Saturday 23 April 2016

And then...

You might recall that back in March I booked my return trip to Split because having finally managed to convince the flatmate formerly known as Clare - because the current one isn’t called that but let’s face it as lovely as he is she’s still The Flatmate - that what she really needed to do was to trek half way across Europe and live in the sun. To be honest it didn’t take much convincing.

Wine happened, it was great.
So anyway, I’m back and through my music addled brain and sore throat from the foetid smoke filled club we danced in last night I’ll try to give you an idea of what has been going on…

Stuff happened, it was great. The End.

Oh, I have to write more? Damn.

You might also recall I’d been in the throes of moving. Dear lord. That seemed truly like the labours of Hercules though incredibly I did eventually finish moving out at about 9pm on the Sunday before the so-called professional cleaners went in to remove the evidence of our dust bunny farm. The trouble was that didn’t mean I had actually finished moving as I now had almost the entire world goods of two people in my room.

It was a little messy.

When I say a little messy it’s like saying the Somme was a little loud and muddy in places. I would get home after work and wail as I pushed items to one side in a vague bid to find something to wear. My clothing had - amazingly - all been put away, even sorted and all on hangers but that didn’t help when I couldn’t actually get within arms reach of the wardrobe.

In a vague bid to stop me sobbing every time I went in the room I found that my endless wraps could do a sterling job of making the boxes look like they were there on purpose, possibly even an art installation in rival Emin’s excuse to her mum for why she hadn’t tidied her room. Come to think of it I really missed a trick there.
It’s amazing what you can do whilst being singularly bloody minded and having the help of friends, Stef kept me sane (ish) during the middle of the move and my lovely Irish friend offered his strength when it came to moving the furniture towards the end. Of course the true stalwart was the Contrary Clio. She’s now resting in the garage with the back filled with gardening related bits and pieces and she’s remembering endless miles of trips as she transported the detritus of our lives from one part of E14 to another. I’m not sure how many trips I actually made, when I came to make a quick collage of the images taken of most loads I ran out of slots at ten. I may have to do another collage to make a collage of collages.

My plan was to spend the weekend trying to get things in to some semblance of order, or at least make it so I could move around the room. Incredibly once fuelled with a stinking breakfast and a will of uncompromising iron I managed to bustle and hustle, sometimes rustle, the chaos in to some sense of order. By the end of the Saturday my new flatmate provided much needed refreshment in the form of fizz and I could finally feel that maybe this wouldn’t be too bad, it would actually fit without recourse to further storage.
The next morning I woke to a new reality, my boudoir was habitable. Well, pretty much. It was wonderful to languish in bed for a few minutes as long as I didn’t let my eyes drift to the left and the remaining boxes.

I even managed to take the time to test the oven properly with a mix of bread, yorkshire puddings and roast spuds. All looks well in my world.

In the end it took the rest of the week and in to the next weekend to sort out the last bits and pieces and if the truth be known I do have a little too much stuff on the top of the chest of drawers, not to mention a pile of art that remains resolutely unhang. But I will get there. That’s the trouble with things like this, work and life kept getting in the way.

The reality was I needed to try and clear my desk before disappearing for a few days.

The morning of the flight I woke bright and early to two thoughts. Firstly I must pack. This being closely followed by an additional of thought of why hadn’t I already packed instead of listening a fabulous talk about Shakespeare followed by sitting in the All Bar One on New Oxford Street with wine I could ill afford. Still, I had the world to put right with Stef. My second thought was why the hell was my new flatmate messaging me at 6:59am. Oh, no hot water.


I scampered around the flat and diagnosed that the Economy 7 circuit hadn’t switched over. I hope I didn’t terrify the poor chap with the vision of me, scary hair, nightie and thick stripey socks explaining what I thought was going on. By the time I’d finished contacting the electricity people and the landlord the 24 hour heater had done its work and it was possible for me to shower in something other than super chilled water. Of course this also meant I still hadn’t actually packed.

This was going exactly as expected.

My vague plan was to be on the DLR by 8:30 followed by a swift jaunt to Gatwick and the flight to Split. I should have known it would go perfectly. Badly that is. I managed to select something approaching a capsule wardrobe, I even remembered the christening gift for the weekend, and tentatively weighed the bag. 7.9kg. Okay that was a little tight as Norwegian have an 8kg limit for hand luggage and I really don’t know how accurate my scales are.

