Day 2 How can you lose the breakfast room.

Day 2 How can you hide the breakfast room.

Morning comes early as I am programmed 3 hours ahead of local time. So up around 4:30 but not an issue shower shave as we need to be smart casual today. You never get a second chance to make a first impression (when did you last hear me say that J). Watch some of the world cup including a dismal performance by England against the USA and begin to regret picking England as likely winners. This speaks more of desire over reality but too late now my selections are in for the fantasy league. Note:- post world cup I can say I was not bottom of the league there were 5 people out of the 40 participants who were more adrift from reality than even I was. It was rightly called a Fantasy league.

Checking with reception as to where breakfast was being served I wandered across to the Buckingham suite to be confronted by an empty room. No food is a sign I take to mean breakfast is not being served no tables a sign that I am in the wrong place. Back to reception to check I took the correct route although given it was only across the room I doubt I got it wrong. The friendly receptionist was as confused as I and asked me to be seated whilst she finds out what was happening. I find it interesting that you would have a movable breakfast room is it not one of those sacrosanct things. Always the same place at the same time. I have never played hunt the breakfast.

I retract the last statement as we did have had a strange breakfast experience once at the Hermitage in Monte Carlo where Judi and I following signs for “petit déjeuner” we found ourselves in a room with a few other people and a buffet style breakfast all laid out. Fine not an issue to serve yourself although at their prices I had expected a little more. No small tables only large round ones and much to our annoyance people started to sit down with us and even try to engage us in conversation. Being English this is just not on, invading someone’s repast and actually talking to them is beyond the pale (explained for none UK residents here ).

The fact that everyone else seemed to have an ID badge on should have been a sign for us that something was amiss. This coupled with the high dress code and the conversation being themed towards international investment should have been enough to point us to the fact that we had inadvertently wandered into a private breakfast meeting for bankers. (I just though everyone was well dressed for tourists). I insisted on a second cup of coffee to clear my head and to finish airing my views on the growth of china’s industrial output and Brazils growing position as an international player before Judi managed to drag me away to the correct location.

Finding the correct venue eventually our companions who have finished eating and have kindly hung around waiting for us asked why we were late and had we managed to avoid the private breakfast room where they nearly ended up.  We give our order to the waitress and although quite full force ourselves once more to stock up with food. (I was right about both China and Brazil though)

Back in Luton our search has ended as the receptionist having found where they had hidden breakfast sends us (Jo has arrived by now) to the correct location where we are informed that breakfast is not ready. It is 8:15 so it should be but what can you do so we wait. Once allowed in we settle on the “full English”. The English breakfast is one of those traditions which actually only exist in Hotels where it is still maintained with all its pomp and ceremony. the reality is nobody eats breakfasts like those anymore. It is a myth that anyone has the time or the energy to create these small feasts so early in the day or that people would have the desire to eat them.

They are reserved for hotels and possibly to impress guests you might have. Somerset Maugham suggested that “to eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day”. Not sure what that would do to your cholesterol or your longevity though but I will try anything once.

 Thinking about it I am not even sure England has that much more to offer the world by way of cuisine. There are some high spots with Roast beef and low spots with jellied eels but maybe nothing really all encompassing. We do have a lot of things you can do with dried pig’s blood but not right now. I have just remembered Pork Pies so maybe there is still something the world has not yet had the opportunity to savor however I think by now these would never be allowed to be imported by any developed land as we have to disclose the content list which might limit their appeal.

Day I (extension) Next stop Luton

Day I (extension) Next stop Luton

We are going to stay in a hotel near Luton Airport. This airport is well known for charter flights and at its peak 10 million passenger a year pass through it. It is one of the cut price airlines hubs so it still maintains a decent throughput of passengers most of whom “think” they are going somewhere for 1 UK pound although you and I know it will probably end up costing as much as all the other carriers.

The airport was made famous in England by an advertisement for Campari which had a model called Lorraine Chase who was asked by some handsome young rake “Were you truly wafted here from paradise” to which she replied in a strong cockney accent “Nah Luton Airport” this place is mostly seen as a reference point than an end point so this is only my second time trying to find it.

