admit, I do like Volos, but it's very cold and windy. I am a man on a mission, will I be here for the holiday or Skiathos for Theofania. ...

Later update:

Made it with a dash across town from Volos hospital. Still in one piece despite the wind rocking a very full Proteus ferry. Very bumpy in the open water between the mainland, and the shelter from the strong Northerly winds. Quite a few taking advantage of the 'comfort bags' handed out by the crew.

Most of Skiathos on the boat all relaying news from the island. Not all of it good.
Spray from the bows, washing the windows, and obscuring the wintry showers outside. Managed to glimpse the sun setting over the clouds and mainland.

The house is cold, it feels unloved. The woodburner is doing its job but consuming logs at quite a rate.

Tea and biscuits, and heat. Snow expected again tomorrow as more bad weather rolls in to chill us. Windy again rattling the roof.

Goodnight from the rock ...

5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, for the feedback. Much appreciated ...

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  2. A truly inspired post. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sleep depravation, and today water boarding ...

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  3. Thank you. Extremely entertaining as usual. Much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete