Week 95: Isn’t Frankfurt Airport Big

Friday, 25 October 2019

Reading time 3 minute 31 seconds

I had arrived at the airport one hour early so that, in accordance with airline procedures, I could stand around. – Dave Barry

If I‘ve a 6am flight with my girlfriend we arrive at the terminal for 3am due to the just in case rule. The same rule is applied the moment our gate number is called, even if we have to sit there for 40 minutes, we’re ready to board. This is her idea, her anxiety, not mine and while I make fun of her for it, secretly I’m pleased. Very pleased.

I once used to commute to Germany and spent a lot of time in Frankfurt airport which is massive. It’s so huge the staff travel from one part to the other using bicycles. Bicycles through a terminal! Europeans are weirdly efficient and health conscious, maybe that’s why we’re leaving Europe.

I love Germany it’s an amazing country, they have vending machines that sells cold beer, strong good German beer available 24 hours a day in a machine that was outside the front door by my apartment.  

Travelling home on a Friday night was my favourite part of the week The first time was the most memorable. I’d got to the airport with more than enough time to spare and went for a peek in the shops which back then were called Duty Free. I’d never understood this concept, but I guess I wasn’t the only one as it was scrapped a short while later.  

My flight was called and was taking off in 45 minutes. Sweet. I started walking to the plane and thought I’d find me one of those vending machines.

I arrived at my gate and found out I was in the wrong part of the building and there was another gate with the same number and that it was a 45-minute walk away. What? I’m at an airport, not on a city tour.

I was told to run by a German man so I ran, like the wind. Sadly drinking Superb cheap German cloudy beer every night and the fact I’d never ran before produced very poor results. I stopped 60 seconds later coughed up a lung and vowed to quit smoking one day. 

I started to walk as fast as my little legs would take me, 35 minutes later I arrived with minutes to spare. Hot, sweaty, flustered and knackered. Luckily I’d passed two vending machines so had a few cold ones ready.

I was ushered onto the plane feeling very pleased with myself. The plane was tiny and it was almost full it held about 20 business looking people. Each one of them glared at me. The pilot who was unable to glare had a pop at me by announcing that due to the late arrival of a passenger we’ve missed our take off slot and will sit here awaiting a new one. This may take a sometime. The back of my chair was hit. The man across the aisle from me referred to me as female genitalia. It sounds harsher and has more impact when the deliverer is in a cheap suit. He was right though I had delayed the flight. I was the reason these people wouldn’t go home to see their families until later. I was mortified and sat there red faced. People were quite rightly being passive aggressive towards me, passengers and crew and when that had run its course they were just aggressive. 

We sat on that little plane all not wanting to be there. Time passed. Slowly, then my saviour arrived. Just as they had in 1941 a American sauntered in and saved the day in Germany. He was loud, remarked how big that damm airport was and that he went to the wrong gate with the same number. I was the only one to laugh in agreement.

It wasn’t me that delayed the plane, it was him, it was all his fault. The American looked at the angry faces and he had an expression that conveyed that he really didn’t care about them. He came and sat in the spare seat next to me. We finally took off. I gave him a vending machine beer and joined him in his couldn’t give a fig about anyone attitude.

As I got up for a wee, one of the angry passengers remarked that me and my new American friend were both sexed genitalia, which was something I’d not been called before.

These days I happily sit at the airport gate making fun of my other half for being a nice person to her other passengers. 
Deep down though I’m pleased, just don’t tell her.

Picture: Unhappy commuter me 

Week 94: The Infamous Cream Egg Challenge

Friday, 18 October 2019

Week 94 

Reading time 2 minute 4 seconds 

I’ve got the brain of a four year old, I bet he was glad to be rid of it – Groucho Marx

This story is not mine. I was just an instigator, but I instigated so well that another man may have got very sick all because I love a ridiculous childish challenge. Every Easter I’m reminded of this and the creme eggscapade of 2006. 

While in the office one day I complained loudly that I couldn’t find a Cadbury’s Creme Egg anywhere. I was informed that it wasn’t the season. Who knew that eggs were cyclical?

My office was mainly blokes and like the dumb males we were we started to brag how many creme eggs we could eat. I don’t have very many skills but eating chocolate is something I excel at and I bragged that whatever the highest number was I’d double it. 

We suddenly went from the hypothetical to a challenge of me eating 15 Cadbury’s creme eggs. My stupid ego was in town and with cash being thrown around like a Peaky Blinders gambling den I accepted the numerous bets and the rules were laid down. 15 eggs in 15 minutes, no puking for 1 hour afterwards. We spat into our palms and shook, the deal was done.

