Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bemoaning British Airways

It's been a while since I really complained about something in earnest. On my most recent journey of some length I travelled with British Airways. I am not sure about you but I have not heard many complimentary things about British Airways in my lifetime. Luckily for me my trip home was with British Airways from Barcelona to London to Singapore to Sydney. In Sydney I swapped over to Qantas and I have never been so happy to straddle a Kangaroo.

When I first mentioned my trip on British Airways a few of my crew members were only to happy to tell me what a great Airline BA is. It is worth noting that these crew members all hail from the UK. It is also worth noting that I was more than happy with most of my travel experience. My problems all stemmed from the cabin service.

I have some theories on the dire service that was apparent and I think the main problem are character traits of the English and their endless propensity for drinking. Having spent a fair bit of time with Sam recently I thought it would be quite fortifying to have a few drinks in the Barcelona airport. Unlike the rest of Barcelona the only drinks I could find there were beer and wine. Having picked up a weird ailment which renders me allergic to beer and being still shy of red wine I settled on a glass of blanco. I then noticed on the first leg that although the plane was very empty the flight attendants seemed almost shy to offer alcohol to us. Every other international airline I have travelled with literally throw alcohol at you. BA has learned that throwing alcohol at the English is a bad idea. Especially if they are flying.

When I reached Heathrow I saw the very familiar English pubs that Heathrow is full of. I was reminded again of the genetic English imperative to drink heavily before, after and during all occasions. On the second leg to Singapore I got very hungry. On other Airlines there always seem to be service staff looking to help. However there were large tracts of my trip to Singapore where I wondered if the cabin staff were still onboard. There didn't seem to be any snack service and meal time seemed to be dictated by how many gaunt passengers were awake looking expectantly around like dogs who had lost their owners.

On the third leg my increasingly exacerbated features were enough for me to get two breakfasts. Having been in the same plane for two legs I noticed how dirty the wings of the plane were. Maybe my time as Deckhand has damaged my brain but I can not remember seeing a plane with dirtier wings outside of a sandpit. The entertainment on the fight was also hamstrung. Serving up large advertisements before every selection and not a hell of a lot of to watch. Emirates had a more sophisticated system 5 years ago.

In BA's defense we did arrive everywhere on time and my luggage arrived in Auckland. Maybe 30 hours of travelling just made me tetchy. I do have a solution for BA. It involves placing all English passport holders in the hold with the geese and other animals. This will free up cabin space for the more discerning travelers and everyone will be happy. Except for the English, but lets face it. They never are.

I have had some feedback from a reader that I spend a lot of the time writing about drinking alcohol. I am sorry if this concerns you but in the paraphrased words of another reader."I am a sailor and a writer so I am doubly fucked when it comes to booze" and believe me when I say I am what is considered a very light drinker only drinking once a week and sometimes not at all.


Sunday, 22 January 2012


This time next week I will be in the throws of high velocity suitcase transportation. I am taking a very well deserved break and going home. By the time I leave Barcelona I will not have had a holiday for about 15 months. That is a quite a long stretch and it is safe to say I have really just been hanging on in there for a while.

I have noticed a few interesting things since I have had my holiday approved. The first thing is my iron clad immune system has already taken a holiday with me getting quite sick this week. I even had a sick day on Thursday, the first I have had since I started working on boats.

The second thing is more of a feeling. Along with the obvious excitement I feel quite odd about going home. What is this oddness? Well I expect it shall be explained in full when I have been home for a few days. My worst nightmare is that I return home to find New Zealand run by talking apes and its people enslaved and dumb.

Who did win the election anyway?

In Stitches in Sitges

Determined not to have just another night in Barcelona the traveling team tricycle (Sam, Nancy and Myself) assembled on Saturday the 31st of December to visit Sitges for the weekend. My Saturday morning was filled with massive bouts of de ja vue. Not only had I just finished an evenings watch on board but we were to meet at the train station. The train station looked oddly HDR and smokey.

Not wanting to mess with a winning formula Sam and Nancy were late. Sam also wanted to have a pre trip drink. We convened at the very same Mexican cafe and my vocal chords replayed some eerily similar conversation snippets from our last trip to the Mexican cafe.

With our Margaritas hitting the spot quite nicely we were soon on our train to Sitges. I had been meaning to get to Sitges for quite a while. It lies about 45 minutes west of Barcelona and is a famously beautiful place, full of beautiful people and it is also well renowned for being fabulously gay.

Soon enough our train arrived in Sitges and like an Enid Blyton book gone horribly wrong we were soon rambling through the streets to our lodgings. Our lodgings were the result of many a minute debating on the best possible vantage point to savour Sitges and the beginning of a new year. Situated on the hill to the east was such a place. The Melia Sitges was a wonderful hotel. It ticked many boxes and even had ever so slightly warped lounge music in the glass elevator.

