This one doesn’t deserve a day number, as it really wasn’t a part of the holiday, possibly one of the most infuriating 15 hours of my life. You may be interested to know that I’m still halfway through the last day while I’m typing this, but I’ve had a bit to drink, and really fell like I need to get this vitriol out of my system before I bite someone’s face off.
Admittedly, the day started off perfectly. We’d packed early and headed off into the reception 30 minutes before the driver was ready to pick us up. he was a really nice guy, and he has a good chat about what had happened on our trip. He didn’t seem surprised about the conversation we’d experienced on Day 6. In fact, he seemed a bit surprised that we didn’t go for it, and also gave us some tips for locations of that nature should we ever return.
We arrived at the airport, thanked the driver for his excellent service, and this is where things started to go just that little bit pear-shaped. After typing our details into the self-checkin computer, we got our boarding passes and luggage things printed. Jonathan was entirely exempt from the baggage procedure, as his case fitted in hand luggage. Remember, our bags would need to go to Heathrow. We’d pick them up, then make our way to Gatwick for the flight back to Newcastle.
Anyway, Chris went to one desk, I went to another. We both had the same “credentials”. Our bags disappeared up the conveyor, and we headed up through the check-in gates. At this point, all I wanted, and cared about was free wi-fi, which the airport seemed to offer. It wasn’t until we were sat in the departure gate, did I manage to get connected. Some of you may remember my “Hello From Vienna” post, where I said “Or rather, the airport, as I sit in the departure lounge awaiting part one of what will be an awful journey back.” You’ll have to forgive the typos. It’s a touchscreen. I think it all came down the fact I knew we were against the clock. I also thought that Chris was going to bail the Gatwick – Newcastle flight, opting to stay with Jonathan for a bit.
Nothing could prepare me for the horror that would lie ahead. Moments after posting that blog post, I needed the toilet. I headed off to the cubicle, and without me noticing, it turned out to be one of those freaky German “shelf” toilets. You poo onto what is literally a shelf, presumably so you can erm… “examine your stool”. Trust me, there were no surprises, except the one I got when I stood up, looked down and thought I’d used the toilet incorrectly.
The gate opened, and we headed off onto the plane. Chris really hated the experience. At this point, I had nothing to hate.
The flight was brilliant. I oddly fell asleep, waking just as we were coming back to the British Isles. The path down below the clouds was literally like the set of Eastenders. I almost lost a testicle when we flew over the Millennium Dome / O2 Arena. The other testicle nearly burst when we flew near Wimbledon’s grounds. Unfortunately, this would be the last happy experience I’d have on the entire trip. Usual shit ensued, as we passed through passport control. We headed off to baggage. Chris’s turned up. I stood there, waiting. The board said “Still offloading”. By the time there was one bag left, I was freaking out. It wasn’t mine, obviously. The board still said offloading, but after this bag went around the fourth time, I expected a holy fuckup.
I headed off to the baggage desk. I handed my receipt to the guy behind the counter…
Him: “oh yeah, there’s been a mistake. Your bag has landed, but it’s going to Gatwick via van… it won’t make it to your connecting Newcastle flight”. Slightly pissed off, I completed the paperwork, It took ages. It also became apparent that because the plane was delayed and so was the baggage, the three hours we had to travel 50 miles from Heathrow to Gatwick had considerably shrunk.
Jonathan lives in Surbiton, so the plan was to get a taxi to there. He’d drive us the rest of the way to Gatwick.
We jumped into a black cab, Ã‚Â£20 each to Surbiton. After my bag shenanigans, I was happy to pay. All I wanted to do was get home. Something became very clear. The bag and plane delay meant that we’d be cutting things incredibly fine. Jonathan did his best to get us there in time, though traffic going through Surbiton didn’t help at all. I don’t think I’ve ever heard C or J get so angry. It was plain sailing from there to Gatwick, until we got close to the airport, there was another half-mile of traffic to the entrance. Chris, probably rightly, thought “fuck this”, and jumped out, heading towards the terminus. I’d got what little baggage I’d accumulated and ran after Chris. Be aware, my feet were still on fire at this point, and I’m watching the clock. I think we had about 17 minutes. We arrive in the South Terminal, with no sign of the British Airways travel desk. Chris asks someone, who points us to the North Terminal. A train takes us over there, and we arrive at the North Terminal… Whoo, British Airways desk. there we go. About 4 minutes to spare. We go to check in.
