The Endurance Test!

Thought you all might be amused at my thank you letter to my friends in the UK

Just to let you know I am safely returned to the Land of the Free. An amply
proven point at the customs. Just transiting through Canada gets the nth
degree about a lousy bottle of scotch, get to the customs at the land border
with the USA. They asked no questions of me except how long I had been
gone, not a thing about had I bought anything etc etc. All they asked of
Harold was how he had managed with me gone for 7 weeks and who had looked
after the dogs as it was a lot of work for one for so long. I got “Welcome
home ma’am!” Literally!
Of course getting out of the UK was a sick joke, Nazi inspection of hand
luggage for exploding Boots moisturiser, the waving of chemical wands etc
etc, plastic bags etc. I did point out that I did not think Boots currently
sold jehadi products but that might change in the near future. (Received
fatuous giggle from white female security guard!) Also asked whether they
were turning Heathrow into a mosque as mass removal of shoes was in progress
in the queue! Got a genuine laugh from white male guard! My my, how
politically incorrect!!

The journey from Llandeilo was long, tedious and more akin to an iron man
challenge than I care to admit at my advanced age. Anne nobly did the
honours from a 4am arising to get me to the coach station for 5.45. God,
does the world exist at 4am? Not in my pantheon it don’t! Then the horrors
of the new terminal 2. The coach can no longer drop you at the door, its
off to outer darkness at the coach station. Porters? What porters? An
extinct species in the UK these days I assure you. Seeing I couldn’t even
lift my suitcase onto a trolley I was helped by various gentlemen, (Who said
chivalry is dead, rubbish!) A grueling ordeal pushing it up hill, down
dale, into lifts, out of lifts until akin to running up and down the Hindu
Kush I stagger into check in with Air Canada only to be confronted by banks
of machines. I don’t do machines. I announced to a minion (grandly) that I
was an exhausted old fart and I only did humans, find me one! They did, so
too did a lot of other people when they saw I was not prepared to stuff crap
into machine orifices! A lovely Polish girl built like a brick shit house
lifted my suitcase as if it were a feather and politely overlooked the
weight, put a heavy label on it and sent it on its way free of excess
charges. We chatted extensively and then off to get some breakfast. The
shopping mall, correction, departure lounge is obsessed with handbag shops,
I mean how many can you buy at once? 6 shops selling overpriced handbags
all of which looked very similar at a quick 800.00 per touch and up! One
wonders if they ever actually sell any, all the shops were empty!

I bought Harold a bottle of Islay malt, not available in the USA, so I had
my little wheelie hand luggage, very heavy, my duty free, my handbag and a
coat. Then they had this peculiar request to walk to Cardifff to catch the
Air Canada must be in someone’s bad books, the gate was 15 minutes from the
lounge, literally. Vast escalators into the bowels of the earth, very
difficult to negotiate with all the bits one was carrying. Then huge
travalators one after the other. What an endurance test, absolutely
ludicrous. To be fair the plane home was fine, not at all full, no middle
seats filled with obese creatures, that is if one could survive the food.
Truly poisonous, Air Canada is bloody obsessed with pasta, which, of course,
makes you fart! It has to be a plot to make the damned thing go faster!
So next time try BA, at least they have their own terminal. What truly
staggers me is that people are prepared to do this for pleasure? It will
take me two years to get over the horror of it all! The only thing that
gets me on the damnable contraptions at all is you lot!

It was marvelous to see you all again and thank you for your hospitality and
long distance enduring friendship.

Love you

ps  Some of you charioteers, especially Christopher must be total masochists!

Author: christinaosborne

Landed on one side safely.

18 thoughts on “The Endurance Test!”

  1. Made me laugh Christina but after reading I feel like cancelling both of my Xmas trips to UK on the 13th Dec and Munich on 23rd.

  2. Loved the description of Heathrow Terminal 2. I travelled out of there just a few days after it opened last year – there were only 6 airlines flying from there at that time. The place was deserted – literally not one other person in sight and they hadn’t put up all the signs at that time either. It was really eerie – the stuff of nightmares. As you say: I had to take escalators down to the bowels of the earth, then travelators followed by escalators taking me up to the heavens again … and just the odd sign and no one to ask.

    Like you, I refuse to communicate with machines – but at least I was able to take a taxi to the airport – so I was dropped at the door. Probably not an option from Wales!

    I swear they reduce the number of staff on the VAT return every time I go – the queue was so long it would have taken an hour or more to get to a desk. So I gave up and, against all my principles, let the UK government keep my tax.

