Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No more babies!

Day 5. Am sitting in 2A again, but have made a slight tactical error. This plane is a 777. Means in my balanced opinion, seat 1A is superior in terms of privacy. Not much in it. 777s don't have the double deck, so we have the flight crew and a gallery in front of us (instead of the jacket cabinet on a 747). Okay - there's something I hadn't considered - one would be slightly closer to the galley if sitting forwards. Several people have changed into the BA First pyjamas, but I don't really feel the urge, especially as it's only a 5 hour flight. Maybe London - Buenos Aires' 16 hours may warrant PJs, in which case I shall we sure to post a photo of muggins wearing them for your amusement and delectation.
So, 777 has shockingly small screens in First, but they do have personal DVD players, so I've asked for Easy Rider on DVD. The selection of DVDs isn't great, and after Easy Rider I don't think there are any more I'd like to watch. Bridge Over the River Kwai perhaps, though I've seen it before. They have V for Vendetta on tape, and Leggo recommended it, so perhaps will try that. Wine being quaffed is Simonsig Tiara 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa. I wanted something slightly lighter than the Chateau Leoville Poyferre 1995, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Julien, that I usually have! Usually :)
In London I took dollars out at Barclays next to Paddington. Commission free, though whether that means they factor it into the rate I don't know. The tour I'm doing in Egypt is with Gecko Tours, it's called the Nile Adventure or something. It costs £350, and basically it's a guided group tour, maximum of 15 people, so you don't end up saturating every temple you stop off at. Ralfy recommended it to me. Anyway, the price includes most costs, but there are various extras you can do, which doubtless I will be powerless to resist, plus you have give your guide some money for baksheesh, which is a concept similar to tipping found  in the Middle East, however rather than something discretionary one hands out for good service, it's more "greasing the palms" of pretty much everyone you have to do deal with to ensure smooth running. Not a concept that I particularly agree with - I prefer the Japanese concept of charging loads more then don't tip. To me, a tip should be something completely optional, that you only hand over if you are really happy with the service. These restaurants that factor a 12.5% tip into the bill are pretty cheeky in my opinion. The cost should be included in the prices of dishes. Some may suggest that you can always refuse the tip if the service is particularly bad, but how often is this going to happen? If the service is that bad, you could always ask them to reduce the bill anyway.
Incidentally, the place most people seem to be interested in joining me for is Japan. Problem is, I'll be there around cherry blossom season (at least that's the idea), so it may be expensive. Anyway, the more the merrier. It's definitely the destination of choice at the moment, with Mei touring round as we speak. I like to feel I've "done" Japan already. The only things I'm missing are: 1. Hanami (Cherry blossom season, when everyone gets drunk on sake and parties), and 2. A Sumo-wrestling match. Hopefully I'll cover both off when I pass through in April.
So, back to Egypt. The pdf itinery thing quotes lots of prices for extra bits and pieces, all in dollars. I don't really know whether this means they cost dollars, or it's just a currency equivalent and I'll actually be able to use Egyptian money. We shall see. If I don't really need dollars, they will come in handy in South America anyway, so no loss. I think the vague plan for the next 9 or ten days is that we spend a day in Cairo, then go see Pyramids, then take an overnight train down to Luxor? Then take a boat along the Nile for a few days, stopping off at various temples along the way. I'm quite lucky with the timing, as the tour fits exactly into the days I had available. We are arriving quite late in Cairo, at 11:20pm, and like an idiot I refused the arranged airport transfer. I'm sure working out the mini-buses at that time will be hilarious fun! Groan... Still, I love it really ;)
Have received text message from Rob moaning how boring my blog is. Well readers, it's now day 5 and I haven't got anywhere near an internet connection yet! So all this waffle you've now presumably had the chance to read is currently sitting in my Outlook outbox! Was going to use the one at T4 in the lounge but cut it rather fine in getting to the airport, so not only did I miss out on a free back massage in the Molton Brown spa, missed the chance to chat up cute check-in girl in the First check-in area who was insisting I should go to Columbia, but furthermore it was final call for my flight as I got through security ("Fast Track", pah! I hope my British Airways are not paying extra to the incompetent arses at BAA for this so-called service!). I wonder if I should start a BAA Incompetence rant site. Do you think they are as litigious as Ryanair? I'd have to host it somewhere lawless. Perhaps that country on an oil-rig in the North Sea.. What's it called? Sealand or something...
