Sunday, 27 April 2008

Air Canada - I really, really, really mean no.

I had intended to use this BlackLOG to write what a great ski holiday we had, for in truth it was. It’s just that Air Canada managed to excel even themselves and so have usurped the ski part yet again. So, by way of further compensation I have added some more ski photos at the end of the Blog.

After the no-fun that was the flight out to Canada, I had resigned myself to a similar experience on the return leg. Again, the internal part was great, although our flight to Montreal was delayed about 15 minutes. Once again the plane had seat-back movies with a vast selection of films. I caught most of “The Kite runner” all but the last 5 minutes, Grrrrrrrr. (When will airlines put in a little button by your seat that lets you put a request to the pilot to fly around again so you can catch the end of a film?) We had a tight connection for our London flight but had been assured in Vancouver that the delay would not be a problem. As we landed, the head stewardess even took the trouble to trundle down the isle with her Zimmer frame and announce "Would all passengers not looking to get connecting flights please remained seated?". (Like that’s going to happen). This was replaced by the message, just as we were leaving the plane “Would all passengers who think they are getting connecting flights (I’m sure there was then a slight pause and what appeared to be a faint giggle) to London and Paris, please remain in the lounge where a representative from the Airline will give you further instructions.” I.e. bullshit PR to placate you until you have left the airport. Two plucky passengers managed to avoid the trap and sprinted to the departure gate for the London flight. (At this stage Mrs B and I were still attempting to clamber over Canadian passengers, who were milling about the isle asking each other “What do they mean by "remain seated"?” and then “Oh sorry, am I blocking you ?” At least they were polite in their obstructiveness.) The plucky duo made it to the London flight departure gate while the plane was still loading but were refused access, despite having boarding cards for the flight. The reason given was that you are not allowed to fly if your cases are not on board. (Try selling that one to the thousands of people who have flown out of Heathrow's Terminal Five recently). Their luggage had been unable to clamber over the Canadian cases that were milling about the hold.

I suspect it was all a ploy by Air Canada to sell on our seats at a profit and force us to fill up the empty flight the following day. The airline representative was the normal smarmy git (SG) whose one task in life is to get you out of the airport as soon as possible and will tell you anything to close the deal. As a group we asked the SG why it was not possible to delay the flight by 15 minutes. His impressive answer was that they did not want to risk inconveniencing other passengers with a connection in London. That made us all feel so much happier and we were soon asking our new found friend for his address so that we could send him hate mail (sorry I appear to have spelt Christmas cards incorrectly). After a half hour more of bovine scatology from SG and a realisation that there was no chance of getting an onward flight that evening, (Mrs B and I tracked down a flight to London that was still available but that turned out to be to London, Ontario, so we decided on balance not to pursue it) 23 of us reluctantly conceded and agreed to Air Canada’s accommodation arrangements, the Airport Holiday Inn.

Airport Holiday Inn – including the Wedding reception from hell.
I'm not sure which airport is referred to in the hotel's title. Whilst we may have landed in Montreal, the transfer seemed to take so long that it might have been the Toronto Airport Holiday Inn. The SG from Air Canada assured us that there were courtesy buses running every 10 minutes so we were shocked when it took us the best part of an hour to get one. I think he was suffering from judgement issues because he also described the hotel as top notch with a swimming pool and full facilities. Well the swimming pool looked more like a cesspit and the only facility of note that I witnessed was the light switch for the bathroom which was actually sited in the shower. Great fun if you fancy playing Life and Death lottery. I didn’t, so chose to shower in the dark. This proved a bonus as it meant you could not see the cracked tiles or cockroaches.

Looks like the Canadians do know
how to have an exciting time, even if
that only involves showering with an
element of danger …...

