I should have known that my annual visit to Scotsturf was doomed the moment I booked my hotel room online.
Having accepted the cancellation insurance offered - at a princely sum of £1 - my invoice arrived by email with a big red flash across it telling me that "cancellation insurance is not valid with super saver rooms". Oh well, it's only a pound.
Living, as I do, in deepest Dorset. The only realistic way for me to get to Edinburgh is to fly. I have a number of options. FlyBe from Exeter or Southampton (too expensive), EasyJet from Bristol (pain to get to) or RyanAir from Bournemouth 'International'. I chose the latter.
It's a three quarters of an hour drive from my home to the airport. My flight was at 9.15am. So, I left at 7.30am allowing plenty of time for a spot of breakfast before boarding.
Anyone who knows the area will know that there is a ten mile stretch of dual carriageway linking the A31 to Bournemouth, with the turn off to the airport about half way along. I was listening to Wogan mumbling on and, as I approached the dual carriageway, was met with a queue of vehicles. 'Sally Traffic' had made no mention of "delays into Bournemouth" so I assumed this was just a glitch. I was wrong. Health & Safety were in action.
Just short of the turn off to the airport, half-a-dozen arborist types were removing a few saplings. This required coning off one lane of the dual carriageway for four miles 'before' in order to 'protect' them. At 8.00am, when the world and his mother were trying to get to work, this was clueless thinking. The queue of traffic was slow moving at best. As we inched along, the clock ticked further round and the chances of getting my relaxing breakfast looked distinctly unlikely.
Thirty minutes later I eventually arrived alongside the arborists who were working at least thirty yards off of the hard shoulder, along a stretch of about fifty yards, all wearing high visibility jackets, and with enough flashing lights to distract any pilot attempting to land at the airport I was trying to reach!
I got to the airport at 8.40am, just five minutes before, according to my online boarding pass, the gate closed. Bournemouth International (well, they do fly to Dublin and Spain) is undergoing a face-lift. I was greeted by further hi-vis jackets and flashing lights along with more sleeping policemen than the West Midlands Constabulary. By now my gate would, I felt sure, have closed. I parked my car and rushed to departures, picking my way past reversing dump trucks and JCBs, all the time following a 'safety' pedestrian route mapped out by a psychopath!
I rushed past the cafe - breakfast smelled lovely - and my boarding pass was checked for the first time. Now, I had to get to Gate 1 and hope for the best. At security I was asked to empty my pockets, remove my belt and place everything on the conveyor belt for 'security'. "Liquids in this bag" I heard a voice say. Please don't let it be mine.
"Is this your bag, sir?"
"Yes, yes. Look, my gate has closed and I'm in a rush."
"Did you pack it yourself?"
Yes, yes, now could you please hurry."
"Could anyone have tampered with it?"
Sigh. "No, not unless it was the invisible man."
"Could you open it please, sir?"
And there it was, the offending 'liquid'. A 200ml can of shaving foam.
"I'm sorry sir, we shall have to confiscate this. The maximum size allowed is 100ml."
"But they don't sell shaving foam in 100ml" I suggested. "And, anyway, who ever heard of death by shaving foam?"
That was like a red rag to this particular security 'official'. "Would you step to one side please sir." There followed a thorough search!
My bag, belt, jacket, loose change, camera and chewing gum (the foil set off the damn scanner) were all returned to me and, as I hurriedly gathered it all up, the security guard looked at me and said "don't worry sir, your flight has been delayed". You bast..a..r ..., I thought it best not to say anything!
So, not only was I late but I was going to be even later arriving in Edinburgh.
Getting to Gate 1 required walking past the airport shops - where they were selling 150ml and 200ml cans of shaving foam. How does that work?
By now I was physically and mentally exhausted. Never mind, I could grab a few winks on the plane to recharge the batteries - it eventually took off forty-five minutes behind schedule. I had, at least, managed to secure one of the emergency exit seats, allowing me to stretch my legs and stomach. I leant my head against the window and closed my eyes. I was just drifting off when I was tapped on the shoulder. "Excuse me sir, you are aware that this is the emergency exit. Are you fit enough to open the door in the event of an emergency?"
"Please read the operating instructions on the seat in front of you."
"Thank you, I will."
Ping. "Welcome aboard this RyanAir flight to Edinburgh. We apologise for the delay. Your cabin staff are led by Andrew ....". Andrew turned out to be Andwrecj, who insisted on talking over the tannoy every five minutes in a difficult to understand Eastern European accent.
Ping. "We will shortly be passing through the cabin with our range of hot snacks "
Ping. "We will shortly be passing through the cabin with our hot and cold drinks service."
Ping. "... with our charity scratch cards."
Ping. "... with our range of gifts, including cuddly toys."
Ping. "... with our range of perfumes and toiletries." Great, I'll buy some shaving foam. "Sorry sir, we don't stock shaving foam."
Ping. "... with our smokeless cigarettes."
Ping. "... to collect any rubbish."
Ping. "... we will be landing in fifteen minutes."
Ping " ... cabin crew, seats for landing."
Oh, sod it. At least I'll sleep well tonight.
RyanAir's Boeing 737 800 Series (see, I did read the safety instructions) parked as far away from the arrivals lounge as was possible - it could well have been Glasgow! After a fifteen minute walk (no exaggeration) I found my way outside. I could have walked to the Highland Showground in about twenty minutes but chose to grab a taxi to save a bit of time. Mistake!
The taxi driver was as grumpy as hell. "I've been making my way to the front of the queue for two hours - now I'll end up at the back again, and all for a short trip."
The taxi fair cost £3. I gave grumpy a fiver and told him to keep the change. He still wasn't happy.
I had arrived at Scotsturf over an hour later than I had hoped. After enjoying the remainder of the day talking to clients - including Roy Allett, who delighted in telling a joke that is unrepeatable here - I checked into the new Travelodge Airport hotel, had a little chunter to a young lad at reception about my lost £1 insurance, and made my way to my room. Good job I didn't have a cat with me that required swinging!
I enjoyed an evening in the company of the Lloyds of Letchworth and Hunter Grinders staff, at a restaurant in a stunning location overlooking the Forth Bridge and, after a couple of bevies, retired to my room for some much needed sleep. It was then I found out how accurate the hotel's suffix 'airport' was. It was situated on the main A8 road in to Edinburgh, at the end of the runway. I hardly slept a wink!
I was up at 6.00am to catch the flight home! Ping!