Saturday, 20 October 2012

Drop 'em and Cough

There is often a corporate nervousness when strangers gather for a common purpose. The airport departures lounge is such a place, especially if there is a delay in the departure time. Nervousness shows in different ways. The well-seasoned travellers smile knowingly and reach for the book or playing cards. Travellers with young families react badly as stressed children get a sixth sense of how to pile pressure onto parents by demanding toilet trips/sweets/drinks or the freedom to explore the airport knowing that a parental refusal can be countered by a loud noise.

 Some travellers will move towards the check-out desk demanding explanations - in the naive hopes that they will be told the truth, and that passenger pressure can help. Nine times out of ten the broadcast reason for the delay will be described as a "technical problem" .This seems to be a blanket phrase covering anything from a replacement engine needed (as happened when we tried to fly from Manchester to Cuba), a need for a replacement light bulb (in the emergency floor lighting) to a crew shortage (pilot; or tractor driver to tow the plane out). Eventually passengers will board and the corporate passenger spirit will lift instantly.

Yesterday I arrived at a hospital as an out-patient ready to donate yet another blood sample from one of my bruised arms. The surgery opened at 09.00 so I was surprised to find a small queue at 08.30. Taking the small  paper ticket number 83 to the back row of chairs I settled in for the brief wait. The room rapidly filled (what a lot of blood letting in prospect!). Nine o'clock chimed and there was a corporate expectant hush. Number 80 please! No-one moved. Silence and a lot of sidelong looks. Who on earth was 80? Should 81 make a move? Would a latecomer call everyone's bluff and jump the queue?

A nurse appeared, confirmed that 80 was a leftover from the previous night, and called for 81. "Bingo!" quipped an "old hand" and he was rewarded with a corporate chuckle. On my left an elderly gentleman declared that the wait reminded him of Army medicals." Just one instruction - drop 'em and cough!" was the comment. At that point I queried whether I was in the right queue. I managed to suppress a question about how coughing without any trousers could be used in military action.

82 flashed up, followed rapidly by 83. Looked like the race was on  between the 2 blood nurses to see who could fill the barrel first so I charged into the vampire's lair.

I was out by 09.10, feeling slightly light-headed and bearing yet another rapidly forming bruise on my inner arm - a sort of corporate badge to be shown off for effect and evidence that I had indeed joined the right queue.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Shoots,leaves and eats

We were waiting for a transfer between Bodrum Airport and Bodrum Marina along with a hundred or so other passengers who were lining up behind designated signs such as Jones Taxi; Thomson; and Gallic Flights. Our board never appeared,at least not the board listed in the joining instructions. As darkness gathered we were suddenly aware of a minibus driver carrying a bit of cardboard with the word 'Fiesta' scribbled on it.

A stream of what we assumed was fluent Turkish, plus violent body gestures got across the idea we were to get on his bus - and to finally prove it he showed us a crumpled paper list which included our mis-spelt names. So we were off. The instructions had suggested a 15 minute trip.This turned out to be a spelling mistake on the information sheet, to put alongside alongside the "emergency" telephone contact that was 3 digits short of a full mobile number. 

After what could be called an interesting 45 minute drive, including lifts to random strangers encountered at any red traffic light, we arrived somewhere near the intended drop off point. Had there been much traffic on the road the ride would have been even more interesting, verging on exciting I would guess.

"Where exactly was the boat?", I asked in fluent English ; the common language of all the passengers, but clearly not a language for the driver. (In all fairness no-one could speak any Turkish so it is perhaps churlish to expect every minibus driver to speak English). Another stream of Turkish followed with more body gestures and a very disappointed face when I declined to give a tip.

So ..there we were, stranded at Bodrum's main harbour with only the name of the boating company (Barbaros) as a clue.There were only about a hundred boats in the harbour so it should not have taken too many hours to trail the luggage past each one. By sheer good luck the first Barbaros boat we approached was waiting for 2 passengers so we boarded,relinquished our passports, ate a hearty meal and discussed our good fortune. 

By 8 am the next day the real passengers had arrived; we were invited to leave as promptly as possible and to follow our guide to the correct boat. So much for a good start.

 If only the driver or skipper had been able to speak a little English...

A few days ago I was admitted to hospital with a suspected deep vein thrombosis in my right leg. I listened attentively to a learned doctor who told me about the possible effects of my condition and the dangers of a pulmonary embolism. As he was speaking English I paid attention and tried hard to register my understanding.

 Inside my head I was suddenly back in Turkey listening to a language which I could not understand. The same happens when I try to pin down a car salesman on the price of the car which interests me; or the ways of buying a three piece suite as explained by the clued up sofa expert. Why do people use jargon when clear English would be so much effective? And what do all the strange shorthand text messages on my mobile phpne mean?

The common motto seems to be "shoot first", followed by a "rapid retreat" and a juicy burger or two.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Missing a trick

Once upon a time families would play cards together. Just about everyone we knew could play dominoes using a pack that had double nines, or could play knock-out whist. The great attraction was that age did not necessarily give an advantage. Luck played a huge part, so children could take on adults of any age and show their superiority. Card playing uses many natural talents including memory, logic, the ability to bluff and the ability to interpret the behaviour of others. It's also usually a lot of fun, provided that 'post-mortems' are not allowed. Their major advantage over electronic activities is the social interaction generated. Also it's not vital to have a rapidly moving thumb or finger, so over 60's are not at a disadvantage.

Another historic family pastime that is still possible, thankfully, involves going for walks. In fact walks these days have become quite an industry. We have a local forest area on Cannock Chase which would probably take several years to explore all the walks and tracks available. One Forestry Commission site has the most splendid huge statues and wooden carvings scattered along a 'toddle walk' along with a fairy glen, maze, 'den-building and a set of empty plastic drums which produce a satisfying rumble when hammered with pieces of wood. Refreshingly there is also a playground housing a variety of swings, slides and climbing challenges. Only the car-park needs a cash feed! Bikes, horses, dogs and skegways are all welcome.

Somewhere between these two extremes there is the brilliant team game of Choral Singing , an all-age activity which is best when there is a wide variety of age and experience. Youthful enthusiasm combined with experienced voices make for an exciting noise and a real adrenalin rush especially if a public performance is involved. Hearing your voice bend with others generates a tingling pleasure that is the equal of scoring a goal, a rugby try or taking a wicket.

As winter approaches I look forward to board games and card games. It seems to me that reliance on television, Facebook and electronic gadgets for entertainment is missing a trick or two..