Boeing, Going, Gone thirst class

It's late May! Those of you with good, observant memories might have realised in advance there was a likelihood of a foreign trip around now, what with Moscow, Mexico and Hannover in the last 3 years. Helen's birthday is this time of year and we've made a habit of buggering off each time. So here in 2018 we're armed with a bunch of miles and a two-for-one voucher and seeking sunshine, just as the UK's weather bucks its own ideas up after most of the first 5 months being bloody dreadful.

It started with a 5am alarm on a Sunday morning. Bleurgh. I actually woke up at about 3.45am and saw little point in going back to sleep. Childlike excitement due to the upcoming longhaul flight, my first since July (which feels like quite a long gap, for me).

Our preferred local cab firm rarely goes wrong and while we're attempting to say our goodbyes to the cat, an SMS tells me the car is just about to turn up, a couple of minutes early. The driver seems curiously begrudging, and only lifts my suitcase into the back of the car, not Helen's. Huh. The drive to Gatwick features no conversation other than confirmation of which terminal, and he has Magic radio playing loud power ballads - which he turns up even louder once we get on the M25.

Much to my surprise, it takes us exactly 30 minutes from door to kerb. I've always thought Gatwick is a much longer drive, and anyway this is the first time I've arrived here by means other than train in, like, ever? Vague memory of a 2am drive when I was a young kid and we went to Benidorm via Alicante, I dunno.

We'd have got the train today had there been any running early enough; instead, we step out of the car 3 minutes before the first train would have left Surbiton, and almost exactly 3 hours before the flight. The BA app had told me that we needed to have our passports checked for validity to visit our destination so to seek out a member of BA staff, so I lead us to the First class check-in desks where - gasp! - we have to bloody queue. Both of us acknowledge what massive wankers we are at being faux offended by this.

At the desk our passports are given the once over and everything is fine. The lady also tells us we could have just gone straight airside and had it done in the lounge. D'oh! Helen is seething at the wasted time as we ascend the stairs and go through "Premium Gatwick", the fast track that is branded and also allows you to pay a fiver. Surely if enough people pay then it won't be fast?

Anyway. We're through, after a bit of a rigmarole because both of us have our luggage picked for secondary inspection. Helen's bag of liquids has too many liquids in it and we might have to decant some into my case, while my spring-loaded selfie holster thing sets off alarms YET AGAIN. Next we go to Moneycorp and wield a voucher allowing us pre-order rates for walk-up currency, buying a frankly preposterous number of small denomination notes.

Finally, we're at the BA first class lounge. It has taken us longer to get here since getting out of the cab than the ride itself took. Much fail. Helen goes off to get some food while I take advantage of the vantage – this lounge has direct runway views.

She returns with coffee, a fry-up, and some apple juice. I bugger off for a shower, because I feel disgusting – the shower in our flat is currently broken and there was no time for 2 baths. OK, fine, I woke up at 0345 and plainly could've had a bath, but I didn't. The woman manning the desk at the shower bit asks me what I'm there for, which seems a little bizarre.

Anyway, the shower is spectacular, marred only by the lack of shower gel with only some handwash in its place. I feel properly energised and can now get on with a massive plate of fry-up for myself - excellent bacon and black pudding, no hash browns, lots of mushrooms, watery scrambled eggs. Oh, and I think I'll have a large glass of champagne if it's all the same to you.

There's nothing amazing about this lounge apart from that. We came here for Porto last month and I availed myself of the waiter service in the dining area, but that time I was much hungrier. Maybe some pastry would go down well though, and another large glass of champagne. Yes. While pouring it I fall into fits of laughter at the wine called "Patriarche", and wonder if you mixed it with tomato juice it would be called a Bloody Patriarchy. I'd drink that on International Women's Day.

A kid pokes their head up over the thing separating our seats from theirs and some good parenting ensues, as his mum tells him to stop bloody bothering people. Then the gate number comes up on the screen and 5 separate alerts on my phone at just before 9am. We wander along a loooong corridor full of families heading off to Barcelona and Copenhagen and Tenerfie and that, eventually reaching our now supposedly "boarding" gate 23.

It is not boarding. Fuck all is happening. What's more, there doesn't look to be barely half a plane's worth of people waiting to get on a 777. 10 minutes or so later they finally announce boarding, very clearly stating the "boarding by group" regime. We're in group 1 so wander forwards, hindered as we are by several people who have no idea what group they're in so are just going up anyway. No, it says 2, shoo out of the way.

Down the airbridge and we turn left, 'cos we is today travelling in that First class, don't you know. I'm in seat 1A, Helen behind me in 2A. BA's Gatwick fleet are typically a bit older and tattier than the Heathrow stuff but hey, First class is First class and numerous members of cabin crew come and introduce themselves. I sit in 2A's "buddy seat" while the rest of the plane boards and we have not one, not two, but three pre-departure glasses of champagne, helped a little by the 15 minute delay in boarding. Hurrah!

