Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry old England

On Tuesday morning, when I was setting off for my trip to the UK, I had somehow mysteriously forgotten to turn on my alarm, and was very lucky that I checked the time when the rubbish trucks woke me up. It was only 10 minutes later than I'd intended to get up, but you know how these things put you on the back foot a bit, so that, combined with the fact that I'd neglected to do some stuff like look for my NZ-UK plug adaptor the day before, had me running around a bit like a headless chicken. Never mind though, everything went smoothly with getting the train, up until the point where I got out of my seat to get off at Roissy-CDG and I was so busy telling myself not to forget my coat out of the overhead luggage rack that I somehow missed the step down from the seats to the aisle and fell straight over sideways into the seats on the other side of the aisle. Luckily enough, there was no-one in the aisle seat, but there was a young guy in the window seat whose lap I virtually fell into. He laughed at me, and rightly so. There was an awkward few minutes until the train pulled into the station, but oh well, I'll never see him again!

Of course, my saying that there would be no snow this year and my flight would therefore go smoothly managed to provoke a strike of the airport security staff. I was pretty much resigned, therefore, to long lines and a delay. In the event, it actually wasn't too bad. The security lines didn't seem any longer than on a normal busy day. In fact, I had too much water in the queue with me, and so I had to drink about a litre in 5 minutes in order to save the bottles to fill up again after security. I actually missed the passport control lines, as in a rash moment I decided to opt in to the French government's scheme whereby you provide them with your fingerprints and you can then go through electronic gates. My reasoning was mostly that I had already had to give fingerprints to the US governement, which really pisses me off because a) it's not optional and b) I've never even been into the US since they introduced this – my American readers might not know this, but non-US nationals have to go through the entire security procedure, including being photographed and fingerprinted (and maybe having an iris scan, I don't remember) just to transit through the airport. Ridiculous. Anyway, I actually had assumed that the French scheme would only want prints of my index fingers, like the Americans, but they actually took them all except my thumbs. So no more crime sprees for me.

We still ended up boarding a little bit late, and then there were two passengers who didn't turn up and had to be offloaded, so we were delayed a little bit more. Then we taxied off down the runway, sat around for ages, and then, unbelievably, taxied back to our stand because they had forgotten to do some paperwork! I've never heard such a stupid thing – if I were the captain, I would have lied about the reason! After all that water, I was dying for the loo by this stage, but of course you can't go on the ground. Once we finally took off I was up the aisle like a shot as soon as the seatbelt sign went off. I had an exit row seat with a ton of legroom, which was nice, although the seats weren't that wide across and the girl next to me kept touching me with her arm (Air France). Anyway, by the time we landed we were nearly 2 hours late. No-one actually seemed that agitated, I think everyone was probably expecting delays already, like me. Oh and I forgot to say how much I hate the fact that they always pick the holidays to go on these strikes. I support the right of people to unionize and negotiate with their employers, including striking if necessary, but deliberately choosing to make life as difficult as possible for the public, who should be on their side, is not on, especially at Christmas.

Anyway, finally landed at Manchester and it was lovely to see my Mum and Dad again after a year. Nothing very exciting has been going on here since then, with the exception of OWLS! Yes, your faithful correspondent got to play with owls! We were in the town centre of Kendal – up in the Lake District – doing some shopping, and suddenly came across a guy with a great big owl on his wrist. I assumed at first it was just one of those guys who sort of busk with a bird of prey – I'm not sure whether I've ever seen them in the UK, but they seem quite common in Eastern Europe. However, there was an empty shop next to him that was full of owls. Turns out they were a charity that rescued owls and took them round places to educate people about them and how they should be treated. There were some really sad stories. The big one, which was a European Eagle Owl, had been rescued from a guy who bought it to carry around on his wrist and look scary. Apparently he used to punch and kick it! Who would do such a thing to an owl? I'm amazed the owl didn't bite or claw him. I was a little bit scared of it myself, especially when it looks straight at you (although the guy explained that they actually aren't looking at you if their eyes are pointed straight at you, because they look out of the corner of their eyes). The guy said it took a long time to heal it, both physically, since it had lost feathers and so on, and to get it to trust people again, but it seemed incredibly tame by this stage.

The European Eagle Owl

Me and the European eagle owl. He's posing better than I am

Me, Dad, and the tawny owl

The tawny owl was my favourite. I think I'm a bit scared here, because the handler basically shoved it at my face and told me to cuddle it

I can't remember the name of this owl, but I think it came from South Africa. The white owl behind us is a barn owl

The church in Kendal, begun in 1201

Pretending to be a medieval carving of a Queen

Pretending to be one of the wise men


  1. I totally thought you were a wise men! Good disguise! You're slick! ; )

    I'm glad to hear that your travel experience was somewhat stress-free. The return back to the gate because they forgot to do "paper work" is crazy, I have never heard such a thing!

    And yes, I know about my crazy countries fingerprint, photo and eye scan policies. My ex was horrified by this last year..!

    Happy Holidays to you and your family, Gwan! :)

  2. Ha ha cheers, look out for me in a church near you! Thanks & same to you!


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