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Monday, 2 January 2017

"It's the Final Countdown"

Not having flown or been abroad for nearly 20 years is hitting home. I and my mate are off to Longyearbyen ( I love that word) in just over a week. He, as a seasoned traveller, is currently in Spain and will segway from arriving at Heathrow to departing from Heathrow in less than 24 hours without missing a heartbeat. So organised is he that in his second bedroom already packed is his extreme clime suitcase and he has a small, but extremely functional backpack to take his essentials as cabin luggage.

I received an itinerary the other day detailing the impact of our travel agent using her initiative.

Initially we were booked to fly from Heathrow to Oslo on the 17:30 flight. I thought an immensely sensible time to begin a trip to the Arctic. We'd hang around Oslo for an hour and fly to Slavbard. Except because of the delays at Heathrow the week before Christmas due to freezing fog our agent decided that the one hour change over at Oslo was too tight. A minor hiccough and we could miss the connection to the Northern Lights and spend a day in Oslo and lose a day in Spitsbergen, So she has booked us on the 10:20 fight from Heathrow! That means, as there is only one flight a day to our destination, we spent over 8 hours in Oslo Airport and it environs.

8 hours is the very minimum number of hours I need to sleep any night. I will be spending that number of hours waiting for a connection to get to an airport we'll land at 02:00 the next day! I am not happy. Given the inefficiencies of our transport service, the fear of terrorist attacks and the sheer delight companies appear to get from inconveniencing their fare paying customers, I will be up at 5  in the morning on the day of our departure. Ah well, it's an introduction to 24 hour darkness.

When we log on/book in, or whatever we have to do at Heathrow's Terminal 2 it's all frightfully automated. No nice smiley Scandinavian beauties checking in your luggage - just a ticket machine. My experience of aforementioned pieces of technology is not good. I spent an increasingly panicking half hour at Paddington a while back trying to "validate" my on line booking with one of those automated ticket thingys. Only after many failed attempts did I discover that the machines had been permanently taken off line.

I've been reading all the helpful security information provided by Heathrow Airport. It's difficult to disentangle the potentially life saving info from all the pop up ads for Pizza Express and Duty Free, but I suppose they have to make a profit.

We can take 23 kgm of luggage carried in the hold. That means standing on a bathroom scale and balancing the full suitcase to make sure that one doesn't exceed that limit. You can take 8kgm as cabin stow, except surprisingly such hand held items as guns, ammo and explosives are not allowed. Colourless liquid is suspect, so any perfumes or other toiletries have to be less than 100cc, in a transparent container and in a transparent bag. How do the Beckhams cope?

I need to buy a tiny rucksack for my smalls - you're advised to take a spare change of underwear stowed away should the pilot perform an anal sphincter muscle relaxing manoeuvre at some stage during the flight. I will have my ruff, beanie hat ( made by Peruvian ladies in the Andes) and mittens in my hand luggage so that I don't freeze to death on landing at Slavberg Airport.

Oh, I have to buy foreign currency. I'm not sure what they spend in the Arctic Circle, but I'm sure £ sterling will be acceptable as will my credit card: as long as they don't freeze my account!

As we approach D Day, I'm getting increasingly anxious. I realise I haven't flown since 1994! Images of planes in flames crashing into the sides of mountains, plunging into the depths and overshooting the runway fill my dreams. Just my luck the in flight movie will be 80's themed "Airplane".

Who said the Scandinavians didn't have a sense of humour.

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