Project Konigsberg #8 Well eulered

I was in the lounge at Heathrow before a flight to Bergen, of course. Attentive types will recall that I booked a return from Bergen to New York at a knockdown price. Travellers who are more maverick than I would discard the last leg of the inbound itinerary and just go home in London; those of comparable mavericity to me but more sense would have booked a different transatlantic flight in the first place.

Hang on. Just got interrupted by sandwiches. They were pretty nice actually. I thought she was offering me a choice but in actuality I got one (very small) sandwich of each of three fillings, and the quality matched expectations exactly: cheese and chutney beats ham and mayo beats chicken and coleslaw. There was also a scone with clotted cream and jam. I am not fully satiated but that's OK, it won't be long until I have the same again.

Anyway, yeah. I booked exactly the wrong transatlantic service. Any earlier and I could have flown the morning service to Bergen, and been back in London by 1pm and done with everything. Any later and I could have had more time in NYC and a saner transfer time than 9 fucking hours. But no, I idiotically booked the exact same flights I was already holding tickets on a simple London-New York itinerary for which I would naturally prefer different timings. So this is where I ended up.

On the bus back to Heathrow I learnt my flight to Bergen was delayed, and so it proved. My time in the lounge was mostly spent chaperoning Chris, virtually, through his binge read of my entire trip in one day, while keeping an eye on the expected departure time. Scheduled for 1645, the boards variously displayed 1720, 1717, 1713, 1715.. a variety of very small movements. No gate was announced though. I received an alert from Kayak that my flight from Bergen was on time, which is clearly impossible.

Oh, and there were alcoholic sandwiches.

A loud extended Scottish family were occupying about 8 seats behind me and one of them was saying how amazing it is that he has enough points for a free trip to Paris. I'm less snobbish and patronising about this than I am confused. They are in the business class lounge, which either means they are flying business class or they have cards which let them all in - especially in light of the sign at reception saying "no fucking way can you bring in more guests than the rules say" in somewhat more diplomatic terms.

So yeah. Enough miles to fly to Paris is basically the smallest number of useful miles properly, yet they must already know about this stuff. They are flying transatlantic (and rightfully fearful of the T5C departure gate - "C61?" is repeated about 15 times between them) so are virtually guaranteed to earn that much each in just one return journey. Ach, whatever.

Come 1635 and every single flight on the first screen of departures was showing delayed or cancelled. My flight was still moving around in its tight band of minutes and then suddenly, a gate! Shockingly, I would be flying Heathrow to Bergen from gate A12 just like last Wednesday. At least I think it was Wednesday.

Since everything is a bit mad I buggered off as soon as it's announced and the gate was heaving, boarding far from commencing. It was like the opposite of last Wednesday morning, this looked like a very full plane to me. When boarding eventually started at about 5pm there were no announcements, more just a general milling. I scooted through fast track and down the steps and into the plane. I'm in row 1 this time and get out of everyone's way; boarding continued until 5.15pm and the flight was announced as full, except no-one comes to occupy 1D next to me. Score.

We taxi and it takes an age because weather has caused a bunch of delays - ours was caused by arriving late from Sofia - and in the midst of a looooong queue of aircraft we eventually get airborne at 1755. Eesh. That's only 40 or so minutes before we were due to land, though I'm not too concerned about missing my connection.

Heathrow with the gates full looks magical to me.

As soon as we vaguely level off, sundry Norse folk attempt to storm the toilet. A woman from behind me shouts and is shouted at to stay in her seat until the seatbelt sign is off. Another woman makes a break for it only to be cut off at the galley, and dumped into seat 1D. Oi! When the sign does go off, 1D is too slow and the shouter beats her to it. Then a child comes and stands in the way too. 1D is told there are more toilets at the back and bolts for them. Other people queue. Is there no concept of the tactical piss in Norway? Do the Norse have rogue bladders? Eesh. Seat 1D is used as a waiting room for the loo throughout the flight.

I am offered a hot towel, and place it down next to me because it's a bit too hot. It's collected within seconds before I even touch it again. This crew are not fucking about. Champagne and nuts arrive. I start to play more with Aviary on my iPad and realise I completely failed to write anything about Girlfriend Guy from Sunday, so here he is. I'm actually not sure I need add to his own words to be honest.

I also forgot to mention that when walking through SoHo yesterday Murray and I found ourselves in the midst of a paparazzi - amateur and professional - melee outside some place called Balthazar. We have no idea who was meant to be there. Anyone know? I'm wondering what kind of fame we almost stumbled across.

In fact there's a bunch of things I forgot to mention. Like how drinking negronis was a better form of spiritual consultancy than Keano offered. Like how I tried to imagine what would have happened on the last crossing if there had been engineering works and a rail replacement bus service back across a bridge we'd already crossed. That was a particularly evil thought, I reckon Lester would've committed several felonies.

But then the sandwiches and scones interrupted the reminiscing. Sandwiches, scones, and another champagne, don't mind if I do. I'm yet to reveal to the cabin crew my presence on the return flight but presume an advance glance at the passenger manifest will tip them off anyway. If there's another drinks service I might say something like "no thanks, best leave some for the way back - I'm on your return journey too" but the idea of refusing a drink seems unrealistic.

