I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Greece is the word

Oh, hello London Heathrow terminal 5, BA galleries lounge. What an excellent place to be on an excellent day. Though obviously it rarely fails to be an excellent day when I'm on the free scran and sauce about to board a plane. This is a bit different though - I'm not just flying somewhere random, I'm about to hit my half century of countries before 2014 finishes. And I'm quite chuffed about that.

I wrote about my supposed quest to reach 50 countries last year. I really wasn't sure I'd make it so soon back then, but this has been a bit of a decent year for travel even without the assistance of any GCERC-style lunacy. And in fact, if plans had gone as they were meant to go I would have been finishing 2014 in country number 51, and that country would have been North Korea, and I would have been in a brewery, and I'm not even joking. But then ebola broke out in various west African nations so Kim decided to close his country's borders to everyone - after I'd already booked flights and a tour, dagnabbit - so I had to scrabble around for an alternative. So this post finds me settling in to a couple of cans of London Pride and some thoroughly disappointing elevenses prior to a flight to Athens in that there Greece.

As it goes I'm really quite ambivalent about the North Korea thing. On the one hand I'm really fucked off about it - it's my absolute number one dream destination to visit and they had best not have some form of populace liberating transition to unity and a removal of their pariah status before I get my mollycoddled guided tour. On the other hand, I would have been out of the country when AFC Wimbledon host Liverpool in the 3rd round of the FA Cup and fuck that for a lark. I've missed enough big games and I have not looked forward to a game like this in fucking years. A decent silver lining that.

Aaaaanyway. I haven't been so unprepared for a trip in ages. I left the house at 0840 having started packing at 0825. I washed some clothes at 0030, after I got in from a night out boozing and stuff. I haven't printed out the address of my hotel, any guides on how to use the Athens metro, or in fact anything at all. I have no euros and the only thing I know for certain is that when I get there I shouldn't moon people because the UK government says not to.

I presume that everything will work out just fine because it basically always does. I'm staying in a hotel with Acropolis in its name, near the Acropolis, near Acropolis metro station. If I can't find the Acropolis in Athens then I should have my passport confiscated. Pfft.

So my journey here. Meh. Woke up to an email telling me my flight was an hour late, then another saying it was 45 minutes, then 19 minutes, then on time. I was kinda hoping it would stay an hour late tbh. Left the house way earlier than I do for work and suffered a horrific rush hour bus ride to Kingston followed by a much better one to Hatton Cross. Lots of people confused that the bus was terminating there rather than the central bus station and a bit angry, none of them seemingly aware - or believing the driver - that they will get to their termin much quicker by changing at Hatton Cross for the tube. I spent the whole journey listening to wrestling podcasts (Steve Austin seems to think a JD and coke is a cocktail - really, Steve) and Freakonomics talk lots about fraud in the pet cremation business, which was an odd topic. I also wrote down fucking loads of puns involving the word "Greek" and have come up with what I consider to be the perfect one, which I will unleash on a later post.

At Feltham a lorry went past which had the words LINFORD CHRISTIE emblazoned across the top of the windscreen, as if the driver was called Linford and the passenger Christie. Really?

As usual I was totally well prepared for going through security like a boss. There were virtually no queues but I was hindered by a girl who seemed to have hand luggage WAY too heavy for her to carry or even drag on wheels. Went in a different queue, brief chat with the friendly security guy, through the x-ray, waited for my bag and coat and etc to come out the other side.

Why isn't it coming out the other side? Why is the woman asking whose iPad that is? Why is my bag going down the secondary "this set off alarms" route?

Turns out my bag set off alarms. Oh. I was asked to unzip it and then she delved through the contents, taking stuff out and swabbing it with that magic stick thing and pointing out to me on the monitor that my little carrier bag full of electronics (USB batteries, cables, plugs, etc) was densely packed and looked shifty. But she was fine with it, just had to check the swab and put the bag back through.

BING BING BING BING BING loud noise everyone stares. Me and someone on the next lane simulatenously set off the second stage alarms with the results of that test. Oh. So she pisses off to find a supervisor. He comes along, asks what the deal is, looks happy and genial with a clipboard and then looks at something on the screen and then at me and comes to have a word. The geniality drops from his face a bit. My bag has indeed tested positive for explosives.

This is quite a surprise. I tell them that everything in the bag is mine, tempting as it was to just blame someone else. I tell them I'm flying direct, that I don't work with chemicals, and that I'm travelling for pleasure. And he writes these things down on the form on his clipboard and then says that they'll have to do something else, and away he goes. There is some conflab, after which the first woman comes back with my stuff and says, OK, you're fine to go now. I am somewhat bemused, largely relieved I haven't accidentally brought semtex with me but ever so slightly disappointed I didn't get to experience the full-on "take the guy with the big beard into an interrogation room" experience.

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