19 Dec – 21 Dec – The trip home. . . .

For those of you who like reading the blog for football pictures and photography tips, I guess it is best to close the window and do something else. For those who are interested in my average life, kindly read on!

19 Dec 5am

After spending the wee hours of the morning then the hardcore of the night editing pictures and then watching Arabic TV (I could get into Arabic, may try and learn some), I left my esteemed colleagues, Michael and Lee (who were pretty disgruntled at not being name checked after they beat myself and Mr Childs in the 2-1 epic beach football game) and headed to the airport.

I was welcomed by a smiling check in girl who put me on an earlier flight. Things were looking good, I was sat next to a girl I will call Miss Lush from South Africa from a place I know well called George. She was amazed I knew it, yet alone I had been. Although her magnetic eyes and black hair made me want to chat for all of the flight, she had been traveling since Friday and was pretty tired too. So we decided to sleep.

I assumed we would wake up at Heathrow and little did I expect a day trip to Lebanon where we turned around and went back to Abu Dhabi as London Heathrow was still snowed in.

It was now 1300h local time in Abu Dhabi on Sunday and I queued up for 2 hours to find out what was going on. I should have now been at Chelsea v Manchester United, but that had been called off days ago!

Meanwhile fellow photographer colleague, Matt Childs,  via text told me that he stuck in Bahrain and was not flying home either!

I negotiated a flight to Manchester the next day. I figured Heathrow would be a mess for at least two days. Miss Lush met up with a man from Durban who had been on her flight from Joburg. They had to stay in the airport as they needed a visa to get through immigration. With Miss Lush, I tagged my bag with another sweet Arab girl and we went out separate ways. Some passengers were put up in hotels.

I got checked in to a 0220h flight to Manchester and quit the airport and got another UAE stamp in my passport and went back to the FIFA hotel.

I wasted my time by eating by the pool – OK it was 25-30c but not sunbathing weather.

The sun was weak.

The next 8 or so hours were spent playing Play Station with Michael and another guy he had in his room called Russ.

Alas Hereford beat Shrewsbury Town 2-1 on Play Station and my Anderlecht team could not grind out a result against Man United.

I so need PS3 practice.

I booked a train ticket from Manchester to Heathrow so that I could get my car (which was at LHR) upon my arrival. Another wasted £55 on the Amex.

I read some emails, wound some folk up on facebook and then discovered via Italy of some pictures published from the event I had been attending and quite frankly had forgotten about.

Time is precious to anyone but so hard to waste when you want it to go quickly. EVENTUALLY it was time to go!

Dec 20 0000h

Another Saudi taxi driver to took me back to the airport. This time I had a look around the shops, tried ear wigging a conversation by two Arab men – I do like Arabic! I’ll have to watch more Al Arabiya when I get home – its on 13E Hotbird 11747H if anyone wants to tune in!

I sat on the plane and another South African sat by me and told me his epic 3 day adventure that he had had. He was a really interesting guy actually. He sailed catamaran’s from Cape Town to the USA and had sailed 5 times around the world. He liked my road trip stories and I was intrigued about his sailing trips.

If it was not for the fact he lived on fish I would have wanted to keep in touch and gon on an adventure with him.

I went to sleep and was woken up by a nice air stewardess called Rita wanting to know if I wanted to eat some food.

We got chatting, she was from Beirut. She went from being classed as average air stewardess in to a Godess when she told me she had been in the infamous nightclub BO18 which I have so fond memories of after I quizzed her about it.

More sleep then more chats with Rita, she was going Christmas shopping at the Trafford Centre. She wanted to know if I wanted to tag along but I had Man City v Everton to do.

We then landed. I was in no real rush to get off, I was just glad to be back in the UK. I went through passport control with no problem and was greeted with my name being read out on the airport PA system to go to a info desk. The poor girl reading out the names got mine OK but had terrible problems pronouncing the Arab names!

More proof that I must have been Hitler in a previous life. WHY did I write about missing bags tempting fate in my previous blog? My bags were still in Abu Dhabi. No idea when they would be back. After dealing with compassionate friendly, smiling people in the UAE, I knew I was back in Great Britain when customer services people were unhelpful and kept saying it was not their problem.

They could not give two hoots that I wanted to promote their company via their shirt sponsorship of Manchester City and work this evening at the Everton match. This is one big cultural difference that my colleagues and myself keep talking about. We are not constant moaners, just observers, but in most other places in the world workers are proud of their employment and go that extra mile to help people. In the UK it is always, ‘not my problem’, ‘terms and conditions’ and never even a ‘sorry!’

The South Africans were bussed to Heathrow. It was going to take them 5 hours. I decided to take the train still.

But then realised I had no clothes and was just in a red t-shirt. I asked if I could buy some clothes and claim them back. The unhelpful muppets said no. I could only claim £25 after 24 hours. That would not purchase a North Face to keep me warm in -9c conditions. I explained that it was 31 in Abu Dhabi and at the top of my luggage were 2 jumpers and a coat. Rudely I was told that I should have thought of that before which then resulted into a heavy debate on the fact that the airline were basically saying they would not honour luggage.