  3. I worked out of Heathrow for 16 years and still have nightmares about it. I never want to see the place again.

  4. So, CO, the term ‘long haul’ is accurate!

    On Tuesday I took an ‘express’ bus service from one daughter to another, scheduled to tale 100 minutes. After 15 we encountered an M25 hold-up which lengthened the trip by over 2 hours. Ho hum.

  5. Welcome back! Glad to see you returned relaxed, refreshed and full of your usual laissez-faire towards humanity in general and its workings in particular.


  6. Hi Co, your witty observations sound a familiar toll. I have zero desire to revisit the UK. Generally speaking I am overwhelmed by a feeling of nausea the moment I step out of the plane. I have so little empathy with the latest crop of inhabitants of that benighted country.It’s rather sad really.

    However, I think you are perhaps being a little unfair, in your comparison of US and UK border controls. It was the %$&*ing US that got the world into the mess it is today. The last time I was there, the border officials were every bit as unpleasant and officious as those in the UK. The paranoia attached to airline security is ridiculous, It was the US that spread that paranoia with its macho behaviour and its “Homeland Security”. What a pathetic title for a bunch of bullying, idiotic cretins.. There are a million ways to kill Americans. The level of resources that are directed at airline safety is way out of proportion to the relative risk.

    Anyway, I am glad you are happy to be home.

  7. Congratulations to the returned traveller. Your odyssey to Heathrow – an airport we avoid like the plague – makes the travels of Livingston, Speke and others seem like a walk in the park.

  8. Seven weeks of other people’s kitchens are more than enough!
    One loves them to death or one wouldn’t go, but really! Not one of them can cook and most of the restaurants in Wales are beyond an endurance test. Bit like a survival reality show you take your stomach in your hands!
    I cannot believe the quantity of these ghastly ready meals that the whole of the UK seem to consume currently. Wonderful boxes with luscious piccies full of tacky tacky unidentifiable inedible crap. M&S being the worst tasting and most expensive. My sister appears to lives out of M&S.
    I kept sneaking off to real butchers and buying large whole shoulders of lamb and slow roasting them with baked onions and parsnips, wonderful. But you can only do that once per hostess!
    Another thing why are all the joints of meat so small? Most of what I saw wouldn’t have had enough meat for the dogs’ treats let alone spousal unit and myself!! I was not aware farm animals have shrunken to pygmies and only Dexter cows are slaughtered. One of the UK’s total mysteries!
    But, oh joy of joys, I did get to eat Milford Place twice, actually in Milford Haven, wonderful, dreams are made of Milford plaice and Welsh lamb! Fake yank dabs don’t touch the space left of the bereft plaice addict!

    Sipu has an interesting point. Nearly everyone I know seems to have a bad experience of USA customs except me. I have had nothing but courtesy, smiles, pleasant observations and more “Welcome home ma’ams” than anything else. Strange. Wonder if the air of fake rectitude, impeccably articulated UK accent, decent clothes and jewellery have the effect or the fact I have been a USA resident on and off since 1976.
    But then I always start such a proceedings with a smile rather than the anticipation of aggro, I reckon that helps! One golden rule, never wear jeans!

    Today, as restorative therapy from my ‘Livingstonian Odyssey’ , I shall make my Christmas mincemeat, this house has no apple trees so off to trade carrots and parsnips dug in the pissing rain for a sack of apples from a friend. The veg garden is in reasonable order and I am just picking the last of the tomatoes and peppers. Spousal unit has assiduously kept the new mini greenhouse and new raised beds in good order, (He knows what will cause disaster to fall heavily!) So all is well in the heavens and in this corner of earth!

    Something truly weird, when I left this house appeared small, for some obscure reason it looked much larger on my return. I had only lived here two months before I left, but various packing cases have been removed. It is not a comparison to those in the UK, everyone I stay with has large houses, just a visual thing from the previous house perhaps, cannot compute. But am delighted with my spacious kitchen and utility.
    Just the place for mincemeat manufacture, must get a late batch of mint jelly then there are the xmas puds and Christmas cakes to be made…………………

  9. I am going to admit to eating some M&S prepared foodstuffs in the UK – but, as you know Christina, I’m not a great lover of cooking. With a very fussy mother to cook for in the UK – and an extremely poorly equipped kitchen to work in – I buy lots of M&S prepared Duck, Pork, etc. when I’m there – it’s just easier. Like you, I enjoy plaice on my return to the UK – but my absolute “Joy of Joys” is skate – fortunately Mum also likes it, can still eat it – so it’s ‘on the menu’ frequently!

    Should you decide to visit Oz, you would be more than welcome to use my kitchen more than once! But, I suspect you would find that most of our meat joints are quite small, and most vegetables should have been re-interred before they ever got to the shops! They are an incredible price, last Christmas I paid the equivalent of £8 a pound for parsnips …

    … please don’t tell me to grow my own! I have black thumbs!

