Tuesday, October 29, 2002

And we're back!

I'm going to do it in a few installments, but what follows is a bit sad so don't be put off - things did get much, much better!

So yes. Friday lunchtime, we get to the airport and check in for our two o'clock flight to Brussels with no problems. We settle into the departure lounge when all of a sudden we hear: "British Airways flight 1682 to Brussels will now be delayed. Next information at 3 PM.". A collective grumbling starts, not least from us since we're counting on getting there in good time to carry on to Liege, which is an hour and a half away by train from Gare du Midi.

3 PM rolls around, and no update. By now we have all noticed that quite a few flights within Europe seem to be delayed, but the bf wanders off to the BA desk and reports back that we should be taking off at 4 PM. Sure enough, at about 3:30 a flight attendant makes a local announcement and we board the plane at about 4. It's not ideal but we can still make it. Ahem.

"This is your pilot. I've told air traffic control that we're all ready to go, but they've told us we can't have a departure slot until 6:15 PM. I'll keep you posted."

Everyone is starting to get really pissed off. The pilot comes back on and announces that there still isn't any news, but he's asked the flight attendants to feed us (presumably so that the angry mob won't at least be further enraged by hypoglaecemia!). We miserably chomp on some soggy chicken sandwiches and wait some more.

"This is your pilot. Management have now decided to combine this flight with a later flight to Brussels. A BA representative will be coming on board shortly to discuss it with you."

So now we freak. I grab the attention of a perky hostess and tell her we HAVE to get to Liege before 11 PM. Not really an unreasonable demand when you're on a 2 PM flight. She burbles out some sympathetic remarks and says "We've all had to wait around too you know!" Excuse me, but aren't you PAID by BA to do that?

No BA rep shows up, and next thing we know we're all asked to leave the plane and head for the customer service desk. I'm issued with a red re-boarding pass and realise they're making us queue all over again at a barely-staffed desk to check-in to a much later flight with NO explanation. This flight is due to go out at 7:30 PM. It's not looking good. There's no way we can land, get our bags and get into Brussels for a connecting train. When we eventually get served, we bluntly state our case but the rep is surprisingly nice - he immediately offers us a taxi straight from the airport to Liege which will be sorted out as soon as we land. We do a quick calculation and figure as long as we get a notorious speed-happy Belgian taxi driver it can work...just.

More waiting. We're offered more soggy sandwiches (no "delay" alcohol, bah!) but no boarding annoucement. Suddenly the departure time jumps to 19:50. Fuckers.

Eventually at 8 PM ish, we're asked to board. It's some bizarre airline that takes on emergency flights for BA - called Priceline or something suspiciously rubbish like that. The pilot comes on and pleads with us to be nice to his flight attendants, which is a sign that BA knows they've royally screwed up.

Sat next to us is a frequent business flyer. He's a bit flash and refers to his gold card a few times too many, but he's also a treasure trove of information as to what really happened since he badgered the duty manager to find out. So here it is:

1. Problems start when a technical fault is discovered with the plane. They get it fixed eventually which is when we boarded at about 4 PM.

2. When the pilot announced that our flight slot wouldn't be until 6:15 PM, the crew started making tracks immediately because according to their strict unionised hours, this would take them over the allowable shift length. So we had a plane but no crew, and for mysterious reasons known only to BA, no local relief crew to call in either.

3. So the Priceline happy shopper plane was called in from Edinburgh, but that took some time. Hence our departure at 20:40.

But did BA feel that perhaps their passengers should get a decent explanation? Of course not. Herd them round like sheep, they can wait.

It gets worse. Bad weather forces us to fly at about 19,000 feet instead of the usual 30,000 or so, which drags our flight time out. We finally land in Brussels at nearly 11 PM local time. Herrmann & Kleine is not going to happen. We're exhausted, irritated and disappointed.

Once we get off, we explain that we no longer need the taxi to Liege because there's no point. We do, however, want compensation for the hotel charge we'll get for not showing up, and a taxi to Brussels for our troubles. We get the taxi - a hotel refund will have to be sorted out by writing to complain when we get home. We're too tired to argue.

