Monday, September 30, 2013

The curse of cheap flights

The problem with cheap flights is that they can be so early. This, obviously, seems fine at the time. And then, at some point, you realise that you'll probably need to get up at 4. Which is okay, only your plan of going to bed at 10 with cocoa becomes a little bit midnight with wine.

And then, all of a sudden, your life is what it must be like having a toddler. Only with the horror of getting abroad.

Most of the time it goes all right - but we got Hamburg wrong. We should have napped as soon as we got to the hotel. Instead we wandered blearily around all morning before crashing just after lunch. We woke up at 6, groggy, went out for one drink, then lurched back to the hotel and had an early night, sleeping in so that we missed the chance to go on a boat/bus or walking tour. We walked to a bridge and then left.

At some point, more by luck than anything else, we found the giant miniature railway exhibition. Which was amazing. But we were off our heads on sleepiness so just ran around giggling. Even trains were a bit wasted on us.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

An Important Message From The Police To Women

An important message from the Police - please pass to all the women you know.....

This actually happened a few weeks ago on the NEWPORT PAGNELL SERVICES!!!

It was early evening, and a young girl was watching the television at home. Her parents had left her alone, and she heard a strange noise coming from the television set. Soon she was sucked into a portal into another dimension. When her parents called the police, they told the family "Get out of the house, immediately, as the Beast is coming". This just happened to a girl last week. Please be careful when buying your house, and ALWAYS make sure it is not built on an INDIAN BURIAL GROUND to prevent this from happening to you. Tell others. This may save a life.

Something similar to this happened at the Aldi in Newport recently, but luckily the cashier was a trained spirit guide. Please be aware of what's going on around you.

In light of the recent murders at Grover's Mill, I think it is important to read the following info for your own safety. Things WOMMEN should know to stay safe:

1. if a Martian War Machine confronts you, DO NOT APPROACH IT WAVING A FLAG. It is probably more interested in Pastor Nathaniel than you, and it will go for the priest first. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

2. Tip from HMS ThunderChild: Do not use weapons on the Martians. They are no better than bows and arrows against the lightning!

3. if you are being hunted through a maze in winter, hide by retracing your steps. Jack won't be able to see what you've done. This can save lives.

4. Women have a tendency to go into car parks after shopping, pilates, visiting nail salons, etc. DON'T DO THIS! A predator could be watching you and this is the perfect opportunity for them to ask you to help them carry a sofa into an unmarked van. Do not do this!!! If asked, IT PUTS THE LOTION ON ITS SKIN

5. A few notes about getting into your car in car park:
a) Be aware: look around you, Check the passenger side floor for midgets with knives (this has happened)
b) Do not use your car for having premarital sex. Especially not if it is Hallowe'en.
c) If a man with knives for hands is sitting near your car, you may want to get guard/policeman to walk you back out. They will most likely die first. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY.

6. NEVER say the Candyman's name more than twice.

7. if you're babysitting and the phone rings, DO NOT ANSWER IT. The killer is already inside the house.

8. if the terminator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN FOR THE NEAREST TRUCK! However, even if you run him over, you will not hit a vital organ and the terminator will only keep on coming.

9. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic:
STOP IT! It may get your blood drained. Count Dracula, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women, He walked with a cane, wore a cloak, and often asked if you could hear "the children of the night".

10. Another safety point:
A woman was recently in an escape shuttle near Nuneaton. She thought she was in there alone and then noticed her cat was behaving strangely. Thinking quickly, she was able to save the life of herself and the cat by ejecting the alien lifeform into space. By thinking quickly and using common sense she was able to save a cat's life.

A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. Send this to any woman you know who may need to be reminded that the world is out to get them.
Someone will always send this kind of batshit scaremongering nonsense on thinking that hey, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Also, if you don't forward this on within SEVEN DAYS a creepy Japanese girl will kill you.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Alas, our Underground City is closed

I took my boyfriend to Turkey. This was a test. Of what, I don't really know. There are some places that, once you discover, you can't stop talking about - Glasgow in the rain, the shores of a Loch, a clean toilet in India... and pretty much all of Turkey.

