Think you're having a bad day?

Tree of Life. Colourful chaos by M.A


There's a bank holiday in the UK on Monday. That means I get a few days away from my day job, and I will also get to visit a garden centre. You know, those places your parents took you on a Sunday afternoon when you were 10. Purely because nowhere else in those days was open.


That's something that on reflection I think was either strange, or it could have shown me how bored my parents were. We didn't have a garden when I was 10. My mother ran at the time was called an old folks home, I lived there for 15 years and the local authority were in charge of mowing the lawn every six weeks. That might explain why I've been feeling ninety for the past forty five years. Of course, these days they're called retirement homes with supervision or something that doesn't call old folks, old folks.


See, I told you the other day I digress quite a bit. One things for sure, you will never want to be stuck in a lift with me. The thing I need to tell you about happened yesterday. I had to take a flight over to Belgium, stay in a hotel room for a couple of hours, attend a meeting, and fly straight back home. No time to go and grab any Belgian chocolate, or even visit McDonalds or Starbucks. Straight there, meeting, hotel, straight back. I finally arrived home this morning, and postponed all planned travel for the rest of the day. It feels like I did a night shift.


The problem started unbeknown to me, on arrival at the airport. I had taken a lightweight case, with a spare suit, spare tie, 3 pairs of boxers, 3 pairs of socks, Hugo Boss aftershave, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving foam, deodorant, and a notebook. How do I know exactly what I packed? This will become obvious in a moment.


I arrived at Heathrow, and managed to board the flight pretty much twenty minutes after I arrived at the airport. Wow, things have improved at good old Heathrow. The flight as short as it was, was event free, on time, and I got an upgrade to a window seat after being asked if I would mind moving to the row in front so that a husband and wife could sit together. Funny how I never get upped to first or business class, but all in all the flight was pleasant. I even managed to get in five levels of Angry Birds on the iPad, and aced each level with the full compliment of stars. I am a gaming God.


On arrival, things started to go a little wrong. I went to retrieve my case, it was two inches too big to carry on so I had to check it in. I stood waiting at the carousel, watching out for my grey case with a red label. I always do this, everyone has a grey case with a red label. Round and round it went, until only three other people remained. I noticed a handle minus it's case going around. Oh how all we all laughed. The other three disappeared with their grey cases, all that was left on the carousel was the handle.


I picked it up. There was the label I had written some six hours earlier. Someone with a sense of humour had also applied a heavy baggage sticker to it. I picked up the handle, went through customs, and approached the service desk. Is there a problem Sir?


No, no problem, obviously my wife packed my case and thought this is all I'll need. Of course there's a problem I said. Can you tell me where the other bit is? You know, the bit that has my spare suit, spare tie, 3 pairs of boxers, 3 pairs of socks, Hugo Boss aftershave, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving foam, deodorant, and a notebook inside it.


Oh, she said waving to her colleague to come over and laugh out loud. This gentleman says there is a bit that is missing from his luggage. I was then given a form to complete, listing the spare suit, spare tie, 3 pairs of boxers, 3 pairs of socks, Hugo Boss aftershave, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving foam, deodorant, and a notebook. They asked where I would be staying in "case" and I quote, they actually said "case", using hand gestures to indicate the quote marks, it should turn up. I hadn't realised people from Belgium were quite that jovial. Always struck me that they were very focussed and professional individuals.


I went outside with my handle. A taxi was lined up, ready and waiting for the next customer. A big guy who clearly loved working out between McDonalds meals approached me with a smile on his face. Please take a seat he said, just before saying, is there anything I can help you with Sir? Yes I said, you can take this trolley back for me.


Off we went to the hotel. My meeting was due to start in an hour, set to carry on until late evening. Given I had carried such a heavy load, run around the airport for two hours in search of my case, I could have really done with some anti perspirant, and my tooth brush. I looked down, I had odd socks on.


Thankfully in the hotel lobby there was a small shop. A can of Lynx, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pair of flight socks, they were the only black pair they had. I was ready for the meeting. It went on for hours. In fact nearly three hours. No break, just lots of really bad coffee and some strange biscuits. I hadn't eaten and I must have looked like hell, one guy handed me his biscuits. Clearly he didn't like them either.


Finally, back in the hotel room I discovered that WiFi was only available for 30 minutes, or it would cost me the best part of fifty Euros for 24-hours access. Given I was due to be flying home in a tad over 5 hours time, I collapsed in a heap. Ten minutes later, a knock on the door. I answered in some bizarre state of undress, trying desperately to not get my shirt creased, and concerned how much longer these boxer shorts would be ok for.