I then mentioned it at home that night and my girlfriend said it was childish, stupid and dangerous. Excellent. That’s the perfect trifecta required to begin any proceedings. 

I was told that I’d become a diabetic. That’s not possible I argued but it scared me enough to book an emergency appointment with a doctor, which you could back then. It was a crazy time.

The following morning I was given a telling off by the doctor for wasting their time and was told that it was a very stupid thing to do and yes diabetes would be an issue. Really? I thought that was nonsense. You can’t catch diabetes in one sitting. Can you?

I ummed and ahhed and then partook in my favourite past time and went on holiday. Upon my return I’d made up my mind and decided not to do it. I was already too close to diabetes and I’d worked out an elaborate tale on why I’d love too and would succeed but sadly at this junction in my life I couldn’t carry on with the challenge.

I then had the wind taken from my sails. While I was away, my colleague attempted the challenge. One of the other lads phoned Cadbury’s who in a moment of utter madness sent 15 eggs for free. The pot was about £150. I was told it was a quite a sight to behold.

Week 93: My Chicken Legs

Reading time 3 minute 44 seconds 

Friday, 11 October 2019

Legs 11 – Bingo

On a recent holiday I thought it would be nice to see a bit of the place on a bicycle. At home while on my bike my neighbour points out that all its missing is an engine, this time he was right.

I romantically think of myself as an average cyclist. I can cycle 120 miles, it’s not easy but I can do it. If I was asked why I could not honestly answer. I know it’s healthy but that’s not the why. I know part of it comes from a childish feeling of freedom. I was gifted a bike as a youth and it was my first step towards independence, I could go anywhere, there was no restrictions. I grew up near a park and would spend summers cycling around it. I’m sure that wasn’t the case but memory fills in the blanks with happiness or sadness depending on what you decide.

I was lucky enough to be on holiday in the Caribbean and enquired about a bike tour. I asked the guide how hilly was the four hour ride and heard the word “very”. With the very little testosterone I had and in a moment of stupid bravado I said excellent. I should have saved the testosterone as it took me ages to acquire that much.

Four of us set off through the town. In any group I always feel like I’m the weakest link. This time I didn’t have to feel, I knew. Everybody I passed shouted “wrong gear”, they were right as I had no cycling shorts or loud lycra top. The town was a hive of activity and there were huge trucks reminding me of robots in disguise, roaring past us on these little tiny roads, it’s always healthy to be reminded of your mortality.

I had no intention of making people laugh that day but most of the people I cycled past did just that. Some car drivers even slowed down to heckle me. “Chicken legs” I heard on more than one occasion which seemed apt.  

The other three cyclists were ahead of me and then we started the first hill climb. It was tough going. The sun was beating down and my freckled skin was starting to leak at an alarming rate. The humidity was high. I don’t know what’s used to measure humidity or how but it was as if I was in a small room with seven tumble dryers working full pelt. The sweat was making the sunscreen stream like a waterfall down into my eyes which was good as I didn’t want them to be sunburnt.

I lost sight of my companions on the first bend, partly because of the sunscreen. I then realised that we were cycling up a mountain, not a hill. It was a winding road and every turn promised the peak but like DPD it failed to deliver.  

My muscles were burning as much as my skin. I passed one lady sitting on her veranda who said in a beautiful local accent, “You not fit enough boy, turn around and go back down, it’s easier”. Then she started laughing, proper laughing from her gut like you do as a child. I was bringing joy to people through my suffering, which should have pleased me. It didn’t.

Then my legs made the decision that my mind had been toying with for quite a while, they turned to jelly, ceased up and quit. It took the last of my energy to put my chicken legs on the ground. I may have clucked. My lungs were burning and screaming for oxygen. Sadly, there was only tumble dryer air.  

I was tired and beat, I glanced at my watch as we must have been going for an hour. Wrong. Only 20 minutes had passed. I’d have to walk to try and catch up with the group. Seven mountain road turns later I saw the other three resting by a bar on the side of the road. I approached them, hobbling, sweating and panting like a dog. They asked if I was OK as I clearly didn’t look it.

The guide took my bike from me which was a mistake as it was my walking aid and I promptly fell over. I was knackered and embarrassed. These people had paid good money to wait half way up a mountain to watch me suffer from heat exhaustion.