Him: “We don’t do flights to Newcastle from here”…
Instantly, I check the paperwork. Something stares back at me. A little block of toner that reads “Flybe”.
“Well, you’ll have to go to the Flybe check-in desk, won’t you”, was the reply from this instantly dislikable bastard. That was it, game over as far as I was concerned. Defeated, by the rudest bit of customer service I’ve ever had. Technically I wasn’t actually a BA customer, but you know what I mean. The paperwork I was holding was the victim of a fit of rage. My work colleagues will know this as a “pissy fit”. I was in rage mode at this point, but Chris remembers the afore-mentioned twat shouting at me to pick it up. I didn’t, and as far as I know they’re still on the floor there. I was defeated at this point. How long would it take us to get back to the South Terminal? Dunno. It felt like the longest journey I’ve ever had. Jonathan was there, wondering where WE were. Turns out he was the only one who read the itinerary correctly and knew where we should check in at. We went to the Flybe check-in desk. One of those stupid auto-check in machines wouldn’t allow us to do it, so I went to the desk. I ask if we’re too late to check in. the cheery woman behind the desk gleefully answered that we were still on time… “Oh, thank God for that”, I reply. the last two hours of shit were instantly flushed away.
“So, zis is for the… 8pm flight, yaa?”
There. Right there. That moment. That second. That question. That exact statement. The answer was no. We wanted the 16:20 flight.
“Ahh, sorree, ze check-in is closed”.
The holiday was over. We were stranded. I said something to the woman behind the desk. I can’t remember my exact words, but it was on the lines of “If BA hadn’t lost my baggage, we’d have been on time”. I knew there was nothing she could have done. Technically I do this type of job myself, so her completely apathetic “Oh dear” was noted, yet duly ignored, as the directed towards the customer service desk
Technically, we were stuck, and I’ve never felt so broken in a long while. It’s the first time I’ve ever missed a flight. I didn’t even bother contacting the customer service desk. the mood I was in probably would have seen us (or, at least me) being escorted out of the airport. I have watched countless hours of shows like “Airport”, and they show people kicking off. I always thought they were over-reacting. I felt ashamed and positively gutted that I was now one of those.
My world had ended. I was in London, no flight home, no baggage, nothing. I rang Daddykins, pretty much in tears about the whole situation, mainly through rage rather than actual emotion. Nothing he could say would reassure me that I’d see Hartlepool again without denting my wallet with money I didn’t have. Something I’ve only just realised, is that all of the photos, facebook updates, tweet, phone calls and Endomondo reports provide a pretty accurate timeline of what happened, and if some stupid bitch in Vienna hadn’t sent my bags to the wrong airport, we’d have made it.
There was nothing for it, we would have to get the train back. Chris knew there was a Grand Central back to Hartlepool at about 19:00, from Kings Cross. This was probably the lowest moment. I was in the back of Jonathan’s car. He’d disappeared somewhere to pay the parking charges, Chris was wandering about somewhere. I was in the odd position of feeling the early stages of dehydration, while at the same time busting for a pee. Add that to how depressed how I was, the feeling wasn’t great. Add that to the fact that I rehydrated myself at a petrol station and paid more for the water than what the petrol cost, checked my funds at a cash point and realising, after drawing out the cost of the train fare, I literally had Ã‚Â£16 to last me 19 days.
At this point, it was about 16:30. I know this because of my facebook posts. Despite feeling like shit, I thought my troubles might have given someone a smile, so I kept updating facebook. Chad *loved* it. Cunt.
The next part of the ordeal was to get back from Gatwick to Surbiton train station. Remember, we still had a time limit. The M25 had an accident which slowed down things considerably. I’d already resigned myself to sleeping in a bush that evening. I just left him in charge. Two tickets were purchased from Surbiton to Vauxhall, and from there to Kings Cross. Basically, a Zone 1-6 Ã‚Â£8 day thing. I’d give you all the details, but I’ve literally just given the ticket away to a guy called Geoff who likes such things. Glad you found my blog by the way.
