Thursday, May 29, 2008

Myair Myarse

Deborah has just sent me this snippet from today's Telegraph.
Air travel used to be a privileged adventure, but has now become a humiliating ordeal … no matter what end of the plane you are sitting in. Apart from going to prison, no other activity in contemporary life exposes you to such intimidation, ugliness, regimentation, over-crowding and cruel dehumanising as the decision to go to an airport.

By contrast, consider my last trip to Milan: a mere six hours from Paris and you pass Lamartine's haunting Lac du Bourget and go through the terrible mountains besides the Col du Fréjus by just the same magnificent route the Grand Tourists used 250 years ago.

Why did she think I would be interested in this gem of telegraphesque old-fogey wisdom? Because we're going to meet up not far from Milan, in Bergamo, at the end of June. She is going by train, as is her wont, and I'm not. She booked her train ticket a few weeks ago and will no doubt enjoy an interesting trip to Milano Centrale then on to Bergamo.

I, on the other hand, cleverly booked a very cheap flight with Myair, a low-cost company with direct flights from Bordeaux to Bergamo, Venice and Bologna. Unfortunately there was no flight on the Sunday I wanted to travel, but I took a flight on the Saturday instead and roped Deborah into coming to keep me company for a couple of days.

A few weeks ago, Myair contacted me to tell me that all flights from Bordeaux to Bergamo had been cancelled until the end of June. Just like that. My heart fell but after a few hundred hours on the internet I discovered that Myair had actually introduced a new flight from Paris Orly to Bergamo. It wasn't scheduled for Saturdays but I could get it on the Sunday. I quickly booked that flight and a connecting Air France flight to Paris Orly from Bordeaux. Great.

Great, that is until midnight last night when Myair sent me another e-mail telling that they had changed my itinerary yet again. The bad news was that Sunday's flight had been cancelled and the good news, well there was no good news, because all they can offer is a replacement flight on Monday and by that time Deborah will be on her relaxing train trip back home and the conference I'm going to will be well underway.

The only alternative I can find is to maintain my non-reimbursable Air France flight to Orly, forget the Bergamo flight and replace it with a flight from Orly to Milano Linate and then take a bus and then a train to Bergamo. That sounds easy, doesn't it?

The moral of this saga is threefold: sometimes the tortoise really does beat the hare, low-cost always means high-hassle and Myair is a crap airline.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ouf

According to an article in Scientific American entitled Blogging is Good for You:
[...] lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.

I think I can safely say that do not suffer from this mysterious activity in Wernicke's area. Well, that's one less thing to worry about, I suppose.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crinan


I've just finished Bill Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself. I like Bill Bryson, I know that some people find his humour a bit facile, his knowledge incomplete and his observations run-of-the-mill, but he really makes me laugh out loud and that doesn't happen nearly as often as you'd think perusing this LOL-riddled internet. Although, to be honest, it's usually more a question of muffled mattress-shaking giggles late at night than real guffaws.

It's an old book made up of articles written for a British paper on the subject of returning to the USA after 20 years away. I suspect that it's the sort of book a lot of us would have in us were we ever to go back to wherever it is we came from (except, of course, that the place we came from doesn't exist any longer, or at least not in the way it was when we left it). We could all wax lyrical about rediscovering the quirky customs of our homelands, endearing habits that we'd forgotten all about; the embarrassment of doing things wrong because things have changed and we weren't consulted. On my last trip to Scotland, I was persuaded to ask for "cash back" in a supermarket thinking it was some sort of loyalty scheme and experienced a moment of blind flummox at the front of the queue when asked how much I wanted. Bill Bryson does all of this very well turning the episodes of rediscovery and panic into high comedy.

Other passages are more contemplative. Here he is, for example, on handing over our phonetic heritage to others. He notices that an old New Englander pronounces the place name Norwich just as it is pronounced in England, Norritch, which is surprising since everyone else in the area says it with the "w".
He explained to me that the village was pronounced "Norritch" until the 1950s, when outsiders from places like New York and Boston began to move in and, for whatever reason, started to modify the pronunciation. [...] That seemed to me quite sad, the idea that a traditional local pronunciation could be lost simply because outsiders were too inattentive to preserve it.

This happens in Scotland too. So for the benefit of posterity and preservation I would like it to be known throughout the internet that the correct pronunciation of Crinan, the village in Argyll pictured above, is Creenan.

That is all.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Footwear

Last week the sun shone for the first time in eons and I (bring out the bunting) wore a dress to work. All winter I've worn the the same black boots with trousers, but unfortunately with a dress they look like jack boots and I look like a lesbian prison warden. In a desperate, last-minute search for suitable footwear, I got down on my hands and knees and scrabbled under the chest-of-drawers until I found a smart pair of shoes I bought a couple of months ago.

These were more than an impulse buy, they were a microsecond whim buy. It happened as I was driving away from my friend Deborah's house with the children in the back of the car. The shoe shop at the end of her street was open and they were having a sale, and lo and behold there was a free parking space right outside the door. I told the children I would be gone for no more than three minutes and threatened them with death if they killed each other while I was gone. Three minutes later, I came back bearing quite a nice pair of black shoes with a little strap and two-inch heels.

You probably think that two-inch heels are nothing, sensible even. But I am no Carrie Bradshaw, to me two-inch heels are like stilts - I wobble around on them uncontrollably, my whole body bending forward to counter the giddiness that the extra height induces. And the pain after about an hour is unbearable - the pain of having five toes squashed into a space only big enough for two, the pain of a dainty little strap digging into the tops of my feet which seem to have got puffier and pinker all of a sudden making my feet look like Miss Piggy's trotters stuffed into Betty Boop's stilettos.

By the end of the day I could hardly walk. I tottered home, wincing with every step, walked in the door, pulled off the shoes-of-torture and slipped into my trusty Crocs. AAhhhh. Ohhhhhh. Bliss. The comfort of that rubber material, the roominess for all of my poor bruised toes to take up as much space as they feel they need, the springiness in the sole, the refreshing air that wafts in through those attractive little holes.

Now, I know that lots of you think that Crocs are the shoes of the devil, and a very fashion-unconscious devil at that, but I love my three pairs and I sometimes even throw street cred to the wind and venture outdoors with them on.

But guess what, my closet Croc days are over because now they're making them with three-inch heels. I'm going to be wobbling in comfort baby!



(I will stick my fingers in my ears and sing loudly if I get a hint of any Croc-hate in the comments)