This was possibly the worst place we have ever stayed in and that includes the Motel 6 in Mammoth, California with it’s sodden shag pile carpet and the old Schoolhouse Kirkcudbright with it’s hot and cold running mice, plastic sheets on the bed and the creepy owner, Mr Lazar, like a character who would not be out of place in “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. I hope I have established for the record that this was a hotel for avoiding, not for spending 24 hours of your precious life, let alone celebrating an important event in your life. Of all the places you can choose to hold a wedding reception in, the Airport Holiday Inn Montreal (or was it Toronto?) should remain very low on the list. In fact I would recommend a bike shed, the gent’s toilets of an East London Pub or even the outside lane of the M25, before this establishment. I was initially impressed that they had bouncers, but on closer inspection it became clear that they were actually guards employed to stop the wedding guests and possibly the knocked-up bride and the baby's father, aka uncle, from escaping. I have a horrible feeling that the guards may have even press-ganged a couple of unfortunates who strayed too close to the reception entrance. Thanks once again Air Canada “You really know how to spoil us”.

If you can believe it, it gets even better. When we got back to Montreal airport, after our excursion into, let’s say, the more interesting side of hotel life (Is it possible to have negative star hotels? 'Cos this establishment put a very convincing argument for minus five of them) We discovered that the flight that only yesterday could not be delayed for 15 minutes under any circumstance was….. delayed for two and a half hours.

What every passenger dreams of seeing!
Well the ones going somewhere they don’t
want to go……....

Sadly the SG was not around for us to congratulate him on his spin technique before collectively stringing him up, in a warm and friendly way.

Is that Peter Stringfellow with Mrs B?

I was going to take a picture of Mitch to
show the snow above our knees.....
unfortunately an American offered to
take the both of us but some how managed
to miss the snow line. Doh!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Being in the Top 5%.....

I have to interrupt the flow of the Vancouver Ski BlackLOG with the following breaking Story, courtesy of my Big Sis. While I was not directly involved in the described incident I feel that I have enough emotional ties to include it as a genuine BlackLOG topic.

As compensation for having to wait for a further
Ski Blog I have included a delightful picture of Mrs B.

The scene is my sister's living room in Windsor. My sis, mother, nephew Alex and my sis's friend Lisa are sharing a Chinese meal.(aside 1). Alex happenned to mention (as 11 year olds do) something about seeing a girl aged 3 on TV who had an IQ of 140 and how the girl was really good at maths. Lisa said she would be interested to know what her own IQ was as she had not done well at school. My sis told her "Intelligence does not equate to exam results" and cited her dear brother (that would be me), and said that (- Now sit up and pay attention everyone) "My brother is actually more intelligent than me but did not do particularly well at school". (aside 2)

My mother is obviously sitting there taking this all in. About half an hour later she pipes up:

"Nikki's brother is in the top 5% you know"

Lisa "5% of what?"

Mother "of whatever "

They all fell about laughing and quizzed my mother as to what she meant but she was getting huffy and very protective of her son!!

My sister followed it up the following morning and pushed our Mother for further details

Big Sis - "What exactly is it that Niel is in the top 5% of?"

Mum - "I didn't ask"

BS - "well who told you he was in the top 5% ?"

Mum - "someone did"

This kind of leaves a very large question. Exactly what I am in the Top 5% of? My initial guess was that I'm in the Top 5% of people who don't know what they are in the the Top 5% of - but that does not work because I would then know what I was in the top 5% of and thus get disqualified. Feel free to speculate and let me know what you think that I might be in the top 5% of....

This reminds me of another incident involving my mother. It was just after my Sis's Wedding and a good family friend "Uncle Bob", who not only hosted my Sister's first wedding but my Parent's wedding as well, back in the 60's. My mother was sitting in a car jabbering on as usual. Bob had a wonderful deep Texan drawl and he lent in through the window and said "Don't forget to Belt up, Ann" My mother didn't miss a word as she chatted on while she reached behind her for her seat belt. The tears were rolling down my cheeks as I staggered around the corner and crumpled to the floor. Maybe you had to be there but it's a memory that will stay with me forever.

--------------------The end of another BlackLOG-------------------

(1)The bit about the Chinese food is not particularly important and has only been included to add a bit of background colour. When however the BlackLOG makes it to Hollywood it is the sort of detail that is very helpful to the production team and set dressers.

While not a picture of Chinese food (it happens to be Thai for those who like the full facts) and the more observant of you may also note that it is not a Living room. I Feel that it is close enough....."