Menus and amenity kits are also distributed, but no pyjamas. Maybe they'll come later. The amenity kit bags are much better than the crap served up on previous BA flights, good job on the upgrade. Then come landing cards, where people are given a choice of country what with this flight stopping off somewhere en route to its final destination.

Not entirely without warning, the seatbelt signs come on and the plane starts to move. I leap up from the buddy seat shouting "I gotta go!" and ensconce myself back in 1A. Time to peruse the menu again, having forgotten its contents already.

Just after 1030 we're in the air. I've got my headphones on and am watching I, Tonya. A champagne and some nuts arrive. I'm happier than a pig in shit.

There are 3 adverts before the films on the low-res inflight entertainment system. One of them is for Johnnie Walker Blue, in which a Scottish man is deemed so incomprehensible that they give him subtitles. Bit rude, that. Also he pronounces path properly, i.e. with a long A. I thought yer Scotch folk said it wrong, like it rhymes with the first part of "Catherine"?

Anyway. I, Tonya is an excellent film IMO but I did feel a bit weird about it. Like, Tonya Harding clearly had an interesting first 25+ years of her life which featured all kinds of stuff that I might choose to laugh at, because I'm allowed to be a dick – but making a film of it as a comedy, when it actually features a shit-ton of darkness, seems a bit off really. Like, everyone is being told to laugh at this woman. Ho hum. It's still a good film though.

When time comes for food to be served I'm asked if I'll be "dining single or buddy"; we'd decided to eat at our own seats for maximum feet-up and space. I also request to "stick with the champagne" rather than accompany the meal with much else. Mind you, I'm actually asked 3 times what I'd next like to drink and each time the answer is the same, but only once do I actually get a refill – and that involves her taking my half empty glass away and returning with it topped up. Hmm.

Anyway. Food time.

Never had Lobster before. Didn't know it was a bit like a white fish. This was nice, though didn't blow me away.

Guinea fowl I had had before, and this was very very bloody nice indeed. Seriously though, a "pine nut farce"? Who takes these descriptions seriously?

I opted not to have any sweet dessert, instead going straight for the PLATE FULL OF CHEESE, partially inspired by being tagged on Facebook in a plate full of cheese the previous day.

At this time a bit of turbulence hit, enabling me to mumble something about drinking "any port in a storm".

I pop round to 2A and see how Helen is doing without nicotine, the answer being "fine until you just mentioned it". D'oh! She tries some 3-years out of date nicotine strip that dissolves on the tongue and has a crazy mad rush immediately. Oops. We whisper to one another, in that wanky "had a fair bit to drink and can find fault in anything" way that as nice as First Class always is, this is "all a bit Gatwick". We're such snobs.

I return to my seat, just as the crew dim all the blinds. Despite a daytime flight I think they just want people to sleep, and Helen actually wants to anyway. I don't, I want to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri - so, y'know what, I do. At least, I try to, but I doze off and wake up some time later. Restarting the flim, I do exactly the same again, but decide not to bother restarting. The old system wouldn't tell me exactly how far through I was but it couldn't have been far as shitloads remained. Good film, that.

Next, The Disaster Artist, a dramatisation of the making of The Room, Tommy WIseau's worst-film-ever cult classic that I've never seen but have had thouands of emails from the Prince Charles Cinema about showings. Disaster Artist is excellent.

Eventually, after, like 4+ hours with no sign of any cabin crew (and none around in the galley when I popped to the loo) I'm asked if I want anything. Yeah, I'll have a beer please. WE'VE ONLY GOT AMSTEL. OK, that's fine.

Amstel Light is not fine at all, however. Besides how the fuck do you run out of all the other beers? First class is almost full but apart from the 3 champagnes before we left drinks service on here has actually been pretty poor. When Helen wakes up I go sit in the buddy seat again and we whisper conspiratorially about how "a bit Gatwick" things have continued to be, especially that bloody Amstel Light. I mean seriously!

Having seen mention of it in the magazine but not being aware of a particularly wide roll out, at one point I turn on phone wifi just in case and, oh! There's wifi on this plane! No vouchers for First class passengers to use it for free though, and holy crap it's expensive. Yeah, think I'll leave that if it's all the same to you.

Blinds come up and orders are taken for "afternoon tea", which we will take buddy style. It's a selection of "finger sandwiches" plus some Mr Kipling stuff a couple of scones. Armed with a teapot we're asked if we want tea or coffee - I'm like, can I get some champagne? No, we've run out. Er, OK. Again, what the fuck? Gin and tonic then, thanks.