I prepared carefully. I got a Turkish teacher to try and get my Turkish working again. She tried. She failed. I was, as ever, fine in restaurants, if everyone spoke slowly.

But still - Turkey was very Turkey. Our first hotel claimed to have a private beach. It turned out to have no electricity and be a mile inland, so we just wandered around. My boyfriend saw a hotel in the grounds of an old Roman temple. How wonderful, I thought, but not for the likes of us.  "Can we stay there?" he asked. And so we did.

We went to Cappadocia. I'm now too old for a nightbus to Cappadocia and can't believe I used to do this with my parents when they were still in their 60s. The seats are more comfortable, the children are better behaved than ever, but they turn the lights on more. Just when you finally think that some sleep will come, they slam them on, and you're in a petrol station in the 1970s being shouted at by a large woman smoking by a petrol pump. She's your driver. So you get off and go for a walk.

Cappadocia is still the best place in the world. And the oddest. A geographical oddity that is soaked in cash. They have neat pavement. The young men drive sportscars. There's a lidl (only they call it Bim, pronounced "bum"). Travel a few miles in either direction and you get "the real Turkey" - villages where life goes on pretty much as normal, with thousand-year old buildings neatly turned into cattlesheds. But the tiny village of Goreme is still awash with tourists. These are farmers, so they're used to dealing with cattle. Kindly and humanely the cattle are loaded into white vans and taken to wherever they can be milked of some more of their cash.

Numan's hotel was run by Afghan refugees. To think of all the horrors they'd been through in order to sit around listening to tourists discussing which hot air balloon trip to take. We did, by the way, do a hot air balloon. It was a terrifying hour with each of us worrying the other was about to propose. 

Mostly, I just love it there. I love living in a cave. A cave with plumbing and wifi, with a balcony with the best view in the world, that you can sit on at night and read books while the valley gets on with being the most beautiful thing on Earth. "Oh, just try it in Winter," said Numan. Well, I think I'd like to.

Being in my 30s, I now can't go on holiday anywhere without wondering what the property prices are. Turns out, a decade ago, you could buy a cave complex for a steal. Even now, my London flat could get me a 30-room cave. That's room for a lot of trains sets and cats. It's practically an underground city.

Talking of underground cities, I wanted to show my boyfriend one of the ones "off the beaten track". Because that's simple tourist snobbery. The best way seemed to be to go to a town and get a cab. We went to the town. We stood in a car park. We asked where the taxi rank was. The car park attendant shrugged and phoned his dad.

So it was that we became a Family Outing To The Underground City. Dad and Youngest Son in the front. Boyfriend and me in the back. "Do you speak English?" the dad asked in perfect English. This turned out to be the only English he knew. He was taking us to the next village which, last time, had had an undergound city. We got there. Passersby shrugged and smiled "Alas, our Underground City is closed" (to be boring, the Turkish word for "alas" is "maalesef" which does the job very well). And so it was. You can, it turns out, padlock an underground city. Why, I don't know. Maybe the man with the key was on holiday.

It doesn't matter, we said. These things happen. It's all fun. We laughed. But Dad and Youngest Son did not laugh. We can, Youngest said, take you back. Or, there's another underground city... And so we bombed on into the middle of nowhere. Valleys came and went. Street signs gave up. Little ladies toiled in the baking afternoon at empty fields while their husbands sat in tea gardens. And suddenly, carved into the cliffs were a nest of roman tombs. Little perfect temples. Just there. Next to a tea garden. And a handpainted sign saying "Undergound City".

And it was perfect. Being led round an underground city by a man who, by rights, should be running his tea shop, but really wanted to show off his ancient wine press. These things are good.