Return to text

(2)My Sister then told me "You cannot quote me on that - I was simply being kind to Lisa ;-)" Who is she kidding? That statement is going to follow her to the grave. I might even actually have to have it carved on her tombstone. Now that's an incentive for her to out live me....

Bit of a faux pas from Big siss,it might even possibly turn out to be a grave error

Return to text

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Air Canada, just say no!

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't there some sort of international sky law covering unnecessary cruelty to air passengers? Top of the list of crimes against humanity has to be "not providing adequate entertainment on long haul flights" (aside 1). I felt like I had been taken back in time as I noticed, with horror, that there were no video screens in the back of the seats. I half expected the people around me to light up their ciggies, aided by the trolley dolly who was holding the match. (Please note that since I have been transported back to less enlightened times I am not only allowed, but legally obliged, to use non-PC terms such as Trolley Dolly; Serving Wench etc... )

Thankfully no one did, as the haze of smoke would have obscured our, already compromised, view of the video screen, way off in the distance, at the far end of the cabin. If I craned my neck thirteen degrees to the left and sat balanced precariously on my left buttock, I could see about 1/3 of the screen. Mrs B had to jump up and down on her seat to see 1/4, none, 1/4, none, 1/4, none etc......

As it happens this was irrelevant as, shortly before take off, there was an announcement:"Due to circumstances beyond even our normal incompetence, passengers in rows 12 to 26 will not miss 2/3rds of the film or even 3/4, all, 3/4, all the screen in this section has been switched off in an experiment to see how far we can push our passengers' tolerance levels" . If you think really hard you can probably guess which section Mrs B & I were sitting in ....

Far from being the straw that broke this camel's back and giving me the right hump to boot, a calm realisation crept over me after I accepted this was not going to be a fun-packed flight. Besides, rather bizarrely I didn't feel I was actually missing out on anything. It would have been a different story if the plane had been packed with the latest entertainment systems, which had been disabled by someone demonstrating more incompetence than Bishop Stortford's road planning department(aside 2). I would now probably be writing this from a jail cell, with rather shakey hands following a rather nasty air rage incident, including free tazering and a good kicking to boot. I'm afraid Mrs B and her legendary ability to sleep through anything (Nickalepsy, as you might recall from a previous blog), would be partially to blame, for not being available to calm her technology deprived, distraught and broken husband.

Even after unexpectedly managing to cheer me up, by not being able to supply something, Air Canada managed to blot their copy book once again, this time by offering me something (god this makes me sound like high maintenance). The offer was a card which gave the recipient a couple of dollars off their next flight. Is it just me (probably) or does anyone else out there have a problem when they feel they are being ripped off by someone with a huge grin on their smug little face as they do the ripping off? I never had a problem with BT ripping the British public off for years. They were a monopoly and frankly that's what people expected of them. My deep-seated loathing for all things BT (aside 3). stems from an advertising campaign they ran, as they faced competition for the first time. Basically stating "We are sorry we ripped you off for all those years, please come back to us" For some reason this really hit a nerve and I have been unable to give them my custom since. I have no doubt they are all very nice people now and probably provide a much better service than anyone else, at a much better price, it's just I'm not ready to forgive them......

To add insult to injury, the second and much shorter leg of our flights was on a brand new state of the art aircraft, with full entertainment package including 9" seat-back screens. I took so long making my film selection that I only managed to watch half of it before the entertainment was switched off for landing. Oh where are those hour-long plane stacking delays when you really need them....

Bear in mind that was just the outward-bound part of the trip - Air Canada had not finished toying with us by a long chalk. You will have to wait for a future Blacklog to find out about the true horrors of flying Air Canada that is not just a tongue in cheek rant about not getting entertained.

(1) Personally if I was in charge of all things aeronautical I would ground any planes that did not provide a choice of at least 10 films for flights over 35 minutes in length - even for us povs at the back.

(2) I challenge anyone not driving a Tank to extract their vehicle from the Sainsbury's car park on a Saturday afternoon in less than 2 hours and that includes Harry Houdini).

(3) I'm excluding my friend Paul from this rather sweeping statement. As it is my prejudice, I feel empowered to cherry-pick how it manifests. So despite the fact he works for "them", he has too many other, finer, qualities that offset this blip in his life.