Helen wonders if we're somehow being punished for drinking too much but that's bollocks, they were the ones who gave us 3 on the ground. They just seem shockingly badly catered. There's enough gin though, as we're proactively offered a refill and the second is hellishly (or heavenly) strong.

I try and explain The Disaster Artist to Helen, veering off on a tangent about how my ex-colleague has seen The Room and knows all about it and actually I haven't seen him or even spoke to him in ages and should catch up with him, even go see The Room with him, but I am fucked if I can remember his name. I can picture him, he looks just like Louis CK, but what the fuck is his name? Not André, not James, not Paul, not Ian... Jesus Christ, what was his name? Eventually I have to resort to scrolling through my contacts on my phone. Tom! It's Tom! Yes, I should catch up with Tom sometime.

Sorry about not remembering your name, Tom.

Soon enough our descent starts and I'm banished back to my own seat, to watch St Lucia out of the window.

Quite pretty and mountainous around here. Landing at UVF airport I'm shocked to see something I specifically told Helen never ever happens: they use mobile stairs on a 777. I mean, really? Still, gives me an opportunity to watch our new crew arrive – we're not getting off here, but everyone else in First class is as are all the crew, both cabin and flight deck. Also, with the doors open for an hour or so, we notice that St Lucia (airport) has an unpleasant smell.

Everyone in the new crew seems about 20 years younger than their counterparts in them that have just got off. The new pilot says he's called Owen but the accent makes it sound like he ain't Owen but, like, Eoihin or Eoghan or something.

We're asked what we'd like to drink once we're airborne and I say "well, have you got any champagne?". The bloke tells us if we were told they'd run out then they'd run out, because the plane is "return catered" from Gatwick - i.e. it should have enough for the outbound and return on it from the start. Well, if you've already run out of most beers and all champagne that's not good is it! Nor does it bode well for when we go home.

But anyway, we're still on our way out, and the backup choice of gin and tonic works. Also, an amuse bouche. No idea what this stuff was. Some weird prawn thing?

This hop is only 40 minutes or so, which only gives them a chance for one proactive refill of the g&t. Descent obviously starts very soon and out of the window I see Port of Spain, which surprises me by how big it is. That's Trinidad, that.

Once we land one of the cabin crew asks another "Reckon that was Eon's landing? Yeah I know it's Owen but because of how it's spelt I call him Eons".

At Port of Spain airport we have an airbridge, hurrah! Also there's a LIAT plane just over the way, which is a premonition of our future.

Both kinda busting for the loo we each dive into our respective genders facilities, which turns out to be a stupid mistake. Having been the first two people off the plane, and only overtaken by one or two folk in the corridor, we now approach immigration about 50th place and it's taking bloody ages for them to process each person. In fact, someone at one desk is being kept their for ages while the officer gets on the blower to someone, while at another they're being given the third degree about showing reservations or onward transport or something.

Thankfully once at the desk we're sorted out fairly quickly, and soon enough we're outside. With no obvious smoking area we can't satisfy Helen's desire to spend 10 minutes vaping before getting transport so fuck it, I'll call the hotel – I'm well prepared, I wrote the number down, see?

Hmm. What I didn't write down is the country code for Trinidad. Airport wifi lets me online and I find it out, and call the full number. It doesn't work at all. This is less funny than it might be, though we're not being completely bombarded with rogue cab drivers thankfully. We walk into the tourism information centre and they know exactly what to do, some hotline to the Grand Diamond Hotel and we're told yep, go wait at the exit by Subway and a white SUV will come along and they'll identify themselves to you.

Outside, someone asks if we want a cab. I hate this rogue interaction but actually it's just a bit "ah, you waiting for Grand Diamond? Yeah they'll turn up here". We're hanging around for 10-15 minutes though, and almost move elsewhere in case we chose the right spot when another identical interaction with a different bloke takes place and seconds later a white SUV turns up.

The lady drives us around the airport perimeter and past the Air Guard HQ and numerous cargo warehouses, then past a shady looking bar and, oh, here's the hotel! Right next to the Piarco Church of the Nazarene. We knew it was only a 5 minute ride, which made us a bit confused as to how it took them so long to come get us. But she's friendly and it's pleasant and she also checks us in and we're given room 1.

The room is really quite nice actually, and there's USB sockets in the wall, huzzah! Also raisin and peach flavoured soft drinks in the fridge. It's about 5.15pm, so 10.15pm at home and yes, we've had a lot to drink and been up for a looong day, but it's way too early to go to bed because we'll give ourselves jet lag. But there's fuck all to do around here, even the shady bars aren't open, so let's just chill. Helen starts to read her book and falls asleep within 15 minutes; I compose the picture parts of this blog and put on a podcast, but before I know it I'm asleep too. D'oh!

Created By
Darren Foreman

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