Although our taxi driver takes us through the scenic route in the centre via brightly lit restaurants and cobbled streets, I'm too tired to appreciate it much. We stumble into our hotel, debate over wandering out to a bar but decide that a decent night's sleep is the better option for starting a day's shopping in the morning. I find some cheesy German chat show on TV which sends me right to sleep.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Apologies for the lack of updates, but I've been busy finishing some work and getting ready for our trip to Belgium where Herrmann & Kleine, girlgroup records and gorgeous chocolate/beer await us. We're leaving for the airport in 10 minutes!

A full report when I get back, but before I go - don't forget about Slow Fizz, my 60s girlgroup club night in two weeks' time. The link for all info is on the sidebar.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Monday, October 21, 2002

There's a first time for everything...

This morning, I was in a really foul mood. I was stressed out about a call I'd have to make to sort out a conflict over canceling my gym membership. A very long and boring story, but as you can imagine I don't like being threatened with collection agencies, especially when the losers are misquoting the Credit Consumer Act of 1974 and trying to squeeze more money than I owe through intimidation.

Anyhow, just before 9 AM I was in our guest room getting dressed, when I felt a really strange rumbling and shaking. I can't even describe it properly, because it stopped two seconds later and I'd never felt anything like it before. I thought maybe the neighbours were doing some major DIY, but it didn't feel right. I immediately hollered "what the f*&k was that?" down to the bf, but he probably thought I was just being stroppy. Besides, he hadn't noticed anything.

But it *was* an earthquake! The bf sent me this link just now, and one of my friends has written from work to say that some phone lines must be down because she hasn't been able to get through to a lot of numbers this morning.

So now I have an inkling of what Chig must have felt during the (much bigger!) Brummie quake. It's weird..it throws your sense of perception because, well, solid ground isn't supposed to move. The feeling of loss of control is pretty freaky!

Thursday, October 17, 2002

And you thought Delia showing us how to make hard-boiled eggs on her last series was stupid...

And more Epicurious stupidity for you - this is the complaint posted by one woman who tried an apple pie recipe:

A Cook from Pittsburgh, PA on 10/14/02

This recipe is a disaster just waiting to happen. Since the good folks at Epicurious.com "conveniently" omitted the "Pastry Dough" dough recipe (which was hyperlinked - ed.) I am the laughing stock of my neighborhood. I thought that using pancake batter would be a good substitute for "pastry dough," but boy oh boy was I wrong. What was supposed to be a special dessert for the Mayor of my town turned out to be a disgusting mess. The "pie" as they call it, was not pie but a burned, cement-like, non-flaky, too-sweet, wouldn't feed it to my worst enemy, MESS! How DARE Epicurious publish such a so-called "recipe." I'm immediately canceling my subscription. As for the Mayor, he brought up my "pie" at a City Council meeting and now I may have to "move" due to the "shame" and "humiliation."

Ding ding ding! All aboard the troll express!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

There's a BT payphone that I walk past every day on the way to the bus stop, and the glass has been completely smashed up by (I assume) scally kids no less than 5 or 6 times in the last month. Then, like the patient Doozers from Fraggle Rock, BT crew turn up the next day to replace the glass and sweep up the shards as best they can.

Here's what I want to know: is it really worth their while to keep a payphone with such a constant record of vandalism? And why don't they replace the glass with unbreakable plastic instead?

I had a look at the BT site, and their solution is to plaster payphones with posters "depicting the consequences" (e.g. handcuffs, OOOH scary) bearing the slogan "Vandalism costs more than just money".

Umm, ok. First of all, the vandalism takes place at night, and second, if BT think a poster like that is going to scare a bunch of bad-ass brats, it shows how out of touch they are.

If it was by my house, I'd be so sick of this happening that I'd probably stake out the payphone with a digital camera in tow to get some evidence.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Do you ever get on a bus and think "Hmmmm. I'm clearly going to be late for work..." as soon as you walk on?