Shivering I went to the Airport train station to collect my tickets. Miss Lush was there! She was on her way to Southampton and wondered why it was going to cost her £145! I said that if I was not returning back to Manchester I would have gladly driven. This is NOT because she was lovely but because when I travel I meet so many great people who help out and when I see travelers in the UK stuck, I always try and repay the powers of Karma and do all I can. She kindly gave me her scarf – mine was in my luggage. We had a mini argument on how it was not necessary but deep down I was so thankful.

Another amazing person I have met who I probably would never see again. Such is life.

I got to Picadilly only to find the train had been cancelled. A random Mancunian who looked like he had just left a Happy Mondays concert was kicking off in the next booth. I went to ‘Sara’ and said what happens now as my train had been cancelled. She said get on the next one. I said OK but what about reserved seating I had paid for… She just said, ‘not my problem’ and pressed the button for the next customer. Ok I swore at her, but quite rightly so.

My Happy Mondays then got out his camera phone and a picture of the rude person he was dealing with, had heard everything I had said and did the same with ‘Sara’.

unhelpful mardy train lady

Sara’s supervisor then came out and kicked off at us for taking pictures of her staff.

Mr Happy Mondays man said he used to work for Virgin Records and Sir Richard would not be happy with this terrible customer service treatment.

I agreed and took a picture of the supervisor. She then swore back at us and went to call the Police.

Me and Mr HM man went to the nearest Policeman and offered him to arrest us on the spot. He laughed, we exchanged a nice smile and I went to platform 6.

Chaos! Two trains had been cancelled. People were arguing over seats. As one woman pointed out I would be a miracle if we saw a ticket officer or representative from the rail company. How right she was. I could have got on and off for free if I had of known.

Carl rang to tell me his bags had still not arrived from Italy via Germany about 5-6 days ago. He then agreed with my rant on how terrible this country is. Very reassuringly he pointed out that most folk in the UK don’t know what it is like on the otherside and how customer service people choose not to help people so that their targets look good and they get pay rises.

I will certainly not be going on the train again for a long time.

For the record I got to Euston 1hr 40 mins late. I then discovered that whilst chatting to Miss Lush, the ticketing man had not issued me with a Heathrow ticket, only an Euston one. Despite having evidence of paying for  Heathrow ticket, they would not issue me one and I had to pay my own way from Euston to LHR.

The tube journey was OK but got worse the closer I got to LHR. City boys and selfish Londoners pushing and calling people “C**ts” for having push chairs with children in them asleep in the aisle and there being lots of suitcases around. The Russian, Polish and an Italian travellers were trying to help but the locals were having none of it!

Eventually I got to LHR and walked out of the terminal to be greeted by the site of my car parking bus just leaving with indicators on looking to leave the bus stop. I ran and waved. He driver stopped and let me on.

I gave him my sincere thanks and said that is why I ALWAYS use his company to park my car in when I go to LHR. He was Polish. I’m sure a local driver would have just driven off as he had to get to his next destination and reach his targets and not bother about customer satisfaction.

I was expecting 90 foot snow drifts but only about 8inches of snow was on my car. I took no time to get it out. It was not even worth taking my cameras out of the car so that Australians I know lapping it up in the sunshine could see the snow.

The Government help out the banks be we can not afford proper deicing equipment to keep airports going. Just great!

The Car Parking company wavered the extra charge for my car being there now 2 days longer and I headed off to the M25. After shivering for most of the day, the Merc heating was set to 32c. I was finally comfortable to be warm and happy again!

You can only have so much Arabic TV on in your hotel room, Kerrang Radio was at full blast as I crawled 30mph up the M40. I tried 19 times, yes 19 to reach the airline baggage people but no answer. It was my intention still to return to MCR Airport, get my bag and do the Man City v Everton match. I eventually go through but they said the bag would not arrive until tomorrow afternoon.

I drove straight to Sainsburys in Shrewsbury. It was now 1830. I got some food and whilst perusing down the soup aisle, the airline called to say my bags had arrived. I was fuming, but knew there was nothing I could do.

My house was warm – thankfully warm! Only one frozen pipe. Red t-shirt came off and was replaced by 3 jumpers!

Dec 20 1300h

I still have no bags. All of my office papers are in the bag as are most of my warm clothes.

how many microphones!?

After brushing off about 3 inches of snow on my 5 satellite dishes, Al Arabiyah is filling my house with Arabic today.

Because of my location on planet earth, I cannot receive many Japanese TV Channels, but Al Arabiyah is better then BBC1.

I get a call as I had a job today. Today is Tuesday. The last time I ‘looked’ it was Saturday. I have no concept of time or day at the moment. I’ll relax and take some time out and most probably catch up with work and invoicing when the rest of society are partying and celebrating Christmas.

Right, off to buy some batteries for my flash. I have to document Shrewsbury Town footballers visiting the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital – with no doubt everyone commenting on how cold it has been and how lucky I was to be in the Middle East. I’ll just smile and say I had a good time.

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