Travelling with a vegetarian in Turkey was either the best way to get ripped off, or a delight. We gave up on proper restaurants with their oily, thoughtlessly rude waiters and instead were oily and thoughtlessly rude to puzzled chefs in small canteens. Suddenly Turkey stops being expensive. You can still get a meal for two for about £6 and not want to eat for days. And I got very good at quickly picking the meat out of the broad bean stew and giving it to a cat. This is the best thing about Turkey - every restaurant has a cat. If it doesn't, don't eat there. Cats know.

Istanbul I got wrong again. I think if I lived in Istanbul, I'd enjoy it. As a tourist, I get Istanbul wrong like some people get email wrong. Half of it was closed. The other half was crowded - even the Cistern is unbearable now Dan Brown's mentioned it. I can't get it right. I once tried to get a taxi to a chic club near Taksim. I ended up standing on a roundabout. Yes, I'd tried to go clubbing on a roundabout.

When people say "Leaving our holiday was the hardest thing about it" they often mean it fondly. But with Istanbul it's true. They have a direct tram to the airport (you have to change five times). And even then, Ataturk Airport has won an award - it's the least punctual airport (outside China). 38% of planes leave on time. Several hundred flights a week are cancelled. You can buy a bottle of vodka in duty free for the same price as two cups of tea. And it was very, very tempting.

Of course, the boyfriend wants to go back. He fancies studying the sufis, going to a caravanserai, and going along the Black Sea. I think that'll be marvellous. I'm already looking forward to ordering meals very slowly.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The 25 Simple Steps To Buying Theatre Tickets Online

Is there any worse online booking experience than buying Theatre Tickets? It fails the GCSE French usability test. Namely, is the actual experience as easy as it would be in a basic French textbook?

MOI: Bonjour. Avez-vous deux billets por Mercredi?
THEM: Oui. Neuf francs, s'il vous plait.
MOI: Voila. Au revoir.

Here is how it goes.
  2. [a long time later] Congratulations, you've finally found a page about the play you want to see.
  3. [you've had shorter relationships later] You've found the “Book Tickets” button.
  4. You select the night you'd like to see the play.
  5. [You may now find yourself on someone else's website entirely. Lucky you]
  6. Select the type of ticket you want. No, not that type, stupid.

  7. You may not want to select a seat, but don't worry, we've turned our theatre into a flythrough of the Death Star. You must now steer through the stalls in order to find your two seats.
  8. Keep an eye on the colour code. LIGHT GREY means available. SLIGHTLY LIGHTER GREY means unavailable.
  9. Done?
  10. Oh, those seats weren't available after all. TRY AGAIN.
  11. Okay. Would you like to pay?
  12. Fine. We'd need you to register. No, I know you only come here every ten years, but we need you to register.
  13. Uh-Oh, looks like we made you register last time you came to see a play here in 2001. We need you to remember the password.
  14. Don't worry, we've emailed it to you.
  15. Email turned up? Good. Sadly, we'll need you to choose a new password before you go any further. To confuse you next time you come here.
  16. Hello again. You're now registered.
  17. There we go. Now, I'm afraid you'll need to repeat steps 4-11. See you in a bit.
  18. Would you like to receive our email newsletter? It doesn't matter what you click, you'll receive it anyway.
  19. Nearly there. Would you like to contribute to our Dry Rot Preservation Fund? We've thoughtfully added that on top of the ticket price. If you don't want to pay, please play Checkbox Battleships. Meanie.
  20. Oh. And here's a booking fee. Of course there is. We've got to pay for that CG modelled Death Star somehow.
  21. You've not read our terms and conditions, but we're going to make you say that you have. Liar.
  22. And we're done. Now over to your bank and their 3D Security Thing.
  23. Here's your booking code. Copy that down. And bring along your card.
  24. For someone on the night to shrug, ask for your surname and hand you your tickets.
  25. Alternatively, why not spend the evening in with a Take Me Out marathon? It's less painful.