I am not a travel writer, nor will I ever be one – this should be plain to see from the terrible title that I have given this post. Travel writers are an odd, very talented bunch who are happy to put themselves through the terror of wild, unplanned travel just to get a good story at the end of it, or the even more mad ones go and deliberately go on elaborate Caravan holidays so they can write about their troubles. My journey, my travels, was by no means grand, nor was it difficult; it had the the same exotic thrill as waiting in the dentist and most of the charm – it was lacking the witty framed comics about how teeth have a fun time when you clean them. It was not a dangerous journey, nor did I experience massive setbacks and tribulations, and I wasn’t nearly killed by hungry natives. I went to Frankfurt, not for pleasure but for a conference. But while I was there I did have enough silly thoughts and observations that I was certain I could stretch out into one, maybe half-length blog. Saying as the word count of my blogs can vary from 2500 to 3, there’s a rather large margin for me play with.
It’s Tuesday. My fiancé has already left with a goodbye kiss and I have an hour to kill before my train. I should get up, but this is the last chance to enjoy my bed until Thursday night so I’m going to leave it as late as I can. I drift off again.
It’s still Tuesday, always a bonus. But about 25 minutes later and suddenly I’ve realised that I may have cut it too fine. A quick shower is had, clothes are thrown on and I’m ready to leave. A quick pat down is need: Wallet, Phone, Passport. The holy trinity. I have no doubt that I’ll rerun this ritual close to a hundred times before I get on the aeroplane, a trait I have inherited from watching my Father every year before our family holiday. The station is busy, but thankfully the train is relatively calm. I plop myself in my reserved seat and breath out, place my bag on the seat next to me, realise that this makes me a monster, and slide it under the table. Headphones in, book out, brain off. It’s only a 40 minute journey to Birmingham New Street, but it’s a good chance to completely relax.
I adore train journeys. They are the great mix of achieving something whilst doing no work and putting no effort in. You can sit there, tidily twiddle your thumbs and stare out of the window and you get to another place. You have achieved your aim with no fuss, no trying, no effort. It is wonderful. And then, if you’re feeling very good, you can do work while you’re on the train, work that you wouldn’t be able to if you were say in a cab, or bus. It’s free time to do with as you wish, and I want to relax. So I do.
Birmingham New Street used to be hideous, a big concrete labyrinth lines with tawdry shops and cafés, unwelcoming, cold, tired. Many would say that it was perfectly fitting welcome to the city of Birmingham, but those would be unfair. Accurate but unfair. I have a few minutes to wait until my connection, and after quickly scanning the ever changing dot matrix and locating my platform and scampering my way there, I wait. And wait some more. Delayed. I wouldn’t mind, but I’ve a plane to catch. I wait, because there’s little else for me to do. I have no control over when this train will arrive, and can only do what every proud Briton must – I sigh and huff. My hands fall to my hips, and I pout. And as if by magic, the train arrives. I’m tempted to say that I helped that to happen, but I bite my tongue and clamber aboard.
It’s a short journey to Birmingham International, and once I alight (a fancy word that train providers seems desperate to use and force into the public vocabulary, rather than say ‘get off’) and navigate the ‘new’ and ‘simple’ Birmingham International Train Station I am already frustrated. I’m not late by any means, I still have more than a hundred minutes to spare, it’s just the slight delay has irked me. I like things to go to completely to plan when I travel, and a one minute delay is enough to spoil my day. I follow the signs to the airport – and am led to a dead end, which is odd. So I go back, follow the signs more keenly this time, and end up in the same place, the dead end. I am puzzled, as are the other people bothering around me, waiting expectantly. And then the monorail arrives. And I feel a fool.
Observational awareness is something I’m normally good at. If I see something and think it’s got a purpose, I will usually get it right. However, this time when I was stood in front of a large, single piece of unbreaking track leading away toward the airport terminal it just didn’t occur to me that this could have been something of use. Perhaps some abstract modern art, but not something actual useful – and I felt foolish.
I’m at the terminal, and trying to use the self check-in system. However, despite my fancy iso-metric passport being easier on paper, no system seems to want to accept in. I try it again, the screen goes red and I sigh loudly. So, I trudge across tot he desk where a very tired looking German lady wearing the horrible Lufthansa orange takes a look at my papers, laughs quietly as my passport photo and waves me through. Security is equally smooth, worryingly easy. I don’t even need to explain my awful photo nor am I asked about the water bottle that’s obviously bigger than the legal size. Boyd on by my new found cockiness, I drink the contents in front of the security while I happily whistle to myself.
I have 2 hours to kill – so I find a spot in the Airport Whetherspoons, order a beer and some food, and open my laptop to do some work. I am almost immediately distracted by Twitter and no work is being done, especially as the England vs Australia ODI is also being played on the television screen in front of me. And as I see another wicket fall, my pint is empty and plate now bare, my gate is called. I collect my bags, check that my passport is still there, thankfully it still is, and I go off to my flight.
I have been learning German for a while, and I’ve been told a lot by people that it’s a useless language to learn. Imagine the look on my face when, once I’m sat down, the cabin crew start their safety demonstration in their native language, and the English bloke I’ve sat next to looks strangely worried. I feel smug.
This is already to long, and we’ve not even left the country yet. So I’m going to split this into two or even maybe three separate posts. They are very experimental, as they’re new, and not a long ramble about an abstract theory. So, bye then.