Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Postcards from Tenerife - Easyjet and the Twinnies

Dear Reader,

I find myself travelling again. Regrettably, I find myself once again on my least favourite orange coloured airline. I have spoken about these chaps before here, today they have some new surprises for me.
Today we have a new part to play, yay!
First we have to get to the airport. It is an early flight, the thought of which makes me shudder. The blow has been softened a little by spending the previous night in a hotel approximately four centimetres from the check-in desk. This does not prevent us having to get up three hours before we went to sleep so we are in time for our flight.
Having awoken, early and angry, we arrive at check-in to find our dear orange friends have requisitioned an entire hall of check-in desks for us to queue in, how thoughtful. What a shame they hadn't manned any of them. Given we were queueing within fifteen minutes of check-in opening I was somewhat disappointed to be dragged out of line when it became clear we would miss our flight if we stayed in the queue.

Dragged out and checked-in, we advance through security at high-speed. At this point we are united as a group, my good self, the Dear Lady Wife and her Twinny. 

I should break at this point and explain the Twinny. Twinny is a female colleague of the Dear Lady Wife and they share enough attributes to make the word Twinny seem appropriate. A  list of shared attributes follows:
  • Shopping - preferably by mail order
  • Lack of organisation
  • Love of wine
  • Love of animals (every single one, but especially cats and donkeys)
  • Ability to wail at the slightest inconvenience
  • Ability to meltdown at a slightly larger inconvenience
  • Inability to make decisions.
I share most of these attributes so we get on well. For the journey we require magazines, speakers and something from the chemist. I do the speakers, DLW does the magazines and the Twinny does the chemist. We vow to meet somewhere. This doesn't happen. Last call for the flight is announced. I rendezvous with DLW, but no sign of the Twinny.

We run for the gate, making it with approximately three minutes to spare. Twinny, however has not arrived. We phone, she is still in the chemist haggling over the price of some unguent. Then her name comes over the tannoy... "RUN" we say. Having finalised her transaction, along with three or four others, she deigns to run. Having stood on the transfer bus for ten minutes, we see her appear at check-in. Astonishingly, she is only second to last. United again, we advance to the plane.

There were two special moments on the plane; for once I don`t just mean take off and landing. Our orange friends had gone above and beyond the call of duty. First, we ordered food, which in itself was not special. What was special was one of the food items. It was so special I had to capture a shot of the packaging.

WTF is this?
I have never heard the words meat, festival, arctic, bread and wedge used in the same sentence before, but there they were. I attempted to imagine what combination of ingredients could encompass such a grand and wordy title, I came up short. How many ingredients are required for a meat festival? Two of them, apparently. 

This astonishing artefact was in fact a lifeless chicken, ham and cheese sandwich in pitta bread with some leaves. Hardy a festival, but definitely a wedge. Below is the item in all it's glory. You will note a bite has been taken out of it. There were no more bites to follow.

Come to the Meat Festival...
Our second special moment came when the orange flight attendant attempted to sell some of their on-board wares. During his little speech he referred to page 494 of his brochure and announced the following... "We have a number of Loreal products at excellent duty free prices, and I know we have some Loreal fans on the plane today...". "HOW?" I couldn`t stop myself from asking out loud. Do you stop them in the check-in area, on the way to the flight? Do you suck out their minds when they check-in on-line in an attempt to get their buying preferences? I didn't get a suitable answer.

Eventually, we land and collect our belongings with surprisingly little hassle. I have a piece of paper which is our hire car voucher. It says that we should pick up our car from the Orinoco desk or something similar. The desk in question does not exist. After much wandering up and down the terminal looking lost, we locate someone who explains that Orinoco have a person who occasionally appears in the airport, waving a board. The Twinnies look less than impressed. As promised, the person eventually arrives. At this point, we are escorted to a mini-van, which may, or may not, take us to the fabled hire desk. We may be kidnapped; if only I was friends with Liam Neeson.

We arrive at what can only be described as an underground garage, located some distance from the airport. The possibility of kidnap looms larger. There is a desk, of sorts. Driving licenses are perused, papers signed and we are away in a car, on the wrong side of the road with no clue as to where we are going. Sat-Nav is neither an option on the car or as a stand-alone add-on. We are given a mysterious piece of paper with lines and pictures on it and ushered on our way. Apparently this is a map, I have heard of these but didn't think people still used them.

Thus ends the first part of our little adventure.

More soon Dear Reader.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Time Team - Why I Have to Watch it Alone

Dear Reader, 

There are some TV programs I am allowed to watch with the Dear Lady Wife, Time Team, Channel 4's attempt to sex up archaeology, is not one of them.

For those who are unaware, Time Team is without doubt a television program with admirable ambitions. Take a supremely un-sexy subject like archaeology and make it peak time viewing. This is achieved by taking a minor celebrity in the form of Tony Robinson (Baldric from Blackadder), and placing him with a bunch of British archaeologists.

A typical episode of Time Team might go like this:

Tony (on TV): Here we are in the village of Sumwhereoreuvver, Somerset, which boasts a cider that makes you go blind and an excellent Alcohol Rehab centre. It is also home to one of the best Guide Dog training centres in the country. (Insert number here) years ago it used to be home to a cottage industry of UFO spotters, half-blind cider blenders and a trainee magician's school.

Tony:  We are looking for evidence of the trainee magician's school which should be located in a field not far from here. We shall have access to this field for precisely two days. Should we find evidence of this academy or some of its artefacts we shall be very happy. We might even try some of that cider. To begin this search we need to take to the sky.

Here we are, now where's that bloody cider?
At this point the program moves to the helicopter, in which one of the archaeologists is sat with a screen in his lap. The helicopter is equipped with what I shall (probably incorrectly) term modern technology, the results of which he is now analysing. It is quite loud in the helicopter, hence the capital letters.