Luton is normally a place you would drive “through” via the motorway rather than driving “to” but there is a method in my madness as will be revealed later. Not that I have anything against Luton it is fine I think but it is neither one thing nor the other. Too far away from London to be included in the conversation but not far enough away to have a real identity of its own .Anyway by now we have the GPS up and running so we can find our destination without out further forages into the countryside nice though it is. I know from experience where there is an airport there are hotels so I managed to get a very good deal on a couple of rooms.

It is only when we have checked into our destination and returned to the car for our things that I realize exactly how full it is. In fact one might say it is fit to bursting. There are folding chairs and small mattresses, food stuffs of various origins (although my pies are being kept close to me in case of emergency situations). Pillows and suitcases and sleeping bags and bottles of different alcoholic beverages. Perhaps Jo thinks there is a national shortage of these or we may encounter some climatic abnormality which would precipitate the need for them but I am reminded that whilst England has a lot of different types of weather it is quite temperate so maybe these are to cover the “just in case” there is an apocalyptical scenario we are covered for a day or so.

Ten minutes of trying to uncover my case leaves me slightly lightheaded and whatever is left which is most things gets covered by a blanket which rather than hide everything only servers to announce that this car is full of stuff. Well is anyone fancies breaking in and stealing a set of folding chairs or a pillow then their need will be greater than mine.

The hotel is slightly faded although it has all the facilities needed and even has a fan in the room as obviously air-conditioning had not been invented when it was constructed. The lack of sink plugs in the bathroom and the soap dispensers screwed to the wall speak of the type of previous clients of which there must have been many given the scars on the bottom of the doorway gouged deep from countless cases. I add my personal mark to the door as I enter and unfold one of my better suits which had been crammed into the bottom of my case. I am on an extended trip and will meet up with Judi for a wedding in Wales in a week’s time so if I can get it hung up I might just get all of the creases out.

We plan to meet at 8 pm in the bar so enough time to collect myself and get organized. Don’t unpack the bag as we are only here one night so drag out the wash kit. This is always wrapped up in a “Gap” bag as one never wants to find the various liquids seeping through onto ones clothes does one. Clean shirt for the morning, shorts and flip flops. Ok done now for dinner. 

I grab a couple of menus (with pictures) to aid us and given we are in England where you get your own drinks (you could die of thirst waiting at your table) I approach the bar. As I try and pay the exorbitant price for a white wine of indeterminate heritage and a pint of warm flat beer (oh to be in England) the girl behind the bar (who must have eyes like a hawk) says that’s a Moscow metro ticket and she is correct it is with a wad of different banknotes I am trying to sort out be denomination on the bar. She then explains she is also a Muscovite and we chat for a few minutes about how long she has been in England and what is going on back home. She then expands the conversation by calling in her friend who is Ukrainian but speaks Russian as they all tend to do. This is all getting quite bizarre and a little like a language lesson so I break off and return to the table we have seconded on the “Patio” and by now the fizz on the wine has died down somewhat and it may be drinkable. “If that’s champagne it’s in the wrong style of glass” Jo stated. “You should be so lucky” I reply.

We pass an hour or so catching up even though we only saw each other 3 or 4 weeks before, there is always something to say about families. Jo is hoping to get some more background on mum on this trip from mum’s sisters, even though you are brought up with them sometimes you don’t really know your parents and once gone you lose the ability to ask so I suggest a list (its Judi’s training that does it) so we won’t forget what to ask.  

There is some function in the conference center of the hotel which finishes and a flood of young girls spills as if a dam has burst into the foyer and onwards onto the patio. To a girl they are dressed for a night at the disco including heels they are not used to (and seem to be on the point of falling off) and hair which is incapable of independent movement due to the gel and spray holding it place. Not sure what the event was but these girls could have been in some fashion contest except everything is a little “overdone” and none of them look very comfortable in their regalia. Lots of giggling and texting going on as one would expect from this generation of future leaders of our country. (that’s a worry)

Enough of this it’s been a long day and time for bed, arrange an 8:00 breakfast which is when they open.

