Friday 13 March 2009: unpleased to nothelp
Fed-up as this bloke looked it's unlikely that he'd been up since four in the morning. Upon learning that the daily return cheapflight was possibly just too early in the morning to be entirely certain of being able to get there in time via the tube I'd suggested that we just go out late the evening before and loaf around the airport for a few hours but apparently a few people had tried this and had found themselves moved along every few minutes by security staff. When we arrived via the hotel shuttlebus there were several groups of people snuggled up amongst their baggages who looked to have been there for a while but by then it was too late. Check-in was where it was supposed to be and was already open but the signs to the departure area went a little bit weird and initially directed us towards what appeared to be the crew lounges until we started ignoring the discrete signage for sections A and B and followed everyone else. Rather than getting an exorbitant hotel-breakfast which we'd only have had to really rush we had been carrying a bag of juice and rolls which we still had to eat fairly quickly to get rid of them before security, reached via a fun ten-minute queue with an entire family of pushy twats gently butting into us from behind. I usually stick phone, watch, wallet, keys and any silver-papered chewing-gum wrappers in a tray and don't ever recall my belt or footwear setting off the magic magnetic doorway but the amount of people beeping and being sent back to send their belts and shoes through made it look sensible to add my belt to the tray and walk gingerly through, ready to grab my shorts if they looked like slipping. Still managed to somehow set the beeper off and still had to get patted cursorily down which prevented me from being able to see the insides of the insides of my camera bag on the scanner.
We'd been warned that nothing opened in the airport until mid-morning (hence the bag of foods) so we had to sit without coffee at the gate. I can't remember which other European airport I've seen them in before but as Madrid airport has an incomplete smoking ban there were a few little fume-cupboard arrangements here and there in which people would go to stand in a futile attempt to contain their emissions so as well as no coffee to drink we had mild fag-stench to breathe in, horrible music to listen to and an impatient old man with a silly little wheelèd bag to watch who kept pacing up and down in front of the gate exit to make sure that he would be the first on. We'd been reasonably early to check-in but as there are always the people daft enough to pay extra for priority boarding and people who somehow think that having one teenager warrants them receiving the sort of special assistance in boarding offered to people dragging or carrying sleeping or screaming toddlers or babies so we remained seated whilst the usual queue-faffery began. Instead of calling people in distinct groups there were two runs-through in two languages of the Rules of Boarding (including the newish Absolutely One Bag Only Or Else rule) followed by a mad scramble and the formation of three distinct but unlabelled queues followed by a further five minutes of not boarding actually taking place before we were allowed on.
As we were sitting in one of the emergency exit rows I had to stick my camera in the overhead cupboard and so spent the twenty minute pre-takeoff wait glaring at anyone who shoved their bag into the same cupboard with any degree of force. Luckily the weather and windows were too cloudy and manky to be any good for taking pictures of things and I'd used up or packed all my reading-things and had to alternate between finding readable sections of the back-of-the-seat stuff and attempting to get my phone's GPS to work to see where we were but the windows were too small to get more than four satellites. There was the usual mismatch between the "switch and keep EVERYTHING off" and "if your phone has a flight mode go ahead" messages but no-one either noticed or minded and we didn't crash. I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the muffin available from the aisle-wagon considering the shiteness of the coffee which accompanied it but as I was undercharged by fifty c?nts on the catalogue price (unless they were dynamically adjusting the price according to the current exchange rate) I didn't mind that much.
Nice and sunny and brisk upon landing and the car-parking shuttlebus was just ready to leave when we reached it after being in the rare position of being able to pick up our baggages straight from the conveyor without the usual ten-minute watching-suitcases wait. I hadn't noticed before that the parking thing we'd chosen was "staffed and run by former royal marines" which at least explained the driver's moustache. Despite being able to see the car we had to wait whilst a shoutybloke went to fetch it, parking it right next to the kennel containing the vicious shoutydogs though they didn't notice me leaving as noisily as they'd noticed me arrive. No problems on the way back though general tiredness from the early start meant that the suggestion of getting the train through to Ayr rather than driving was immediately agreed with after a quick home-pop to poke at the mail, collect a laptop and convert to smaller baggage. As our various plastic bottles had been sacrificed going through security and hadn't been replaced in the non-vendingly-open airport I had to add to the carbon cost of the trip by getting another bottle at the station though it did at least come with a free newspaper which gave me something to poke at during the journey seeing as there wasn't enough space on the table to start going through the holiday's photos on the train.
Glasgow Central was doing the usual not-telling-you-which-platform-the-Ayr-train-is-leaving-from trick even though it's almost always the same platform. When they eventually told us this with ten minutes to go they then didn't let anyone on whilst they attached a few extra carriages and generally arsed about. There's usually some sort of note on the departure board about "front train only" so this could perhaps be the rear train's first journey away from the platform in years. The staffbloke above's general demeanour seemed to dissuade anyone from asking him the usual questions which allowed him to mope in peace until we could board. The primitive SPT luggage racks on the manky-as-ever carriage weren't big enough for my bag so I had to keep it at my feet, attempting to shield it and the computer within from the ankle-heat-vents with my legs and occasionally brushing cookie crumbs from the top before they melted and stained it. At least with it being a Friday we were spared the usual shouted football-and-shopping speak for the remainder of the journey and were entertained in the five minutes it took Nicky's mum to reach the station by a detached hair-extension thing sitting on the ground outside the station phone box. Were it not for don't-know-where-it's-been-ness I might have adopted it for use elsewhere but just let it be.