It's funny, but sometimes I know the moment I set foot on our beloved Stagecoach services if the journey to town is going to take 35 minutes instead of the usual 15-20. Here, in no particular order, are some of my pet peeves where bus drivers are concerned:

1. Sunday Driver. The kind that plods along at 25 mph, *never* goes through a yellow light and stops for falling leaves. Listen: we all want to get to work, and you want your coffee break! I dare you to drive at the speed limit!

2. Mr. Prissy Rule Enforcer. He'll stop every student for their ID card and shout at people who've flashed their bus passes to come back so he can inspect them. You may not be able to lord much power from a 3x3 compartment, but he'll be damned if you can stop him! I saw one this morning who refused to drive on when a girl whizzed past and said "I'll just go dig out my pass". They got into a massive row - granted, she was a stroppy cow too, but in the end he forced her to pay because she couldn't produce her pass on the spot. As soon as she sat down, it fell out of her handbag. This little drama took at least 5 minutes!

3. Mr. Who-Pissed-On-My-Cornflakes, who feels the need to get into a massive argument with a passenger because they dare to pay for a weekly pass (£7.30) without exact change. Manchester bus drivers NEVER seem to have change, but you can't buy tickets or passes from anywhere except the Travel Shop in Piccadilly Gardens. I have actually walked a couple of extra blocks to find a shop where I can make a small purchase to get some change to save myself going through this ordeal!

Friday, October 11, 2002

Where has the week gone? Ho hum.

I forgot to say that this week's Life Laundry (Wednesdays 8PM, BBC2) was particularly apt. In most previous programmes, it's been people hoarding junk - actual sacks of rubbish stashed in the attic, piles and piles of random dusty stuff and papers that gives you a headache just looking at it. So in come the experts who convince them to chuck it all away and sell what they can at a car boot. Usually discover they are secretly holding onto their mother's memory or some other past trauma, which they cure by first creating a "haven" for them in their bedroom and getting them to toss the last of the junk in a crusher. And hey presto, one less junkaholic in the world (for a while anyhow!)

But this week was an obsessive collector. Specifically, a 50s and 60s collectables addict like me. My immediate reaction was indignation and panic. The thought of all those Gorgeous Things being mauled to death in a crusher, or worse yet, sold off for 10p at a car boot made me want to cry. When they first entered his house, I nearly stopped breathing - there was a vase to match my Hornsea bowl I have on the coffee table! Lines of crockery I'd never ever seen before! A huge, pink bakelite hairdryer that you sit under! Aaaaaaagh!

Of course, we had our differences. I don't have 100 soda siphons taking over my bedroom, or doubles/triples of everything "just in case". I display my favourite pieces properly and usually sell off what I've moved on from - eventually I want my house to look like a 1950s showcase. He was particularly attached to the UGLIEST Pifco sunlamp you'd ever seen, but hey, I guess someone needs to love them.

Anyhow I was very happy to see that the producers had some concept of the value of his stuff, and with their help he managed to sell £445 worth (roughly 10% of his spare collection) at a antiques fair. Riveting stuff!

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Catch the breeze...

I never thought I'd be saying this...but I've got Shoegazing Nostalgia!

Yes, like most mid teens in North America, the shoegazing bug bit me bad back in 1990. My walls were plastered with tatty clippings from the NME and Melody Maker and I ached for the day where I could live in London and, y'know, be *near* to all my favourite bands. We all thought the streets of Camden would be paved with Andy Bells and Miki Berenyis. Ahem.

As time went on, like C86 and all things twee, the shoegazing tag became more and more uncool. A lot of my records were sold to see me through uni and the clippings laid to rest in boxes in the garage attic. I discovered my love of girl groups and didn't really look back.

But for some reason, last week I got this craving to listen to Slowdive's "Souvlaki" album. I started thinking about that period of my life, and remembered how fantastic it was sometimes. Like dancing in my friend's bedroom to "Soon" by My Bloody Valentine, the volume so loud the walls were shaking and her brother came to scream at us. Making out to Chapterhouse (eeek!). Walking for hours around Toronto, my pockets lined with cassette after cassette of Ride, Moose and all the rest. But now, all I wanted to hear was "Alison" from Souvlaki. I don't know why.