Sir, I have a parcel that's arrived for you. I took it, I opened it, there was my case. Apparently it had been to Paris. I reunited the handle with it, using the hotels teaspoon to tighten the screws back in. Finally I could get a couple of hours sleep before heading back.


I'm glad to say my journey home was uneventful. I even used the spare roll of duct tape that seemed to appear in the case last week, which I had also forgotten to list, to fold the case, and make it two inches smaller. I carried it home as hand luggage. But, then all hell broke loose at the station car park.


I had my car keys, I had paid for parking, an exorbitant fee I might add. Certainly even I wasn't expecting what came next. You're probably assuming that my car had been towed, or it wasn't there. No, you're way off the mark my friends. Nothing as simple as that. Mornings at my local mainline railway station are always tedious affairs. Everyone wait is until they get off the train to go to a toilet that is marginally cleaner than the trains, oh, and one that doesn't tell you to not throw mobile phones, your exes sweater, goldfish, hopes, dreams and sanitary towels down the toilet. I kid you not, trains in the UK do this. It's quite unnerving.


They also wait to buy coffee, and this my friends is a wise move considering my episode trying to buy a latte last year on a non-stop train to London. I asked for a latte, something I would never usually do on a train. I was told that they had no large cups, would I mind having two medium cups instead? No, I said. Thinking two mediums are going to be larger than a large cup. More caffeine is always good, right?


I also purchased a bacon roll. It wasn't real bacon, it wasn't a real roll either by the time the lady had nuked it in the industrial microwave. I went back to my seat. Thankfully the one good thing about that journey was that clearly people had decided to stay at home. Seats were available. Believe me, this is a miracle on British railways were there are always 5 first class coaches that are always empty, and about 4 standard class coaches were its standing room only.


Imagine my surprise when I lifted the lid off both cups of latte.


Now, I wasn't sure if I should take a sip from each in turn, gargle, swill, repeat, or if the lady just thought that it would cheer me up to experience such humour on a Virgin Train which was running 37 minutes late. They said it was due to earlier engineering works on the line. I expect it was because they couldn't wait any longer for the large cups to arrive.

So, my usual digression, what you'll want to know about is what happened when I exited the station this morning. As I said, car keys and ticket in hand, I wandered over to the lift. My car had been abandoned a tad over 36 hours earlier on the seventh floor of the multi storey car park. I headed towards the lift.

I pressed the button with such relief that I was almost at the finishing post. The doors immediately opened. In went my case, followed milliseconds later by me. I kid you not, as soon as those doors realised my case was safely inside, those doors sprang right into action at about 75mph and sandwiched me in the middle. I was stuck between the two doors, holding a case in one hand, car keys and ticket in the other.

Normally, I admit to playing Russian roulette with lifts, popping a foot in to reopen the doors. Making the people inside wait. These things though were well and truly stuck. I couldn't move. It was like the scene in Star Wars were Harrison Ford was stuck in metal. I can't even begin to describe the pain I felt. I wasn't exaggerating when I say those doors slammed into me at speed. My shoulder and back took so much force I dropped the keys and the suitcase and screamed in pain. So loudly that people in Stoke On Trent some 17 miles away will have heard me.

During the twenty minutes it took to release me, people gathered. They even called other people over to have a look. Some even got their phones out to video the event. Not as evidence I guess. I'm probably about to become a YouTube hit. Finally two station staff came over. They pulled those doors so hard, while at the time all I could think of was I hope this thing doesn't decide to rocket up to the seventh floor. But the thing that really upset me was there was no apology. All that was said was "we really need to get those doors fixed". Never have I been so glad to sit in my car and turn on the heated seat. I couldn't even begin to consider filling in an accident form. I was in way too much pain.

I was supposed to head up to Edinburgh later to go to a wedding. I have cancelled all immediate travel plans and I'm taking the rest of the day off. I am bruised to the extreme. I phoned my two friends on the way home (I do have a couple of others too, just in case you're feeling sorry for me), and I received no compassion. They both laughed for so long and so hard, in the end I gave up. I wasn't wasting my monthly minute allowance on this. I hung up on both.

Now I'm ready for the bank holiday and I can start creating some more new art, write a few more blog posts, and go and visit a garden centre. It's relaxing, and that's probably why my parents did it. I don't need to take a suitcase, and they have no lifts.



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