So no internet means not only no posting blog, but no Happyfish Podcast downloads. For those who aren't into Podcasts yet - these are basically a Radio show which one can download from the internet at any time, and put on your mp3 music player (or just on your computer) to listen to whenever you feel like. How will I survive my RTW trip without Radio 4 Today Programme Morning Briefing? It used to make me so happy as I sloped into work on the late side of things (towards the end only of course), and on my mp3 player I'd hear "the time now is quarter to seven" - ah well that's okay then :) I have been wondering whether I should disconnect from politics and thesuchlike in the UK. I'm sure it stressed me out. Doctor's perscription - no Private Eye and definitely no news! The other podcasts I really like are the Radio 1 unsigned music one, Today in Parliament, and the Choice, Broadcasting House and From our Correspondant ones. Am I a boring old fart? Probably yes! However, the best for last - Craft Beer Radio's Podcast! This is basically a 45-60minute show done by two American chaps once a week, where they try various "craft", i.e. read "alternative" - ales, porters, and all the beverages you'd expect at the CAMRA Annual Britihs Beer Fest in London, and discuss them. What makes it so enjoyable is that they are really just regular guys drinking beer. One of them does do some home brewing, but they are very amateur, and yet still very enthusiastic. I have secret ambitions to do something similar with Will once we have our "King of the Hill" lifestyle implemented. I commend Craft Beer Radio to you all! Download and enjoy!
By the way, the title of the blog entry refers to the brat in First from Mauritius to London, screaming or crying for at least a third of the journey, as their parents turned seats 1A and 1B into a creche area. Then again, the Captain did say on the PA system that there were lots of families on board, so presumably I wasn't the only person suffering. Still, I'm happy to report that the worse we've got this time is a kid who must be 7 or 8, so no crying. Marvellous.
Anyway, have eaten horrible amounts of food and am now wishing there was an extra hole on my belt! It's also a nice heart-racer - champagne, wine, beer, and then lots of strong coffee, wrapped up with 20kg backpack to lug. Book reading update: Confederacy of Dunces finished, quickly whipped through Hotel Babylon, the book that the tv series was based upon, about the goings-on in an anonymous 5* hotel in London. Light but amusing reading. Books are in general a bit of a nightmare. I'm cunningly bringing my LP India and China books along to Egypt, to browse both and work out what on earth I'd like to do in both of those countries. I've budgeted 4-5 months for the main Asian continent, but to be honest, I'm not sure what I'd like to visit, especially in China. Presumably Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Great Wall? Not fussed about Terracotta Army, especially after Stu's comments about how touristy it is (though I'll be sure to remember my zoom lens if I do happen to go!). Three gorges area? Has that been dammed up already? I honestly don't know. Yellow card for me being so ignorant about such affairs. So, regarding these two LP books - they are both enormous and weigh a tonne (or thereabouts - good job weight allowance in First is acceptable), so I won't take them to South America, but I figured I'm bound to have some slack time in the next ten days and therefore will plough through them then, and them dump them in London when I pass through in a week and a half.
Back to current book? Kafka's The Great Wall of China and other short stories. I've read Kafka's The Castle and The Trial and loved them both. I think I could emphase with them, working at COLT! Visited the museum in Prague with Lucy and stocked up on his books so now I have plenty still to ready, and some Milan Kundera (read The Joke already)..
Time to sleep now, though not long till we're landing. On the way back I'm in the awkward position of only being confirmed in economy! I'm wait-listed for business and first class. Can you imagine the pain of being at the back, knowing you're perfectly elegible to be right up front in First. Let's not contemplate.. I'll let the girls in Mauritius do their stuff, I have every (gulp) confidence they'll sort it all out. Go girls!

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