Wednesday 17th March 2011
Seat 80B rocks!
Where am I? What the hell am I doing here?
Its like a dream. This morning I woke up to bad karma – a neighbouring boater had died in his sleep and the police were everywhere. Just after I left to catch the express bus to Heathrow airport, the M4 – that’s the main motorway from the west of England to Heathrow, was completely blocked with a serious accident. Libya is at war with itself and after Egypt and Tunisia are still reeling from Twitter powered revolution, Bahrain has stamped hard on its people with tanks and guns this morning. Japan was recovering from the worst earthquake in recent history, tsunami soaked nuclear power stations were threatening to contaminate not only Japan but the rest of the world and the guy in seat 80B is cutting his arm off with a second rate blunt penknife.
Well actually I’m the guy in seat 80B on the Emirates Flight Ek4 from London to Dubai and I’m watching the film 127 Hours in which the self-amputation forms the key story line. The rest of the above is sadly true and god only knows what’s going to happen in Japan. Dubai, and Delhi, as far as I know right now, are still intact and as my plane(s) will be landing at both of those airports in the near future I really hope it stays that way!
80B turns out to be a fabulous seat on the Airbus A380. Its an emergency exit seat with unlimited legroom, unlimited good company from surrounding passengers and crew and thus far unlimited wine. Gruner Vertlinger 2008 no less. My goodness if Emirates serve this in Economy then I cant wait to find out what they serve in Business Class – or upstairs as we say, here on the A380.
Emirates so far has been a very positive experience. The Airbus is nothing short of incredible in size and comfort but the lounge at Heathrow was also brand new with a grandstand view of the aircraft loading and comfortable seating including workstations with power sockets and free newspapers in both recognisable and unrecognisable script.
Looking around, there certainly wasnt even a hundred people so we were treated to more spare seats than I could ever have imagined, and sitting facing the crew during take-off, they confirmed that this was an unusually quiet night, after their last flight of 405 passengers. My fellow passenger – I say this even though he was sitting in the row behind – suddenly annonced that he had never been on a long haul flight before but nevertheless was on a one way ticket to a new life, emigrating to Australia, which suddenly put my two week trip to seek out a new experience in India into perspective.
So seat 80B is right beside the emergency exit at the front of the rear cabin, downstairs on the A380. It has no seat 80A and so theres a huge space to the left and row 79 is in a different part of the plane. To the right 80C is empty – apart from my bags and discarded empty wine bottles. Our friendly crew recommend moving back to claim an empty row each before takeoff, but somehow it seems absolutely fine here as the menus are handout out – roast chicken or lamb tonight.
And 1000+ channels of entertainment out of which I managed to listen to Michael Palin – Emirates guest of the month – followed by the odd snippet of the Kings Speech (not my cup of tea) before setting down with dinner, another Gruner Vertlinger, and 127 Hours.
127 hours is a true story of sheer hell stuck alone down a crevice without water, before finally removing his arm and climbing back to humanity. The underlying theme seems even more eerie. “You didn’t tell anyone where you were going? How will anyone find you if you didn’t tell anyone where you were going? You can’t be a missing person if nobody knows you are missing!!!”
Crikey here I am on a flight to Delhi, onward reservation to Srinagar via Jammu, in Kashmir – and nobody really knows of my semi-serious plans to actually go there. If I don’t then I stand to lose 35 pounds – 20 pounds for a flight from Jammu into Srinagar and 15 pounds for an overnight train into Jammu from Delhi. Several familuy and friends know of my arrival in Delhi but only Gavin knows of the next few steps – mainly because last night I had to get up at 02:25 am (8:00 in India) to make a rail reservation on a fully booked train from Delhi. Well fully booked in advance terms, but in the crazy Indian way, hundreds of extra seats/berths are released at 8am on the day before the day before travel. These seats, known as th Taktal quota, are more expensive than the regular unobtainable seats, and dissappear fast – as demonstrated when the Indian Railways booking site visibly died under the pressure of thousands of hopeful customers booking at the last minute.
How this website even gets through a single day when you discover that 14 million people per day travel on Indian Railways, many of whom pay for waiting list tickets and then have to be refunded when they fail to get confirmed bookings – or they can voluntarily cancel their plans, or offer to be upgraded or downgraded or simply bribe someone in the old style. It accepts all kinds of payment as long as you live in India or at least have an Indian bank account or credit card, but shamelessly declares that international credit cards will not be suitable for the payment gateways. In true Indian style this is not quite the end of the story – and once you know to select the ICICI Visa/Mastercard option (one wrong click and you have to start the entire booking process again) then Nirvana is only a couple of clicks and a wing and a prayer away, even with an International card.
I digress. Seat 80B is getting a bit uncomfortable now, but I really prefer to remain seated upright rather than reclined – much to the relief of the person sitting behind who remains able to see his 1000+ channels of entertainment without touching it with his nose.
So I guess, Dubai time, we are now already into the second day of my trip. I promise to keep at least someone informed of my travel plans – hey Gavin – and hope someone will keep me informed if Japanese exports of the radioactive kind should ever be spotted winging their way towards Kashmir.
Kashmir has enough negative vibes this week – whether police shooting terrorist leaders or the new official policy poisoning wild dogs, or even the army digging out 600 or so of the travellers who ventured up the roads into the snow this week. Yes its all happening again in Srinagar. So maybe I will pick up my flight from Jammu, or maybe I will forego the 20 pounds fare and head south to Pathankot and thereafter Mcleodgang which should be altogether much less of a worry.
But one thing’s certain. With two current train reservations from Delhi to Jammu tomorrow night, one of which is still well into the waiting list category, but one of which is confirmed, I will be heading jammu -wards tomorrow.