Sunday, 29 May 2016

Back to Blighty - part one - the journey

I hadn't returned to England for four years, partly because I don't really like it there and partly because getting there means travelling on one of those 'things' that go up in the air and to say I am not keen is an understatement! However, grandchild number two (grandson number one) had arrived into the world in September and I was desperate to meet him and to see my family and friends again. So  I booked my flights and set off to stay with my daughter for a few days.

I managed to get incredibly cheap flights allowing me 10 days in England and bringing me back to Turkey the day before our wedding anniversary - perfect! That is until the airline company changed their mind and cancelled the return flight, changing my flight to one the day after our anniversary - not perfect!

I had opted to go with just hand luggage and booked two suitcases to bring back with me, in order to maximise bringing things over that had been stored for 4 years with my daughter. I am sure some people find it very easy to 'travel light'. I don't. I am known for taking more belongings with me for an overnight stay than most people would take for a month away from home.

Therefore, it took me three days of packing and unpacking my small hold size suitcase with wheels, before having to admit it was impossible. I had to ask David to search in the loft for a small holdall that was 'somewhere' up there long unused, because the wheels weighed too much and I could get more things in a bag. Finally I had a reasonable assortment of stuff, which although not nearly enough would just have to do.

The day before my flight out horrendous storms and monsoon rain came down and for a nervous passenger this is not good. That evening I saw on Facebook that someone we know had flown from Dalaman to Istanbul that night and reported it as being the worst flight they had ever encountered. Just what I didn't want to hear. So that night I lay in bed listening to the winds howling, the thunder roaring and the rains coming down. Needless to say not much sleep that night.

The following morning saw no improvement to the weather and I came down and sat on the terrace with a coffee, dreading the drive to Dalaman in these conditions, never mind the flight. However, an hour before I was due to leave conditions improved and I set off on my way. I had decided to use the parking near the airport which at 10 tl per day works out cheaper than two transfers, and it includes a full valet of the car. Very handy.

It was comforting to see increased security at the airport, Checking in was fast and efficient and we left Dalaman on time. Although the pilot told us to expect 'a bumpy ride' until we reached our cruising altitude, in fact we had a very smooth climb. So far so good. After a very smooth and comfortable flight we reached Stansted on time and there the fun began!

When I finally reached the passport control after an incredibly long walk, I headed for the automated 'e passport' machines and joined the ridiculously long queues. Tape barriers meant you spent the next half an hour slowly shuffling up and down rows 26 times before finally reaching the exit machines. Now being closer to the front you can see that the problem is twofold. One that only half the machines are actually working and two people's utter stupidity. As you approach there are explicit instructions (with pictures) to inform you that you stand on a very large mark on the ground, that your passport has to be put in one way up within marks, pressed firmly in place and that you look into the screen in front of you. Easy? You would think so, but apparently not for a lot of people.

Frustratingly I stood and watched as people put their passports in upside down, back to front and the wrong way round, whilst standing way off the mark and instead of looking into the camera absent mindedly looking around the room while the queue built up behind them. Not known for suffering fools gladly, I was already starting to huff and puff. Fellow passengers in the queue must have started to think I had some strange affliction.

Finally the tall, well dressed, intelligent looking lady in front of me got to the machine and there seemed to be some hope of escaping - wrong! She did all of the above and instead of realising that she must be doing something wrong, she alternated between trying to barge the barrier in front, before the green light was lit and coming back out and then repeating everything she had done wrong in the first place. Helpless to offer any assistance as you are forbidden to cross the line several feet behind, I stood watching helplessly, whilst my huffing and puffing was extended to talking to myself out loud. "Oh good God!", "Oh for goodness sake!", "Why are they always the one in my queue?!" Several minutes later and still watching the lady in an ever increasing loop of stupidity, I saw a member of staff coming down the row. "PLEASE help that lady, or we'll be here forever" I shouted out. Thankfully they did and it was at last my turn. It is incredible how if you put your passport in correctly, stand in the right place and look at the camera it takes a nano second to go through. I think they should include a training session on the planes coming in to Stansted for all passengers.

With only hand luggage, at least I escaped the carousel experience and headed off to find the short term car park where my daughter had told me to wait for my lift. I left the terminal building following a very large sign which said 'short term car park'. At the bottom of a long ramp the walkways split into two at which point there is no longer any mention of a short term car park, it has now changed to red, orange and green car parks. To cut a long story and lots of walking short and having tried them all I finally found my lift which was just as well as I had no means of contacting anyone and could potentially have sparked the film The Terminal 2 by having to live in the airport for 12 days.

My son in law picked me up and an hour later I was giving my daughter a great big hug. The children were already in bed asleep so we had a great evening catching up over a glass or three of duty free alcohol and I must confess to having to be helped to bed by my daughter at almost 1.00 in the morning.

Finally I'm back in Blighty.