I took out my brolly and the iBastard charger.

Of course what I didn’t do before weighing again was to zip the flight case up. The carefully and beautifully packed case. The one that promptly flung itself open and deposited the entire contents of itself all over my boudoir floor.

I. Must. Not. Cry.

Having carefully repacked I went back in to my bathroom to weigh again worried that the dust bunnies might push the weight back up… 7.2kg. Oh yes.

I was happy with this. I would take out the brolly just before being weighed just in case and hope the scales weren’t too far out. As I was also by this point dressed I made for the door.

I then went back in to find the Kunas I had from the last trip. I made for the door.

Then I went back for my sunglasses. I made for the door.

And I made it out. Which of course meant I then stood outside mentally crossing things off a checklist… Passport? Monty? Pennies? Phone? Charger? Keys? Clean knicks? Shades? I answered yes enough times and thought let’s go!

Now I’d checked the route the night before and it reckoned the best thing to do was go via Blackfriars. I did ask Google if it was sure and it nodded enthusiastically. Right. Which was why when I double checked having got on the DLR for Tower Gateway - admittedly the first train in at Limehouse - I found I really should have gone to Bank and then London Bridge. As I suspected Google.

*glares very glarily*

So I got off again at Shadwell. And waited for the next train. Which arrived and then promptly waited until somebody had been and checked every single door to see why we couldn’t leave. Hurry up! Eventually I battled through the rush hour traffic with my wheely bag - that I carried - and got to London Bridge to buy a ticket. Oh. I had choices. I don’t like choices when I think things should be simple. I chose Thameslink. What can I say, I’m an idiot. Having acquired my ticket I looked blankly at the departure boards. How the hell do I tell which one is Thameslink? It’s weird SOTR. I gave up and headed for platform 14 only to find a Southern train. I did what any sensible woman would do and asked somebody only - after explanation of how I had a Thameslink ticket but no way to find a bloody train - to be directed at some other blokes who could help. I went through the same routine. They pointed me back at the other guys.

There was risk of a small thermonortherner explosion…

…until I realised there was somebody else. We’ll call him Victor for it was his name. Apparently I should get on that train. The Southern one.

Deep breaths. I explained again, my ticket was for Gatwick and yes I know that train went to Gatwick but it was a Southern train and I needed a Thameslink as my ticket said only valid on… you get the idea. He was insistent and he was wearing a Southern tabard so I eventually said okay as I really needed to get my bottom to the check-in. Though with the parting comment that if I was stopped by a ticket inspector I was going to name him explicitly. To be fair he was lovely and wasn’t even put off by the panicking wide eyed look.


To say I was a little tense on the journey was an understatement and relief only settled when I crossed the ticket barrier in to the airport. All I needed to do was get to the plane…

Check in was easy. I’ve become a bit of a fan of Norwegian. So I padded off boarding pass in hand to the security area. And the discovery that the plastic bag I’ve been using for many a trip had ripped. Oh fiddlesticks. This would have been fine if the bags they had available weren’t designed for people that had forgotten everything. I truly struggled, the problem was that not only was the plastic straining with the tension of everything I couldn’t actually see the zip lock strip to close the actual bag. It felt I struggled for ten minutes to get the stupid bits of plastic to actually go together.

I didn’t cry.

But oh it came close. With the thing finally closed I was then told I needed another tray for my coat etc. Oh marvellous, so now my worldly goods were separated by several other trays and I had to get them at the other side once thorough the metal detector…

…I can report that M&S bras don’t set off the alarm! Neither as I realised later does wearing a Jawbone wristband. I was a little stressed though, as suspected the bags had been separated and I really didn’t want to put them all in one place to fetch the other. It was all a little chaotic and I wasn’t the only person with that blind confused look pasted on their face.

But I was through and airside. I stomped through the duty free in search of a cup of tea as I hadn’t had one yet and this meant I was actually dangerous. I had to settle on Pret, a place I’ve not been to since I went to one near Covent Garden with a colleague from my Sony days. It was better than nothing, and I had something resembling a wrap too.

