Saturday 15 November 2014

Symphony in G-MEDK

I am sat on another plane, and I wish to describe my mood. It is mixed. On the one hand, I am off to Tenerife to see a whole pile of interesting birds. Tenerife, although within the group of islands known as the Canaries, is subtly distinct from Canary Wharf in that there is no desk waiting for me. Rather there are things like Berthelot's Pipit and Bolle's Pigeon, and neither are familiar with Regulatory Capital. All the forementioned is good, and thus puts me in a somewhat positive frame of mind. On the other hand, I am stuck in a metal tube, and I am not enjoying it very much. I am no stranger to planes of course, but this particular one is a disgrace. The Canaries are a long way away, over four hours as the modern jet aircraft flies. With that in mind, I splurged the extra on a seat up the front, hoping for a bit of extra space in which to spread out (I am good at spreading...). This however is G-MEDK, and I have been spectacularly unlucky.

At this point I should perhaps point out that I am not, and never have been, a plane-spotter. Frankly it has all the same hallmarks as chasing a list of birds, and could almost be expected in some ways -there is many a twitcher who has reached that pinnacle of hobbies via the medium of writing down aircraft registrations in a small notebook whilst dribbling mildly. But of course I'm not a twitcher, and so therefore neither am I a plane-spotter. However due to my propensity for air travel I do find it worthwhile to take at least a passing interest in the planes I fly in, mainly for reasons of comfort. For instance I know that the best seat in a BA Cityflyer-operated domestically-configured Embraer RJ190 is either 12A or 12D. And that the best economy seat by far on the A380 is 25D, as the crew quarters escape hatch is in the floor directly in front of it. I therefore also know that G-MEDK, an ex-BMI Airbus A320 acquired during the 2012 merger, is the absolute runt of the British Airways fleet, and when I saw it at the gate my heart sank. I've been on it before (don't ask me how I know....), and I know just how crap it is. Even in so-called business class, the seat pitch means your knees touch your ears, and the windows don't line up. Seat 1F doesn't even have a window! The seats are thin, minimally padded, uncomfortable even on a short hop. How they can call it Club Europe I have no idea, and I'll be mentioning it to Willie next time I see him. So I'm desperately uncomfortable in a first-world kind of way, quietly fuming, and no amount of prospective Blue Chaffinches is making me feel better. On the plus side, they've run out of the pitiful excuse for Champagne that is Monopole, so I'm drinking water instead.

I digress, on the whole life is not too bad, and I am privileged to be able to do this. It's so easy to get on a plane and go somewhere warm with better birds than Wanstead. I massively enjoy my short trips, from the planning and the expectation through to actually breathing it in. There are four world lifers waiting for me, numerous endemic sub-species, and ideally gazillions of photographic opportunities. I've got three days in which to have a ball in spectacular scenery, warm sunshine, and hopefully forget about the world of E14. It's all good.

Taking my mind off the amazing and expensive discomfort of seat 2A are Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I'm listening to a double album called 'Live in New York City' and it's quite simply sensational. I had thought I was in a Beethoven kind of mood, but then discovered that my iPod had failed to synch and I was fresh out of symphonies. You might think that Bruce and Beethoven are about as far away from each other as possible, but that's not the case at all. Both are Gods, and listening to either is akin to a religious experience in my book. Live is even better, hence the choice of album. Ideally I'd have Bruce and the guys lined up near the galley, plugged in and pouring out, but there's not enough room to swing a cat on this thing, and more's the pity. The good news is that BA are dumping it in March, and while the risk of the getting one of the five G-MIDs remains from Heathrow, I for one will feel much more comfortable knowing this heap is no longer going to be an option from Gatwick. Sad, moi? I have no idea what you mean.

Anyhow, the plan is simple, soak up some sunshine and recharge the batteries in an attempt to compensate for the rigors of the last two weeks which I always knew would be draining. The downsides of my day job are the regular peaks in stressful activity that align with specific dates in the accounting calendar. Yes, such fun. Whilst this is frustrating in that I can't often take holiday exactly when I actually want to, it means that it's also possible to book trips away exactly when I know I will need then most. It makes it survivable, and if the quarter end or whatever it is is followed by a couple of days that are as far away from that mindset as can be, I can live with that. Even on G-MEDK. Tramps like me, baby we were born to run.

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