Saturday, 23 June 2012


Taxis are often an iconic part of the cityscape - London’s black cabs, New York’s yellow taxis, and Bangkok’s death-defying tuk-tuks - and, in addition to their power to transport you from A to B when you’re wearing heels / have forgotten your umbrella, I love taxis ability to surprise. Sometimes for the better – New York taxis have very bouncy back seats, and they’re really cheap (far cheaper that Edinburgh taxis – but that’s a rant about the city of Edinburgh council I won’t go into now) and sometimes for the worse – I’m always a little disappointed when I hail a ‘traditional Black cab’ only to be faced with a boxy glorified van. Yes – more of those first world problems, but I’m not a fan of the new style black cabs. Give me a ‘dangerous’ door that opens in reverse over a slow-motion automatic door any day (I could walk quicker than those bloody doors open). 
It’s the drivers that really make the journey though. Believe me I’ve met plenty of the traditional grumpy ignoramus types who are only out to wheedle as much money as possible out of you. The better half and I took a cab from the airport to our hotel in Vegas without a single word from the driver – not even a grunt. And if I had a pound for every time a classic cranky Edinburgh taxi driver (don’t mention the trams!) has tried to take me the longest route possible in a city I’ve lived in for 15 years, only to be totally affronted by the ‘accusation’… and god forbid you attempt to open the aforementioned ridiculous automatic doors yourself. Cue huffing, puffing and loosely disguised expletives. But, to be fair, they do have to deal with the general public all day (and – even worse - all night), and if that were me there would probably be blood.
I love an anti-stereotype, and I’m happy to say I have also met some truly lovely drivers. Going right back to when this country girl (bog-hopper, culchie, teuchter – call me what you like) started going out in the ‘big city’ and the drivers of sky cabs would put up with the caterwauling of a carload of drunken* teenage girls as we attempted, by way of our ‘harmonies’, to get a few pounds knocked off the fare. God bless them. Not only did they refrain from ejecting us from their car for crimes against eardrums, they actually gave us a discount – and greeted us with great aplomb the following week when we clambered into their car for another verse of California Dreamin’ (with seconds… oh dear).

More recently, arriving at Edinburgh airport at ungodly o’clock off a delayed flight, I was mightily cheered to discover myself on board the karma taxi. I gave the girl next to me in the queue a ‘lift’ because her house was on my way, which led to a chat with the driver about good deeds. He's a big believer in karma and every day he gives a free fare to someone he thinks either needs or deserves it. Like the old lady who’d decided to splash out on a taxi home from the bingo, rather than the bus, after a little win. He refused to take any money off her and told her to treat herself to tea and cake the next day instead. A most excellent anti-stereotype.
Taxi drivers, at least the ones who’ve managed to keep their sense of humour, also have great stories, particularly the guys at Bristol airport. Last week one driver was telling me about another passenger who was threatening to sue the holiday company after his annual family holiday in Spain (yep, you guessed it – same place every year). They’d broken out and tried First Choice after 10 years on the trot with Thomas Cook (wild!) They went to the same hotel, the rep was fine, the flight was better. ‘So what was the problem?’ asked the driver. It was too hot. ’32 degrees every day!’ apparently. And how was that the fault of said First Choice? Well the average monthly temperature in their brochure said 28 degrees. The mind boggles.

*All very legal, I hasten to add.        *ahem*

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Watch out - liquids about!

