Monday, 21 December, 2015
I’m back in Leeds for Christmas! Now, I’ve always subconsciously decided that I would never write a travel blog about any part of England. No matter where I live in the world, the UK will always be my home – therefore, I’d feel like a fraud ever referring to my time there as travel. This rule still applies. However, I had a crazy seventeen hours’ worth of plane madness before I arrived back at the motherland. I also have four hours to kill in a London cafe, so here it is – a travel blog about travelling home.
My flights details were Taipei-Shanghai-Frankfurt-London – already huge ballache potential, but if you’re going to be a tight git, you need to accept the possible consequences. I didn’t expect them to be as nuts as they turned out to be though.
In Taipei, they told me that they could check me in up until Frankfurt, but I would then have to collect my luggage in Germany and face this same palaver once more before my flight to England. That last flight was by far my shortest layover, at less than two hours. I did question the potential risks, but her position would suggest that she is knowledgeable to these kinds of things, so I trusted her. More fool me.
The flight to China was pretty normal, so we’ll skip that one.
Shanghai to Frankfurt came with a few gems though, so let’s start there. The German airport is where the real party ball of crazy occurred – but, let’s keep things moving in chronological order.
I was seated next to an older woman for all of ten minutes, she said ‘hello’ and then moved. I wasn’t sure why – did I smell? Was I breathing too heavily? Did she think the crying baby noises were coming from me? It didn’t really matter; the bottom line was I now had two seats! This granted the opportunity to spread and sleep – lovely!
I got up in the middle of the night to pee, which took longer than you’d hope due to the lady in front faffing about forever – or taking a big poo – whichever you prefer. Once I was done, and now annoyingly fully awake, I went back to my seat – only I couldn’t find it. It was dark and every seat was occupied. I was, as you can imagine, very confused.
The guy from the middle isle then prodded my arm and pointed to my space. That old woman was back and now laid out across the two seats – mouth open and snoring. What the hell?! Were we doing shift patterns? Are my three hours of double seated action finished, and my time to be switched to floor duty upon us?
I nudged her, and she was immediately startled. She then apologised and quickly got up, before wandering back to, presumably, wherever she spent the last three hours. What a weirdo! Also, again – was I that bad? I was hoping we could snore and spoon the night away together – but it just wasn’t to be. I never saw her again, though I also never moved from my seat after that – I was weary. I fully suspect that she had one eye on our ‘unshareable’ bed of roses for the rest of the flight.
The next truly baffling scene came in the form of a prearranged passenger workout. I was watching the new ‘Jurassic Park’ film and had T-Rex running right at the screen in the movie’s ultimate action segment – when they suddenly paused for a ‘PA announcement’ – it’s fine these things come and go, I thought.
“It is important to stretch your muscles throughout a long flight. We will, therefore, now be airing our thirty minute tai chi work out section of the flight.”
Erm… sorry, what?!
These three blokes doing tai chi were now on every monitor screen, and all of a sudden, there was no longer a need for headphones – you would be getting both an eye and an ear full of slow twisty wrist moves whether you liked them or not. I looked around the plane and saw the culture contrast immediately. The Chinese passengers were slowly waving their arms about like snails in a break-dancing class, while the German travellers had disgruntled faces that yelled, “Where the bloody hell are my dinosaurs?!”
Needless to say, I have no idea if T-Rex or the monster dinosaur won in the end. Oh well, something for the returning flight, I guess. On the plus side, I now have incredibly relaxed wrists.
As we approached Germany we suddenly had a lot of turbulence; this delayed our landing by forty minutes. My bag was then the last released onto the baggage claim rail. I now only had thirty-five minutes until my flight to England was due to leave, and frankly, all signs pointed to me being well and truly buggered.
I raced to check-in like a cheetah chases prey, or as fast as a man with two heavy bags can go under pressured circumstances. No queue, yes! The women at the counter soon tell me that it is game over. I have a lot of pride, however, I also have a brain – I got on my hands and knees and begged. They made a call; they told me that I had ten minutes. Away I went, faster than a bullet – and with both bags wrapped around me, it was too late to check-in a bag.
I sprinted, and then sprinted some more; up stairs, around corners, and then finally, I was where I needed to be. I could see gate, the flight, it was in sight – though, there was nobody left in the lobby, literally every person that was supposed to be on the flight other than myself was already on board.
All that I needed to do was get through the standard security check, which had never been an issue before, and I would be there. Dragon 1-0 Counter Lady In Taiwan That Was Too Dumb To Pre-Check Me Into This Flight (apparently her parents couldn’t choose a name prior to her birth, so decided to go with the name that best suited her personality).
I had to make a quick call – queue behind the lady with the four kids or the man travelling solo. I chose wrong. The man happened to be Mr. Gadget – he must have had over ten different forms of technology in his bag and carefully placed them one by one into the basket. I was steadily getting kneed in the balls over and over again by the son of Steve Jobs.
It was finally my go, and I was surely now down to three minutes. The security guy then took me to one side and explained that he wanted me to empty both bags – if I was not a rock of a man, I would have cried at that point for sure. I did as I was told.
Much of the content was wrapped; I’m going back to England over Christmas after all. He then started to hand over the gifts that I bought for my mum and asked me to unwrap them – I was now suddenly playing a game of pass the parcel with a miserable German bloke who does not appreciate the spirit of Christmas – this game was severely lacking music and fun.
I got through it, had to repack everything and then ran – very short of optimism. Surely, I was too late now! I was also doing all this with my jeans virtually around my ankles as I couldn’t afford the time it would take to put my belt back on. I got to a very empty gate, where a German lady in her forties sat alone, and hand on heart, this is exactly how the conversation went:
“Are you Daniel Parker?”
“Yes, I am.”
“You are one jammy bastard.”
Frankfurt airport, you blew my mind. Within fifteen minutes I was flying to England, and as they say, the rest is history (including the surprise of my mum’s presents).