  10. Good lord! I gave away at least 20 quids worth last night alone!

    Trouble is Queensland has a tropical climate, no way cool weather crops are ever going to grow there properly. I suppose the nearest place is NZ for such or imported from n Europe, at a price! Perhaps you should take up manioc? Trouble is all tropical veg seem to be tasteless pap. Couldn’t cut it I’m afraid.
    Definitely not my continent!

    Considering how many sheep there are in Australia I cannot comprehend why the joints should be small and probably expensive.

    I do note in the UK how ludicrously small most kitchens are, can’t even get the cat in let alone swing it. Totally inadequate storage for either equipment or supplies. I suppose as I cook recreationally I like plenty of space and wouldn’t actually buy a house with an inadequate kitchen, not that there are many available in the USA like that, tend to be large eat in rooms at the expense of a formal dining room.

  11. Tina: I am growing thoroughly sick of it! A few years ago I was merely tired after a long flight; now stiff and sore for days!The last flight nearly killed me. Hours-long drive from Huzhou to Shanghai, 2-hour-flight from Shanghai to Seoul. Then, alight and go through security yet again to merely board the same aeroplane! Bloody nuisance. As for Hellrow, par for the course for major transport centres! It is no different in Seoul, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, San Francisco or Copenhagen! Heathrow simply has so much more traffic that it takes on different proportions. Speaking of Heathrow, I will have to endure Terminal 5 again soon! British Airways to Copenhagen-Kastrup over Heathrow. At least I can fly on the A380 this time, not the wretched Boeing 747-400! Flights to Denmark were cheaper than to Luxembourg, the second cheapest after Dublin. No need to go to that wretched country again! That, and as you know my best mate conveniently owns a flat in Copenhagen with a spare bed. Will probably spend a few days there at least, perhaps, if time allows, taking a weekend holiday with him to Smaland — if we survive the ride through the Islamic Republic of Malmo, that is.

    As for the Islay Scotch — which brand would that be? I can easily find a good selection of it in California. Whatever its faults, which are many, California is one of the few tolerably developed parts of the USA. Perhaps that’s why I really can’t be asked to cross state lines — hardly worth it. The rest of the country bores me to tears and makes me question why I wasted money that could have been put to better use somewhere more interesting.

    Comment on US Passport Control: in San Francisco they’ve improved tremendously! The last two times were quick and pleasant. They’ve eschewed the interrogation and installed machines to do that instead. Insert passport, choose language, I naturally always choose Hunnish, answer basic questions, bring chit to an agent and be quickly sent through to Customs. Mostly, they don’t bother checking so long as you have not gone to any terribly uncivilised places. Take a left, see the “Welcome to San Francisco” sign, walk through the sliding glass doors — preferably after they’ve opened — and there’s the arrivals hall.

  12. I was always under the impression that the only use for breadfruit was for killing people by falling on them!

    Christopher, the Scotch was Lagavulin, a princely 44.00 in ‘duty free’ (my arse!) Always my pressy of last resort if nothing else catches the eye for spousal unit.
    Your comments about airports world wide reinforces my opinion of the horror of air travel and the preferred option of staying at home and gardening!

    I went ‘globe trotting’ internationally again yesterday. Had to go to the English shop in S Vancouver. I had forgotten Atora suet for my mincemeat, Christmas puddings and cold weather dumplings. Horror of horrors!!! Not available anywhere in the USA to my knowledge, a killer substance akin to Semtex I believe!, Gone all of two hours with dogs in tow. The dogs are very funny at drive through booths, they are used to the bank which gives them treats of biscuit bones here. So they all line up and look expectantly at the customs official expecting their bones, can’t seem to understand that not everyone dispenses bones! mind you a better idea than dishing out handouts to bloody immigrants!

    Can you imagine British banks dispensing bones? A cold day in hell before they gave you a sniff of an oil rag!

  13. Interesting LW I paid the same, within pennies, the shop is only half an hour from here and I bought several other things too. Irritatingly I was too near my weight limit to do much food shopping in the UK, needed to buy trousers, shoes and boots! Super aware of excess luggage, got nicked two years ago for 100.00 sterling being just a few pounds overweight! Robbers!

    But useful to know that Amazon does UK food, I have to admit to never using them.

  14. CO: Lagavulin is relatively easy to find at Scotch speciality shops in California. I would be happy to provide you with details on how to obtain it. As for Amazon, they carry a variety of British products and it is relatively easy to avoid using bank cards or credit cards — most shops allow you to buy shopping cards with cash.

    Oddly, German banks would likely give the dogs biscuits! Huns are strange. They can’t stand each other, best not to speak of the Burqa Brigade,but they love dogs!

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