The sun is about to set in Bergen and I'm on the right side of the plane for good views; the captain just told us the weather is nicer and warmer here than in London, and I'm on the better side of the plane for coastal views on the way in.

OK, so the coastal views were a bit crap. Cloudy and grainy and everything looked very blue. It was a bumpy landing. Never mind. We landed at 2025, exactly the scheduled departure time for the return. As I deplaned the crew said goodbye and I said "I'll see you again in 10 minutes, I'm coming back with you too".

Not quite as smooth in the terminal this time, due to capacity. We were at gate 23 not 22 which is slightly further from immigration, and the plane was rammed instead of empty. I nipped to the loo and came out to a plane full of people queueing 2 abreast to enter Norway. The departure gate area was also quite busy. Chatted with Helen about very good news, potentially, and then they announced boarding - before the inbound passengers had even got out of the way.

Numerous people seemed surprised to learn they had to show a passport to get on the plane. 17 minutes from touchdown to reboarding and the cabin crew laughed. "That must be the fastest turn ever!" "Well, second fastest. I did it last week too". Since sitting down she has come to ask exactly what I was on about, and I explained I'd saved well over a grand by flying to New York "from" Norway rather than from London. She seems to think it's lunacy. If only she knew.

It's 2050 and boarding is complete. We're almost ready to go. Let's see how the hot towel action is this time. Other than this, I am expecting the flight to be exactly the same only darker and possibly with more booze, because whereas business was mostly full on the way out, there are only 3 of us on the way back. So where's my champagne?

Aha! The hot towel was less hot and thus instantly usable, plus with so few people they are less frantic. Excellent. But seriously where are the nuts and champagne? I KNOW MY RIGHTS.

As I read the paragraphs back I wonder if this particular style of blogging - typing live as I experience everything, rather than making notes to write up later - is, well, a bit shit really. But I want to finish the trip and the blogging at the same time, plus there's nothing else going on on this flight and I've run out of space in my pad (sort of; on my next trip I'll start from the back, upside down).

Oh! Here's my champagne and nuts! Yay! Haven't even been left to take the top off myself this time, and I got referred to as Mr Foreman. They really are pulling out the stops with only 1/5th of the cabin in use. Wonder if I can get them to make me a negroni?

Well that was remarkable. Not the game(s) of pinball I was playing, but the catering. I am retrospectively horrified by the bland tiny sandwiches on the way out, since on this leg I get to choose between king prawn tagliatelle or, erm, some other dish I already forgot because i wanted the prawns. I think there was chicken involved. Definitely vinaigrette. Anyway it's a warm king prawn dish which tastes lovely and is accompanied by a small cheese plate, with oatcakes motherfucker, and the question "can I get you some more champagne?" ("That's not a question I am likely to say no to"). And a little dessert thing of peach and biscuit and some creamy type cream and it's all frankly a world apart.

Why would BA serve such different quality food on back to back flights?

My positive impression is no doubt helped by the fact I am now a full bottle of champagne to the good, but some quick mental arithmetic makes me think that's really not as bad (or impressive; take your pick) as it sounds - 750ml at 12% means basically just under three 6% pints, and in 3.5 hours. I'm sure I've done that enough in pubs with decent ale selections.

The moving map says, remarkably, that we should arrive back at Heathrow a mere 10 minutes later than the timetable says. The cleaners at Bergen either did an amazing or terrible job, it's hard to tell when you only see row 1. I know the contours of this seat felt very familiar though. The map also seems really blurry or shadowy and I'm wondering a bit if that's my eyesight or a shitty screen. Maybe I'll take a photo to see what the consensus is. Earlier I took a selfie and thought that maybe my left eye looked a bit weird, but since I'm squeamish as fuck about eyes I refuse to zoom in or look at myself in a mirror.

Maybe it's just a reflection. And dehydration. And exhasution. And other -ions.

Oh y'know what, it's the angle I'm sitting at. I just took a photo with my phone at vertcal arm's length, and it looks fine. Stand down, opthalmologists.

See now I don't know how to feel about the service on here. I was just interrupted and lost a ball at pinball in a game that was going very well. On the other hand, I was interrupted to ask if I'd like a drink. On the other hand, she misheard "lager" as "water". On the other hand, we're well into our descent and my ears are fucked so I presume hers are too. On the other hand, I had just earnt an extra ball and I now have a lager and she left to me to pour it.

OK I guess on balance I'm still happy with this flight.

Ooh, look, there's Essex or Kent. If the cabin lights were dimmed there'd be no reflection and I might have been able to get a picture. Of, like, Southend or something. The first officer says we're 20 minutes from landing and therefore only 10 minutes late. Good work, BA.

oh, London looks fantastic

Couldn't escape if I wanted to.

Maybe that's all there is to say about this trip. Unless something moderately interesting occurs during immigratoin and customs, all there is left is passing through them then a couple of buses home and sleeping like the fucking dead. The glamorous lifestyle continues apace tomorrow as I work from home in my slowly improving flat while waiting for a council bulky waste removal team to shift an washing machine and old mattress that's cluttering up the place.

But first, that sleep.

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