Not that I was actually working, but a longstanding colleague is leaving at the end of the week so there was a date with a leaving lunch to attend. As sad an occasion as it was, I was very tickled by the fact I'd happened to wear my "More Cowbell" hoodie to a pub where one of the choices of dark beer was called "Holy Cowbell". If I could have stayed there all day I wouldn't have needed to even speak to the barman, could've just pointed to my chest!
Actually I really wanted to stay there all day. The single beer went down really well and when I left I was totally in the mood to carry on drinking, but the list kept dictating my steps. A haircut and shave opposite the old office where the barber made me feel like an old friend, then home, packed, and out to actually go on holiday.
Left my flat at exactly 3.30pm. A bus to Kingston was very prompt, and despite being overtaken by the express bus to the airport I still made it - just as the driver was shutting the doors - and thought, hang on, if this sticks to the timetable I could be at terminal 5 by 4.30pm here. That would be excellent.
Traffic. Lots of traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. I was facing backwards, but could see reflections of blue flashing lights ahead of the bus. The roads were almost gridlocked and then we reached a crossroads, ahead of us being the correct route, blocked by a police van blocking the road. Everyone else was being shepherded through some diversions but we, er, were let through the blockade. I admit to briefly wondering if there was some armed situation going on and they were sacrificing public transport riders.
No. There wasn't. There was an accident and we were just going to wait until they'd cleared it up and we could go again. As it goes, that wasn't too long, but we were still 30+ minutes late after all the delays. Accident must've been bad; I saw two police vans, one ambulance, one fire engine, and one police car. Presumably more emergency vehicles had been in attendance beforehand too. Poor bastards.
So, Hatton Cross. Missed a T5 train by seconds and the next one wasn't for 10 minutes. Sigh. But, eventually, I was at the airport, 1h40m after stepping out from my flat. Pretty bad, but I'd given myself plenty of buffer time so there wasn't a huge concern. Others on the bus had been a bit more panicky.
Shiny card plus business class ticket means I was doubly eligible for the fast track security lanes, so I wandered down to the south gates and through. Shoved my stuff in trays, got through the x-ray, waited on the other side. A giant man in front of me stood motionless waiting for his stuff while people had to manoeuvre around him, and even when he did get his giant bag he didn't move the empties like most other people did. Then, another bag of his got sent down the "needs to be checked more" lane.
My bag had also been sent down there. The bloke looked up and said "you got a pump in there?" and I realised my stupid selfie-stick holster thing was in the side pocket. This happened on a previous trip and since then I've remembered to have it out, but not today. Never mind, my fault.
A lass in front of me was having pretty much everything in all her bags swabbed and re-checked, which was taking some time. The giant kept hanging around in the way of everyone else while I sat back well out of the way until it was time for my bag to be checked. Quickly explained the kit, demonstrated it, got a new swab and away I went. So much for fast track, but in the end I was spitefully glad I'd made the giant bloke hang around more as punishment for his obliviousness or rudeness or both.
I wanted a cloth for my glasses so went to Boots; no luck. Then I went to some sunglasses-selling duty free stores; also no luck. Ah screw it, let's go to the lounge.
The FIRST CLASS lounge. Woohoo! Somewhat surprisingly, I'd never been in the T5 first class lounge before. When you fly bona fide first class, you're allowed in the Concorde Room which is another level of fancy above, and on the few occasions I've done that I haven't seen the point in checking out the nominally "first class" lounge. On the other hand, when flying business class or in posession of a BA silver (or oneworld equivalent) you're allowed into the "Galleries Club" lounge. Basically "Galleries First" is for gold card (or oneworld equivalent) holders and as of a couple of days after my Helsinki trip, I have such a card for the first time since before T5 opened.
Ooh, it's quite nice. There's self-pour champagne - regular and rose - and loads of nice comfy chairs with big cushions and space around and charging sockets (plugs and USB) and some weird Samsung wireless charging stands which afaik nothing I own can use.
Late on, I realise my ears have felt fine the whole time, which is excellent news. We land exactly on schedule at 10pm local time, and the memory of the rough bus ride to get to Heathrow is distant. I'm travelling without checked in luggage and am in row 1 so this should be a fast trip through the airport, onto a nice efficient German train and at my hotel in the blink of an eye.
Well, or not.
The photo above is from my seat on a bus. We've landed at a remote stand, meaning muggins here is second or third onto a bus which I will be last to get off once we reach the terminal. Up a slow escalator and through some Oyster-esque passport gates which are much harder to use than the Heathrow ones.
I'm chatting to Helen by now and have changed into my international hat, the one she (since Helsinki) lends me to regale her with photos of its travels, basically a vicarious proxy. I'm already overdoing it - hat waiting to deplane, hat on a bus, hat in an empty baggage reclaim hall - and it's time to stop. It's actually time to buy some Coke Zero, and then get some cash out - I had €20 already, but wanted to prove my Supercard still works.
Following the signs to the S-Bahn station, I find myself outside at a bus stop. Oh. The S-Bahn goes from another terminal. I know Frankfurt airport is big but the ride between terminals is not quick, instead it's reminiscent of Heathrow or Perth's international/domestic shimmy.
More signs to the S-Bahn. I stop to buy a ticket from a machine which needs its touch screen controls recalibrated because it's frustrating as hell. I thought I'd be able to buy a 24hr ticket but no, it's just "today" of which there's not much left, so instead I just buy a single and head down to the platform.
There's lots of people there. The signs aren't saying much, definitely not saying there's a train any time soon. But there's no staff telling people to leave and no announcements. I'm complaining to Helen about how long this has already taken, and listening to a podcast. On the local transport website I manage to get Google to translate something for me - apparently there may not be any trains, and there may be a bus service replacing buses. Um, OK then.
To my left a man looks furtive and like he's found something out, and he starts to fuck off up the escalator in a hurry and lots of other people follow him. I choose to do the same, and join a long convoy of people walking a long way to a totally different train station, the one for long distance trains rather than regional ones. I'm angry I need a new ticket, but when a machine tells me it would cost the same as the one I've already got I choose not to buy one.
It also told me there's a 2317 train, and it's 2316. It lies. Well, sort of. There is a 2317, but it comes in late and isn't going to Frankfurt centre. It's a big fancy long distance ICE train with first class and everything. Kinda want to ride it.