What I didn’t have was a signal…

Remember the electricity problem earlier? Just before I left for the third time I diagnosed that the actual problem was the neutral wire being loose in the Radio Teleswitch. That would do it. When it was pushed home there was a big clunk and the heating burst in to life only to go off again as the Economy 7 time then finished. Excellent. This meant I had to update my landlord so he knew what was going on. Which meant email. Which meant my work email. Which I could only do from iBastard Junior and that meant WiFi or tethering. The former wouldn’t connect. The latter had no 3G signal of any kind.


Food finished I marched back in to the lounge in search of a signal. Still none. But I did at least manage to connect to the WiFi so all was not lost. I wrote an email and dealt with a couple of other matters before finally closing the lid and walking over to see what was happening with my flight. The one that seemed an age away. The gate was closing at 11:15.

It was 11:08.

*pause*. Fuuuuuuuuucccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. It turns out you can get an out of shape middle aged woman with a bag to a) run and b) get to gate whatever-it-was in under seven minutes through a packed airport without killing anyone. I imagine I covered double the actual distance as I dodged in and out. of the slow moving people who had been obsessively checking the departure boards and not dealing with a domestic crisis or work issues.

I amazed myself by actually getting to the gate, joined the end of the queue and thankfully was let through with little more than a cursory check and so late that I walked straight to the now boarding queue, actually had a human interaction with the chap that was directing people and made it to my flight.

There was even plenty of room in the luggage thingie.

Oh and I had an emergency exit seat so legroom plus nobody next to me… Bliss. Inevitably there was a bloke on the other side of the aisle that was too cool for school and was such seasoned traveller that he had to be told to put his belt on. Twice. And then promptly took it off. There always has to be one. Monty wasn’t very happy as he had to go in to the luggage thingie.

With the plane flying and Monty finally released I wrote as he sat glaring at me. Quite honestly that’s all the ungrateful little sod does, though he did perk up at the sound of the magic word… Champagne.

I think that should be my safe word.

The journey was thankfully short and having written a blog post and exchanged messages with various people the announcement was made that we were about to descend in to Split airport. Hurrah! The only downside was this would lead to my usual deafness and painful ears. And yes, I’ve tried everything over the years.

At passport control I had my customary moment of anxiety, especially as the lady on my line was looking particularly severe. Oh dear. It turned out though that she was just fed up with humourless travellers - predominantly in my line with British passports - that didn’t bother to learn even the most basic of greetings. Dobar dan! A smile, hurrah, she looked at my passport, back at me and then with a smile handed my passport back, with a cheery hvala I set off with her wishing me what sounded like “have a pleasant stay”. But in Croatian. It was that or she was warning me to leave the country as the security services had been notified and she was particularly pleased with the idea of me being interred before being departed for being Contrary in a built up area.

Finally I marched through customs and saw my very excited looking best friend waiting for me. I love being met by people. There might have been lots of excited squeeeeeeees hugs and we marched off to the bus talking twenty to the dozen. It was lovely to be back.

It was also amazing how much Croatia had changed since I left in early March, trees were in leaf, vines sprouting, the grass green and the traffic… At a standstill.

We later realised it was because there was some sort of football match on. Mostly because we heard them chanting as we walked around Marjan park later that day. After we’d eaten - a deliciously healthy mix of pršt, cheese and the local cucumber - that tastes like melon - we went for said walk around the park. A gentle stroll to break me in. It was truly glorious and the whole of Split seemed to be out exercising. The promise was of a paddle before a glass of wine at a bar on the far side of the park with a sunset view before wandering back.

It really was worth the effort.

I even had an impromptu blow dry!

The view was wonderful pretty much everywhere though Clare rather liked the view down on the beach as two very athletic young men were going through some sort of fitness regime that seemed mostly aimed at distracting ladies of a certain age. It worked in her case.

Sadly after a glorious sunset we wandered back around to her apartment before emerging once more to eat at a near by restaurant. One where Clare thought the waiter was cute.
This doesn’t narrow it down much.

Anyway. The food was lovely, the wine just right and the waiter was indeed cute. We could have gone on as the twinkly one was all a-twinkling but me? Well I was fading fast, after the strain of the move and working very hard I was exhausted and further hampered by the nagging pain of my high altitude ear. I just needed to sleep.

With that we had a convivial short walk back to her apartment, a night cap of hazelnut liquor and finally with a promise that I would still be there in the morning I drifted off to a long awaited sleep.

To be continued. After we’ve been swimming. Again.

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