The cycle guide said that it’s OK if I want to puke, just go right ahead. There’s no shame in it. Oh, really Mr guide? No shame in vomiting in front of a bar full of people? We clearly have different views of shame. 

I grabbed a coke at the bar and I sat down with my cycling chums. The local drunk man came out and started talking to me. Why is it always me? He was interrupted by a woman who was wearing a one-piece lycra bodysuit who also started to talking to me. “Where you from boy?” I must have looked more youthful while red faced. “London” I replied. She explained then that she had been to Chelsea and didn’t like it, then lent over, grabbed a huge spliff off the drunk man and started to puff on it. The smell reminded me of a misspent youth and an even bigger misspent adulthood.

Was I spinning from passive smoking that weed, altitude or the lack of oxygen from cycling? Not that I wanted any of the joint but it was very rude of her not to offer.
She then started arguing with the drunk. I understood only parts of it as they were speaking another language from time to time but even in the anger, it seemed beautiful, cool and laidback. When she called him a fish and I’m not sure why but we all started laughing. It was so ridiculous. Maybe we were all a bit stoned. “Right” said the guide, “drinking’s done, drink up, let’s go” and off we set leaving the drunk and the woman to continue their argument.

We cycled downhill, giddy with joy was an understatement of my feelings, unlike life the downs in cycling are lovely. We turned another bend and I saw the rest of the mountain and vomited. Some of it hit the guide. I felt no shame in that.

I made it back to the hotel eventually and moaned for three days. My chicken legs were cooked.

Picture: On the last 20 of a 120 mile ride

Week 92: Run It’s A Croc……..Croc…..Croc…..Alligator

Friday, 4 October 2019

Reading time 2 minute 58 seconds 

See you later Alligator – Bill Haley

Being homeless was not my proudest moment in life but becoming a Care Bear was going to fix everything. 

I was 18 and after 6 months of travelling I ended up in Spain with my last few quid and a travelling companion. He was a comedian and a singer. He’d stolen a chunk of cash from his mates and was on the run which is not exciting in any way, shape or form.

We’d been in a few scrapes together, lived on a speedboat and travelled a coastline, got drunk with the 80’s band Trans Vision Vamp and even met a genuine angel dressed in white who gave us some food one night. 
We were so young and cocky and we thought we knew it all.  
One night while sleeping on a rubbish tip in Benidorm we finally admitted to each other that we may not be as smart as we first believed. There are worse places to be homeless and Spain was warm and as rubbish tips go ours was fairly classy.

We’d spend the nights going from disco to disco stealing people’s drinks. It’s easier to pass out on a pile of rubbish when you’re drunk. It’s even easier if your very very drunk.

One day we finally met the right people who were lining us up some regular work. We were going to get paid dressing up as Care Bears and having our photos taken with tourists. The interview was is in a bar named Crocs.  

I was more excited about that job than any I’ve had before or since. We nailed the job interview, mainly because we were available, cheap and could start once the costumes were ready.

I asked the owner of the bar why it was named Crocs. I discovered it was because of the alligator that lived in a glassed off area in the corner. Surely it should have been called Allis or Gators but he wasn’t’ a friendly looking chap to have that conversation with which I guess you could work out by the fact he kept an Alligator in his wrongly named bar.

I wandered over to take a look at the reptile and asked the bar owner if he was pulling my leg as there was nothing to be seen. He popped over for a gander and shouted the words that still haunt me. “It’s escaped. Again.”

I wondered how big this future handbag was and from the corner of my eye I found out. It was two feet long, the scariest thing I’d ever seen and it was quick. It ran towards me and like the man I wasn’t, I let out a scream. If there was a glass of blood my howl would have curdled it.

I jumped up on bar stool. I wasn’t the only one who watched Tom and Jerry cartoons as a child as looking around the room the 5 other patrons had followed my lead.  
We looked at each other in terror. We were standing with our heads closer to the ceiling than is comfortable, petrified while a pre historic creature ran about the place looking for freedom.

I’d like to say that we wrestled the creature like Jonny Weissmuller and returned it to its clearly faulty designated area. We didn’t. We stayed standing on the bar stools until the bar owners wife returned. This woman had the courage of a lion because she walked in, looked at us, laughed, saw the killer creature and just threw her coat over its head, scooped it up and put it back in its home. 

I never did become a care bare. The costume was too big for me. I ended up working for a drag queen in a restaurant then coming home once I had enough money.

I still shudder at the sight of Alligators, Crocodiles and ceilings

Picture: Me trying to overcome my fear