Day 1 (will it ever finish) Now for the Pork Pies

Now for the Pork Pies

A very English thing is a pork pie please see link and the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow is not only my destination but also the first (and last) point where I can purchase the said savory. Ok I know you have to navigate the train from whatever satellite you land in which is slightly eerie and quite deep. A quick dash past the ditherers who can’t work out the difference between, UK, EEC, Other passports and transit passengers. They really should put some arrows on the signs unless the objective is to get people to huddle together pointing at things hanging from the ceiling which is what they are most effective at.

A note to anyone travelling through T5 at heathrow please check if they still have that pile of broken chairs just past the Customs post. Every time I come through I see them. Now it might be the designated broken chair area or more likely they don’t know what to do with them.

Downstairs to baggage control a huge cathedral type of place and wait for the bags. Not sure if the customs is fast or the baggage is slow but I have never found my bag trundling around the conveyors before I get there. Text my sister Jo who confirms she is outside and 10 minutes later so am I case following me like a well trained dog only clipping my heels when I lose concentration or take a corner too fast. Quick hello and organize a raid by Jo on Mark & Spencer’s to acquire the aforementioned food stuff. (Well done British Airport Authorities for putting one of these outlets there) I am of course outside having a cigarette and being advised by some chauffer that I should avoid the M25 as if it was the road to hell (I think Chris Rea’s song was about this very road) and to use the back roads to Luton which is our destination for tonight. You see the English can talk about things other than the weather we can also discuss traffic and football (soccer).

Not knowing exactly which type to buy Jo has purchased several sizes so it is with a mouthful of the “Dinky” size I spit out my order at Costa Coffee. Not exactly sure where they get their staff these days but don’t think it is England. How difficult can it be to understand “Large Americano with Milk to go” well very difficult for the girl with the Spanish accent which is not helped by the Polish assistant on the next till. “Café d’lait, Kofe s-malacom” I offer as alternatives but to no avail, oh for a board with pictures you could point to. It is a coffee shop after all so one would assume that they would understand at least a couple of words from their own brand tite.

Ok one Latte? Later (really I give up sometimes :!) we are outside with only a small fight with the automatic ticket payment system. The people on the next one seemed to have really done something horrendous as the engineer is dismantling the machine, not sure what they put in there but is seems serious and they smile weakly as the people in the queue behind me quietly tut their disapproval whilst secretly thanking god it was not them (it’s an English thing). Let’s hope the engineer finds the thing full of café latte it would be sweet revenge.

 I am designated driver for this trip a fact I deduce as my sister forces the keys into my hand as states she is never going to drive in England again. This is not only due to her care being 1) very small 2) a left hand drive (England is correct drive or Right hand to the rest of you) 3) she has been living in France for a number of years so is out of touch 4) She has no idea where we are going. I am of course fine with this as it matter not to me where the wheel is or what car I drive it is just something I am used to. Follow the car in front of you normally keeps you on the correct side of the road. The only time I ever get flustered is in car parks and people don’t normally drive fast there (Russia is an exception to that rule where they drive everywhere fast even to park). I can’t get the sat navigation going until we exit so I will wing it for a while. I know the area but not the route but I am a man so I don’t need a map or a navigation to get lost I can do that all on my own thanks. A small distraction at the exit gate as of course the ticket eating machine is on the “other” side of the car. Not a problem now there are two passengers but if gave Jo a hard time when she was trying to get in having to get out and go and collect it whilst everyone hooted horns or attempted to change lanes to get to another entrance gate. Maybe that was not driving point No 5.

Ok let’s try and remembers Hayes, Ruislip, Northwood, Watford, M1 Luton should be a breeze. Now quite why or how I find myself in Uxbridge or Denham green or Rickmansworth I am not sure but the sun is on my left hand side so I must be going North which is close enough.  Spotting the M1 and joining the queue of vehicles going where ever they are going on a Friday evening. Possibly some of the people who were on my plane. There is a traditional migration of people back North. Those who are drawn or possibly dragged down to work in the “Smoke” who escape on a Friday to go home and clear their lungs and return to the simpler life back home wherever that is.

We should arrive soon and we are looking good next stop Luton