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Old 11-12-2012, 05:30 AM   #84
MikeO OP
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Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
Oddometer: 6,629
11th November 2012

After a day spent starting the various administrative balls rolling with insurance companies, today I travel home.

I am fortified for my forthcoming journey with...



...pumpkin soup - delicious, followed by...



...a sadly unimaginative chicken fillet.

Oh, and - of course...



Just the one - I'll be driving later this evening.

I have decided the tank bag is to remain here - it's a write off, so I take a pic for the insurance company...



...and put it in the bin.

It has occurred to me that my luggage - perfect for the bike - is not best suited to travel by air. Especially Ryanair, as I seem to remember reading they have strict allowances...



That said, I am where I am - this gear has got to come back with me, so I load it into the taxi that AA Assist have ordered and which turns up on the dot of 1420.

It's a half-hour trip to Terminal One at Madrid airport and I grab a baggage trolley and go in search of the Ryanair check-in desk...



When I reach the head of the queue, I am directed to Inez, on Ryanair's ground staff. I ask her if she speaks English and she says she does. This proves to be bordering on an exaggeration, but we work though it.

Things are complex. I am allowed only ONE piece of hold baggage (I have four) and one item for the cabin, which must fit into a frame they have at check in. My crash helmet won’t fit in the frame. Naturally reluctant to trust a crash helmet to hold baggage, I decide to put this aside for a moment until we've sorted out the hold baggage. We weigh it and it's a total of 29kg. The limit is 20kg and the extra charge is €20 PER KILOGRAMME over that - in other words €180...:eek

I rearrange some stuff and manage to get the total down to 26kg - or €120 - I've decided I'll wear the bloody helmet if necessary (I already have my bike trousers in a bag and my bike jacket as a coat).

I contact AA Direct and ask them to confirm that they will pay the excess baggage charge. They say they definitely will NOT. When I questioned this, they pointed out that they were just charged with recovering my vehicle and arranging my onward travel. Eurotunnel travel insurance should pick up ancillary costs. I try ringing them but they are 9-5 Mon to Fri (with an medical emergencies only number manned 24/7).

I am out of options so agree to pay the excess. I still have the problem over how many bags. I'd hoped to find somewhere in the concourse to buy some luggage, but there are just food shops.

Inez keeps telling me to go and see the 'plastic man' - but is unable to explain what this means, although he's clearly at the far end of the concourse. I wander off with my trolley and eventually find this chap...



He weighs up the problem, then picks up his phone and rings a chap who turns up a few minutes later. For €15 he sells me a vast laundry bag which all four pieces of luggage will fit in. I then have this sealed up on the Clingfilmotron™ ...



...for another €9 and return to the Ryanair check in desk and the long-suffering Inez. I pay the €120 excess baggage fee and then enter the undignified world of security. After removing boots, belt phone etc etc and putting it all through the scanner, I eventually get to the boarding gate (which is bloody miles away) and wait. And wait. The flight is delayed and we eventually board at around our planned take off time. Luck, in the shape of cabin attendant Rosa, smiles on me and I am allocated an emergency exit row seat, with some legroom...



Ryanair is a no-frills airline. The in-flight entertainment comprises of staring at the emergency notice on the back of the seat in front of you for two and a half hours...



We are pretty much full, although I am lucky enough to have a spare seat next to me. We go through the emergency procedures...



...and then set off, at what I thought was a pretty ambitious pace, for the end of the runway. Halfway there, we screech (literally) to an emergency stop. No explanation as to why - and we continue after a short stop. People in the cabin are not looking relaxed...

We get airborne and I am struck by how money-hungry Ryanair is. There is no way you could have slept, as there is a regular series of tannoys in English and then in Spanish, advertising all sorts of things they can sell you: Food, drink, sightseeing tour bus tickets for London, some kind of charity lotto ticket, gifts, duty free - it went on and on. I tuned it out (hoping I’d notice if they used the words 'Brace Brace Brace' in a tannoy and tune back in) and continued reading my Bomb Hunters book.

Eventually it was over and we arrived at a cold and dark Stanstead Airport. I clear Immigration, Customs etc, and wheel my shapeless mass of clingfilm over to the Enterprise car rental desk, where the AA has arranged for a 24-hour hire car for me. Pat looks at the bandages on my fingers and asked what has happened. I tell him the story and he can’t do too much to help. He gives me the keys to a Vauxhall Insomnia (or something like that) and arranges for it to be collected from my house tomorrow at no charge. Pat’s attitude is exactly what is needed after a bit of a fraught couple of days and I send his boss an ‘atta-boy’ email the next day about my experience…

I push my cart to the outskirts of Colchester (or so it feels) where my car is parked. It is a big, roomy diesel (with a stupid electric handbrake)...



I drive slowly up the M11 to my friends Paul & Mandy for a restorative cup of coffee (and to have a look at Paul’s recently acquired MV Brutale ).

After a bit of a wind down I drive home, arriving at about 2330 local, 0030 body clock time.

I unload the car and – unable to settle (possibly not totally unconnected with having just drunk two double espressos) – watch the latest two episodes of Homeland off my BT recorder thing.

I eventually decide to turn in, but first take the dressings off my fingers to allow air to heal them (the more squeamish should look away now)…



I take a couple of paracetemol and lie down in my own bed – I go out like a light…
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