What I’d like to know is; what is so very dangerous about my shower gel? The airport liquid restrictions have been in place for some time now, so you’d think I’d be used to them, but this ginger needs a lot of help to look semi-normal, so they really are a right royal pain in the @rse. It’s grand when the better half is there to take my overflow in his little plastic baggy (the purveyors of those little baggies must LOVE the guys who hit upon the liquid bomb idea by the way – shares are up!) but when I'm on my own it leads to either checking a bag or some harsh decisions about which product de toilette is least essential (yes, yes, I know – first world problems…)
I’m all for taking measures to ensure the plane I’m on is not blown to smithereens, but I am deeply suspicious about this baggy activity. So we all put our tiny bottles of liquid in a little bag – to what end exactly? Just the other day I was witness to a fine example of the amazing work done by our fearless airport security guards. A young man had dutifully placed his bottle of aftershave in a tray next to his bag and his belt and off it went into the x-ray machine. At the other side the scanner of the scanner gave said youth a withering over-the-bifocals look (striking fear into his heart with it no doubt) and pointedly placed the offending bottle into a plastic baggy before handing it back. Thank god - who knows the damage that aftershave could have done if not safely ensconced in a see-through cocoon.
It’s pretty obvious some of the security measures are made up to entertain bored guards. Why else would they insist on them at some airports and ignore them at others? Some of them make you take your shoes off, some only make you take certain types of shoe off, and some couldn’t give a shiny shite about your shoes. Maybe they take an educated guess as to whether or not you’ll have smelly feet?
To be fair it must be mind-numbing to the point of exasperation to repeat the same phrases over and over, and receive the same incredulous looks when you tell people that they can't take their tweezers on a plane (for fear you would forcefully over-pluck the stewardesses eyebrows?) I wouldn’t be surprised if they start making us do the hokey-cokey in aid of national security.
I do have to give credit to the security staff who remain cheery while doling out ridiculous requests to the passengers who can only be described (politely) as ‘a few sandwiches short of a picnic’ (less polite version: ‘feckin’ eejits’). The staff at Schiphol, for instance, deserve medals for reacting with nothing more than a wry smile when the chavs claim their human rights are being violated when they take their joints away.
It is other passengers that tend to add insult to injury when you’re faced with the joys of airport security. Particularly the ones who wait until they’re at the belt of the x-ray machine to unpack and repack their suitcase to remove sun-cream, nail scissors and machetes, despite being pre-warned by the weird/scary/patronising hologram people (money well spent there airport authorities!) 
The self-same fools also have a habit of hogging the other side of the scanner until their bag to comes out, somehow managing to take up six feet of space with one jittery/hovery movement, until a grumpy businessman elbows them out of the way that is. The suits hold no truck with dilly-dallying and it makes for excellent people watching, which goes some way to making up for a lack of moisture in my travelling life.
Nice view - shame about the dehydration

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My mate carbohydrate

My not insubstantial girth will attest to the fact that I am rather a fan of the carbohydrate. The vast majority of my meals contain carbs, some are entirely based around the potato/pasta/bread/rice element and I feel rather short-changed if there are no carbs involved …either that or I begin polishing my halo, believing I will instantly shed pounds right and left, and join the healthy, healthy, healthy brigade who can tell you difference between simple and complex carbohydrates and exactly how much of each element is contained in any food presented to them.
Such health kicks only tend to last about 10 minutes with me though – they’re rather dull and require far too much concentration. Not to mention the fact that they frown upon the potato, and I don’t take kindly to people dissing my friends. Yes – I just called potatoes friends. And I care not a jot that I am perpetuating a paddy stereotype because I LOVE potatoes, in all forms, and I don’t care who knows it. I have been known to order a dish in a restaurant based on the kind of potatoes it comes with. Yes, I might really fancy the lamb with rosemary and redcurrant jus (jus: fancy-pants for sauce), but with couscous? I think not.
Quite aside from my love of potato (in all forms; mashed, baked, roast, chipped – I love them all! *ahem*, and calm…) people who don’t eat carbs seem to be quite pissed off a lot of the time. You know the types – the ones with mouths like cat’s arses, miserable eyes and a general air of tension about them. I always think they could do with a nice thick sandwich, a buttery baked potato or a plate of saucy pasta to pick the mood and energy levels up a little. They’re definitely lacking something in their lives – and I reckon it’s either carbs they need or, as my friend Al would say; ‘a good hard sh@g!’