Anyhow, I smugly thought that I would be able to pick it up for a few quid on eBay. To my horror I've discovered that many other people seem to have had the same idea as me, because let me tell you, there is a shoegazing bidding war going down!

One copy, including the bonus "Blue Day" mini-cd is already up to £17 with 5 days to go. A copy of Pygmalion, their last proper album that I barely listened to and probably sold for $10 at the time, is going for £50! Sigh. Can anyone burn me a copy?

Oh yeah, the search brought up some other cds I hadn't thought about in ages...anyone remember Blind Mr. Jones? I didn't think so!

Monday, October 07, 2002

Well I *was* going to post some photos from last night's Saint Etienne show at the Ritz, but my rubbish little digital camera can obviously only handle objects that are exactly 4 feet away. Which is a shame, because I especially wanted to show everyone Wildflower, the girl who raps on St E's forthcoming single "Soft Like Me". She was so cute!

The other best songs of the evening were Burnt Out Car, New Thing (which sounds even better live!) and Like a Motorway.

Sadly we missed all but 30 seconds of Broadcast's set because of the Sunday curfew (10:30 finish!). Since we were upstairs, we at least managed to glimpse one of Broadcast's crew doing manual film imagery using bits of cardboard in time with the music - very cool.

Much chatting and beer consumption ensued down in the basement of the Ritz, until we were all kicked out by their horrible bouncers. Back to ours for more drinks, plenty of vinyl and some 60s girl group footage, and before I knew it, it was 3:30 AM. Not so good when you have to work on Monday. So I may or may not have called in sick, and I might or might not feel guilty about it - after all, it's so rare to have so many friends in town at once.

In other very happy news, my pining away for a Herrmann & Kleine show has turned into delight as we've just found out that they're playing in Liege the day we arrive in Brussels. Of course, this means we have to catch a train to Liege as soon as we've arrived. We'll also have to fork out for a hotel in Liege because the last train goes back at 11:30 PM, and Thaddi from H&K has kindly written back to the bf to say they'll be on at about midnight. But we've already paid so little for the whole deal through Air Miles that it's not really that extravagant, or so we're telling ourselves. Hooray!

Friday, October 04, 2002

I've just been Yahoo-ing to see if I could find any pages on fab 60s Scottish duo, the McKinleys... but instead, I found this. As you'll see, they're "all American rock 'n roll aimed to save the hell bound soul!" Wonder if they've ever won a Dove award?

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Whenever I'm back home in Toronto for a visit, I like to go back to all my favourite spots. This includes the Toronto Islands. On Centre Island, you can spend hours strolling along the park land and ride the log cabin at the amusement park where I spent many a happy summer. On Hanlan's Point, I attended a week-long science camp every summer as well. (no, I wasn't a nerd - everyone went, because it was a great place to flirt for 5 days!)

But my favourite spot is the tiny neighbourhood on Ward's and Algonquin Island, where people live in fantastic, cosy cottages like this one, and here's a great slideshow. Anyone I've ever taken there has never been less than completely enthralled. Part of its charm is the strong sense of community there, which has always come across as quite cool & bohemian.

It's next to impossible to buy a home there - the waiting list is miles long, even though there are no shops and you have to take a ferry to get to the mainland for work! You will often see desperate notices stuck up on trees/poles in the area, begging for somewhere to rent or even housesit. People love it *that* much.

So when I read this article in the Toronto Star today, I lost it. The current Environment Minister, who also happens to be a Tory wanker, has called the residents squatters and wants to do his best to evict them when their lease deal is reviewed later this year. The lease situation has always been a contentious subject, because the island is public land and the community has evolved from people who simply moved over and built homes over the last 150 years. However 10 years ago, they were granted a 99 year lease under the NDP government.

The one good thing, of course, is that Canadians put up a big fight when they have to. I'm looking forward to seeing the supporters take this guy down in the press.