The train picked us up at Surbiton and trook us past some sites such as the Battersa Power station. OK, by sights, I mean one. It was raining, and I really didn’t care
Chris was like a man possessed though the underground tunnels. I literally had to tell him to slow down, thanks to my feet. He told me afterwards, that we were actually extremely late getting the train. We arrive at Kings Cross / St. Pancreas (or whatever it’s called), to see a familiar looking train sat, waiting at the platform. We were at least guaranteed to get home, though we didn’t actually have a ticket. We’d get one when the conductor came around.
I went for a much needed piss at this point. I don’t care about the rule of not flushing the bog at the station. It’s 2011. These things should have tanks, or something. I sat back at my seat, and Chris delivered the ‘bad’. There was a broken down train somewhere near Peterborough, and we’d be stuck in the station for about an hour. I could have cried. Some of you would have noticed the photo of me on facebook, of someone “entirely fucked off with the British transport system”. Well, that was took right at that moment.
Eventually, the train set off. At the first opportunity, I headed off to the bar. I didn’t realise they had an entire carriage dedicated to being a bar. Obviously, everything was out of cans / bottles. I didn’t care, I was happy to return to my seat, my cold Stella ready to be consumed.
We’d got a table seat. Now, on the Grand Central, they have “game boards” printed onto the table. Apparently, you can “rent” game sets for your journey. Some tables have Cluedo, some have Monopoly, but they all have chess/draughts boards printed on them. this journey was going to be filled with abject tedium. Thankfully, I had a bag of Euro coins on me. Plenty of 1cent and 2cent coins. Enough to have a game of draughts!
Things were going swimmingly, until another train went past. The sudden shockwave caused the coins to be scattered all over the board, and the game had to be abandoned. Thanks to a genius bit of real-life bugfixing by yours truly (we simply moved the pieces towards the edge of the squares so when a train went past, there was less change of movement to other squares), we were able to complete a few games. Each game turned out to be a lengthy battle of cunning and stealth, taking much longer than a game of draughts really should. Eventually, the Stella I was drinking in the previous picture made it hard to distinguish between the 1 cent and 2 cent coins, so the games were abandoned.
My mind turned to the fact that we hadn’t actually paid anything for this journey. My heart would stop at every whoosh of the sliding doors. Amusingly, one of those whooshes turned out to be one of the management types at Employment Palace. We didn’t exchange words, more of an acknowledgement of “Is that… nah, it can’t be…”
Stations went past, and we were getting closer to home. Still there was no conductor. We arrived in Hartlepool at 10:48, and my mood instantly lightened. We didn’t actually pay a bean for the journey home. All it cost me was 5 hours of my life, which is, to be fair far less than the time I’ve taken typing these blogs on the holiday, uploading the photos and deleting Chad’s comments.
I’d made arrangements for Daddykins to pick me up once we’d returned back to the town. There was just one thing I had to do. As soon as I left the train station, I was straight down to my favourite Indian… “Chicken vindaloo, pilau rice, naan bread and chips please”.
I’d originally intended to finish the posting there, but if you’ve managed to read this far, another few paragraphs clearly can’t hurt. I thought I’d update you with my baggage story. Pretty much, my entire wardrobe was in that case, compressed to a “zip file” (you have to zip the case to close it, see what I did there? Maybe that’s now zip files got their name? Meh). I don’t think I mentioned what I got given. A stock letter with a claim number scrawled on the top in biro.
I was home, and my baggage still hadn’t turned up at my doorstep. I thought I’d give the website a go. Facebook describes in perfect, stunning HD quality what happened, and my reaction.
Once again, I was spitting blood. I wasn’t shitting blood, but I’m sure that afore-mentioned vindaloo pushed me close to the edge. I gave it a couple of hours, and tried the website again. No joy. I just had to ring their 0844 number via the house phone. Naturally, I was forced into one of those pressy-button scenarios, with images of my bag being fed into an industrial crusher flashing before my eyes.
After pressing some buttons, I was transferred to an Indian call centre. You’ll be disappointed to hear that my experience with them was commendable. The guy promised me that my bag would be here by 5. True to his word, there was a knock on the door at 4:45PM, my bag arrived safe and sound.
Two days later, I arrived back at Employment Palace, only to find this was the backdrop to one of the computers I use…