Tony: That's great, helicopter with technology man, is that where we should dig?


Tony: Is that where we should dig?




Digging, well, this is a different sort of digging. This is not like digging in the garden, this is not like digging around in your pocket for loose change, this is archaeology. Although Wikipedia disagrees with me, I am pretty sure that the word archaeology is derived from Latin. In Latin it meant dig slowly, so slowly that you'll not get the Olive tree planted before nightfall, even if you started at 7 in the morning.

With only two days of access to the site, the diggers are digging slower than a trade union of moles striking for better working conditions. As if they weren't busy / slow enough, they keep on getting interrupted by the presenters. Conversations like this abound...

Tony (sporting positive beaming smile): So what have we discovered today.
Digger (sporting manic depression like a comfort blanket): We haven't discovered anything.  have discovered a hole in my waterproofs. Amazingly, although it is just a small hole, it has let in enough mud and water to cover every inch of my body in a cold and grimy film. Next question?
Tony (beam still in place): Lets move to Lucy in the newly excavated trench. What have we here?

Before Lucy responds, (and she will), I want to talk about the word trench and the images it conjures. I think of trench warfare. Those trenches were generally deeper than the height of the average human. They were also populated by humans who wore helmets, for protection from shrapnel, bullets and other lethal objects in the air.

Lucy is also in a trench. She also has protective headgear. The "trench" in question is six inches deep. I have watched enough episodes of Time Team to be sure they have never been threatened by bullets or shrapnel, so, why the headgear? This is one of the reasons the Dear Lady Wife won't watch Time Team with me, I can't keep quiet about the helmets. Back to Lucy...

Stop! Some of those people aren't wearing protective headgear!
Lucy (trying to ignore the condescending tone of Tony's voice): We have a thing, which we are quite excited about.
Tony (beam moving to full beam): Oh really, that is excellent news.
Lucy (gesturing toward a tent): It is in here.
Tony (full beam unwavering): Oh good, lets have a look shall we.
Lucy (waving an expansive hand over a number of white plastic trays, each containing individually labelled things which look like stuff you would throw out of the earth when weeding the garden): So...
Tony: Wow, you have been busy!
Lucy: What this? No, that's all stuff you would throw out of the earth when weeding the garden, but we did find this...
Tony (beam finding a new level of intensity): Wow, what is it?
Lucy (holding an object in her hand which appears to be a twig with a broken end. It is engraved with swirls and has some hair in it): Surprisingly astute question. We don't know, which is what makes it interesting. It is surprisingly strong and when we scanned it with xrays it appears the hair runs all the way through it.
Tony: Do we know how old it is?
Lucy (gestures with her twig hand towards a computer, which bizarrely has a live toad sitting on top of the monitor. There is a smell of sulphur in the air as well): Actually, no. Normally we would carbon date the object using the equipment delivered to us. When we found this thing that is not a twig we unwrapped the box with the machine in it, the machine was not there. There was just a basket of kittens, which was lovely, but no good for carbon dating. They had a faint aroma of sulphur about them as well. It was all rather odd.

Carbon dating has moved on a little since my day.
Tony: So when will we know how old it is.
Lucy: We are expecting a delivery later today, which should be the machine that ended up being a basket of kittens. Then we can scan the twiggy thing that is not a twig and all will be well.

Then Tony is off to what I can only describe as the reconstruction tent. Whenever a minute fragment of something is discovered, which isn't obviously mud, small change or a mummified condom, then it is scrubbed to within an inch of it's life and brought here. "With the aid of computers" the object is brought to life. When I say brought to life, what I really mean is plugged into some graphic designers wet dream of what a vase might look like in 900BC with one tiny piece missing, the piece that has been dug out of the ground.

This is akin to wandering around your house and finding a piece of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor. From the evidence of this puzzle piece and nothing else you deduce that it has to belong to a three thousand piece jigsaw showing RMS Titanic at sea approaching it's rendezvous with an over-sized ice cube. Yet all you have is one featureless blue piece. Another reason why I watch Time Team in a separate room. We should however, return to Tony, as the reconstruction tent is about to tell us something important, no doubt "with the aid of computers."

Shortly this will be an object of some importance.

Tony: Greg, what have you got for me today?
Greg (grinning the grin that can be achieved only by the Cheshire cat or by a graphic designer in a post wet dream fugue): Well, I took Lucy's artefact and guess what? If you imagine that what we have is the shaft, then, taking the swirled markings along the stem, added to the hair running down the middle, what you have is a wand.

In slow motion the wand appears on the screen. Greg looks smug.

Tony: So, what we have is a magical wand, which it seems unlikely has arrived here by chance, so we must be close to some trainee magicians. Great work Greg, another fine piece of detective work.

Now we have a bunch of dots which indicate the existence of a bunch of dots, according to Chopper Dave (for want of a better name), a twig that is not a twig, according to Lucy, who is desperately trying to off-load seven kittens (with basket) to anyone who will have them and a wand created by Greg "with the aid of computers."

This information is evaluated in the pub. "But where is the Magicians School?" asks Tony. Everyone has a theory on this, the left side of trench D3, at the bottom of field F1, or perhaps in the toilet (everyone laughs). This is ironic, as two hours and three ciders lately, Tony asks "But where is the toilet?" No amount of helicopters, kittens posing as carbon-dating devices or "computers" could answer that.

For legal reasons I cannot disclose any of the details of Tony's time at the local rehab centre, which is a blessed relief as I know nothing about it and would have to make it up. Tony will be back, as will Time Team; I will be watching it alone again which is probably good news for the Dear Lady Wife.

More soon Dear Reader.