View from my room

With Sam taking his yearly session in the adjoining health spa and Nancy in tow I pottered about devouring my mini bar and unpacking my many bags. I think I even managed to have a nap of sorts before we all convened and traipsed down the hill to the marina. It is an odd behavior from working on boats that sailors find themselves pulled to marinas or water. Maybe we like the stuff.

Sitges Town

Sitges Marina

The Marina was well appointed and full of day trip style craft. It also had quite a few weekend wanderers if the many restaurants were anything to go by. We settled ourselves down in a bar serving Japanese food and ordered some very exuberant looking Tequila sunrises. 

For the record until earlier this very day I had not drank a drop of alcohol since that Steak House evening. Needless to say after a couple of Sunrises I was feeling very festive and expectant at the prospect of my first Spanish New Years eve in a paradoxically both sleepy and sleepless town.

After a saunter up the hill and a pause to take in the magnificent sunset. It was time to prepare for our evening out. 

One of the first things I learned about Spanish New Years was that is customary to don red trousers for New Years evening. Having not worn red trousers since my hey day I felt necessary to wear a garment which I had not worn before. A Michael Pattison design. My loud shirt is very loud and screams unintelligible things. I also dare not put a picture of it online for fear of it breaking the internet.

We assembled in the hotel cocktail bar at about 8pm and were ushered outside by the strange walking barman who could see trouble brewing a mile off. He did take the time to to brew a trio of very drinkable gin and tonics and walked them out strangely to us. 

Savoring a very tasty drink I learned my second Spanish New Years custom. At the stroke of midnight we should eat 12 grapes one after the other with each chime of the clock. This all sounded like terribly hard work and another round of drinks was ordered. It is safe to say at this juncture that we were starting to feel quite loose. With the hotels guests safely at tables we felt comfortable enough to return to the hotel and order a taxi into town.

On the Taxi ride down into town Sam took over as the official travel guide and told us tall tales from the Carnival which happens in Sitges in February of each year. He also told us about a bear festival which has nothing to do with animals and other very important information. The taxi dropped us off near the beach and we discovered Sitges was pretty quiet. The third thing that I learned about a Spanish New Years is that is largely a family affair until well after 12am. A lot of the bars closed at 9:30 and the bars that did serve us were only to happy to bundle us out with a muddle of commiserations before 9:30. This was mildly disappointing.  This was made all the more disappointing when some bars had crazy signs like this.

Do you need google translate for that?

Wandering the streets of Sitges I did learn that it is the home of the Barcadi family. I also learned that if you want something fluro/fluffy or sparkly you can buy it anytime of the year even when you should be at home with your family.

Thankfully we found a very luxurious and open lounge bar. The bar tender was Vampiric in nature and Sam was convinced he may have been chewing his own face off. I was enthralled and ordered the bloodiest drink I could think of. A bloody mary. The enthusiasm that the bar tender put into creating his cocktails had us wondering if he was in fact making potions instead of cocktails.

Truly venomous

By this time our loud and obvious English speaking nature had alerted other English speaking people that had come to Sitges to be both amazed and gobsmacked that there was not a hell of a lot going on before 12am. We made some new friends, some of which are hounding Sam to this very day for a catch up, such an impact he made. We happened upon a couple of young Manchester people who for reasons that escape me were determined to create as much mess and exhibit as much lewd behavior possible without being locked up. It was disgusting and I found myself wishing I had a taser.

I now have a taser. 

12am came and went. We took self portraits that summed up the interesting year we were having and the one that had past. 

By this time we were becoming nicely disheveled and I started losing garments and faculties at an alarming rate. One thing that I loved about Sitges that you could leave phones, bags, scarfs, body parts in   bars all over the town and return to them at any stage of the night to find them exactly where you left them. This is quite a contrast from Barcelona where you are constantly on theft watch. 

We ended up dancing in some quite ridiculous night spots. I know they were ridiculous because I was channeling my tree pose.

 I am a tree, the bad music will flow through me and I will stand tall. 

So popular was my tree pose that a tree wearing ear muffs stood beside me.

At about two am there seemed to be an influx of teenagers. I suppose that the rich children of the very wealthy descend on town once their parents go to sleep. Sam now wished he had a taser. He does not have one. Yet. We had another run in with the Mancurians. I didn't have my taser yet and in the interests of going to bed happy and rested we called it a night.

We had a very lazy Sunday in the hotel. I completed emptying my mini bar. We ordered room service and even had a tv show marathon. A perfect Sunday in a perfect little place.

Happy New Year!