Sunday 27th November: More questions struck me about mass transit systems during my flight home. On the UK motorways why isn’t there a compulsory merge system employed a couple of miles before roadworks? While beyond the wit of successive Transport Ministers, it cannot be beyond the wit of humankind to develop a system to ensure everyone is in two lanes well before the roadworks rather than fighting to go from three to two lanes in the last hundred yards and subsequently delaying everyone. AND why oh why cannot airlines come up with a boarding system that avoids hundreds of people queuing on air bridges to get into the aircraft?
Colour coded boarding cards might be an answer. For example the last ten rows might have brown cards (for the shittiest seats) and be boarded first then moving forward down the aircraft in blocks of rows by colours. This need only apply to ‘cattle’ class and would simplify the gate staff’s life. Flying on a British Airways 777 flight on Friday from Heathrow to Singapore the organisation for boarding by the gate staff would have had better results if undertaken by a group of five year olds. I wouldn’t credit my Cunard/JET2’s Venetian departure on the previous Sunday as having the organisational intelligence of an amoeba. Meanwhile getting off Qantas QF10 on Sunday morning in Melbourne (an A380) from the ‘brown’ seats would have been a much improved experience had all the available airbridges at the gate been employed. Sometimes I think airports and airlines exist for the benefit of their employees NOT the passengers…
Thursday 24th November: It is difficult for me to accurately state where I lie on the political spectrum. Sometimes I think Attila the Hun was an out and out commie! One of my strengths and also one of my weaknesses is to able to see both sides of the fence in an argument, although usually I’ll end up one side or the other. I am not so sure that I can say that about my sister. She has just lent me a book called The Spirit Level – “Why equality is better for everyone” and she seems to have bought the authors’ line: hook, line (pardon the pun) and sinker.
Having just struggled with Grossman’s Life and Fate, a very thoughtful present from my daughter, I am now faced with plunging from the abyss of Stalin’s relentlessness into the well -meaning but highly questionable (so far) Star-Trekkish like thesis of two North Yorkshire Professors that seems to resemble Christian-Marxist idealism as far as the distribution of income is concerned. I have only reached page 25 and have already put the book down four times to permit deep breathing and and my blood pressure to reduce from boiling point! During the next few days I intend to (frankly and fearlessly) review it. On a 30-hour journey home there isn’t much else to do!
Wednesday, 23rd November: A couple of questions on flying in large commercial aircraft. How does the recovering alcoholic feel when the drinks trolley comes around, I cannot imagine its anything other than a form of mental torture? Why do we only have lap safety belts when aircraft go as fast on the ground as cars and the belts don’t stop you hitting the seat in front? Why are there no airbags?
Remembrance Sunday, 13th November: I have just attended a service containing wonderful hymns: Lead Us Heavenly Father, Lead Us; Jerusalem; Abide With Me and the naval hymn Eternal Father Strong To Save. Solos of ‘There’ll be Buebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover’ and Amazing Grace were intertwined with appropriate prayers and finally the Last Post, the Silence and Sunrise. One moment that jarred was the reading of Eric Bogle’s song lyrics ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’. Written in 1971 the last few lines question the ANZAC Day Marches and are locked in a time when it seemed one day no-one would remember and there would one day be none to commemorate the sacrifices of previous generations of brave Australians. This may perhaps sit well with Brits in a British sponsored service but it is so very far from the truth today. Almost all Australians, young and old, annually answer the question “What are they marching for” with the typical Australian vigour, vitality, respect and thanks of a nation that truly will always “Remember Them”.
Sunday 6th: Once sat on the early 20th century style transport (bus, charabanc, omnibus – call it what you will – it is still appallingly out of date and does Australia a real disservice) between Sydney’s international and domestic terminals I pondered about my favourite and least liked airports. Last week’s Qantas saga and the thought of being stuck made me think about airport design and believe it not there is even a website devoted to sleeping at airports! My favourite is Atlanta, Georgia: parallel runways, incredibly long 6 parallel terminals all linked by a superb underground train system. Before I went to work in Texas I was lucky enough to check it out on an overnight trip from my ship alongside in Miami. It was when I changed flights at Atlanta I realised I would need wheeled hand luggage as the walk from one gate to the other must have been half a mile and all the Americans had wheels. My least favourite would be a toss up between Charles De Gaulle in Paris and Dallas/Fort Worth. Neither are user friendly if travelling between terminals! Kuala Lumpur is great because its usually so quiet while Honiara in the Solomon Islands takes the biscuit for not being able to find a disembarkation ladder for its only international flight of the day!
Thursday 3rd: Today started sublimely with a paddle upriver but as the European reactions to the Greek decision to hold a referendum grew into a cacophony I realised I needed to comment on what we in Western nations describe as Democracy. Democratic it ain’t! Nor is it the best solution nor ultimate form of government for the welfare of citizens in a sovereign nation. By this evening when the Australian Prime Minister offered the IMF more of my tax dollars at the G20 to prop up the GFC, steam was coming out of my ears. Fortunately, my future novel THE HISTORY OF THE POLITICAL PARTY THAT NEVER WAS© will allow me the luxury of directing some of that steam in a positive way – unless it is overtaken by real world events in the interim.
Tuesday 1st: As those in the Northern hemispere contemplate the imminence of Winter here we are looking forward to Summer, only a month to go! Today saw the highlight of Flemington’s Spring Racing Carnival, the Melbourne Cup. The margin of glory or being an also-ran could not have been more perfectly demonstrated than by the whisker on the tip of the winner’s nose which separated the first two horses on a photograph at the end of a 2 mile race.
It has been a sad week ‘down under’ with the QANTAS saga and the deaths and injuries suffered by more Defence Force members in Afghanistan. Australian troops deserve better than to have ever been deployed to that historically tragic collection of warlike tribes masquerading as a country and they should be brought home with dignity intact immediately. Air passengers deserve better than to be treated as pawns on a strategic chessboard of Industrial Relations played out against a backdrop of free trade in a global economy.