Friday, 14 February 2020

At the airport

During January while away on our latest escapade we spent rather more time than I would have liked hanging around airports waiting for flights. Our 'home' airport, if that is what I can call it, is Manchester Airport.

It is the airport that we are most familiar with, but that does not make navigating security there any easier. If we are lucky we get ourselves a priority pass, which makes things easier. However, it always feels like some sort of boot camp as the staff bark orders at the passengers to remove belts, watches, jackets, shoes and this that and the other. It is always a relief to get through without being stopped, as we diligently pack by the rules, but it is amazing the number of passengers who still try to pack items which are not allowed and have not been allowed for several years. Having got over that hurdle we can then make any last minute purchases and raid the ATM, if our destination is Europe. Next we find somewhere to sit so that husband can read the newspaper, while I visit duty free to buy a few items that I regularly stock up on there.

The first flight or our most recent trip was to Dubai, where we arrived around midnight local time, although you would not know that as Dubai Airport functions 24 hours a day. Here we were in transit and had to go through security again, despite having already done so at Manchester Airport. However, surprisingly or maybe not surprisingly Dubai is not as fussy about things as Manchester is. Then we had to take the underground style train to another terminal. Dubai is an enormous airport and we had plenty of time so we occupied ourselves by having a walk around. We had just spent the last eight hours sitting on a plane and we had a further nine hours of flying to do before we reached our destination. Our next flight to Cape Town was to depart in the middle of the night. At the appointed time we made our way to the appropriate gate for boarding only to find that it was locked and it remained locked. We waited and waited. Eventually the gate was opened and we were ushered onto a bus, which seemed to drive us round and round the airport. By now it was 4 am and I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see this plane. Did someone have something else in mind for us?  Thankfully there was a plane waiting for us at the end of the bus ride. Next stop Cape Town and by now we had been travelling for 24 hours and I do not remember much about the airport.

After two weeks of travelling South Africa in a hired car, it was time to hit the airport and fly again. By now we were in Port Elizabeth. From there we were supposed to fly with South African Airways (SAA) to Livingstone in Zambia via Johannesburg. However, SAA changed changed our flight from Livingstone to Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) in Zimbabwe, leaving us no option but to accept the change. But first we had to fly to Johannesburg on a flight timed at 6.45 am, which meant setting the alarm clock for 4.00 am in order to be at the airport in time. In fact we arrived before the check in staff. The plane for the flight was small and even so there were several empty seats, as there were only fifteen passengers and three crew. We arrived at Johannesburg with plenty of time before our next flight. The airport there is huge with two terminals and no obvious demarcation between the two terminals. We went up escalators and down escalators, walked this way, that way and the other way before working out where our gate was. And again we had a bus journey to our plane. Once on aboard the plane I was surprised to read the following statement in the SAA in flight magazine about  Johannesburg Airport - the central terminal building is designed to give passengers a smooth and uninterrupted travel experience. That was not quite our experience. But never mind that, before we could get out of VFA we had to purchase a visa, which had to be paid for in cash - US dollars, GB pounds or South African rand. Despite asking about this, we were unaware that this would be the case. Luckily we had enough cash between, as credit cards were not accepted. Welcome to Zimbabwe! We had arrived.

Two days later we were back there again, for a flight back to Johannesburg. The check in was painful, as their computer system went down just as we were checking in and must have taken about five minutes to come back up again. It seemed like an age. But remember this was Zimbabwe. The next hurdle was buying a drink- coffee actually, which had to be paid for in US dollars. Luckily husband had some. Credit card machines weren't working.

After an overnight stay in Johannesburg it was back to the airport for a flight to the Seychelles. By now we had the hang of this airport as we found our way to check in desk number 103. Our destination airport would be much smaller, but we still had to be back there six days later, two hours before an 8.40 am flight. So another early rise and breakfast of waffles and the plane as we headed back to Dubai. Here we were in transit again, which meant a security check in our arrival terminal and another one in our departure terminal, with a bus ride in between the two. This time here was no hold up at the departure gate and we were soon on our way home to Manchester.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Wish you were here

This photograph was taken ten days ago and  you may think that this looks like a typical photograph of the English Lake District in the north west of the country not far from where we live in Cheshire, but you would be very wrong. We are several thousand miles away and it is in fact

Knysna Lagoon on South Africa’s Garden Route, which we drove over six days of cloud and rain, at times torrential with the added bonus of wind and thunderstorms plus the odd power cut on our arrival at Knysna.

Now we are on our way home via the Seychelles, where yet again it is raining.

It will be good to get home.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Going out with a blockage

I am sure that for most people the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 went with a bang in the form of fireworks. Our new year was different and will be remembered for the blocked drains that husband struggled to clear.

Here the weather at the end of December was unusually mild for the time of year and we took advantage of it to finish off some of the Autumn gardening jobs that we had been unable to finish during the Autumn, because of the wet weather that was our lot. On the afternoon of December 30 as I headed to the back door, after a couple of hours in the garden, I noticed gubbins around the drain at the back of the kitchen. This usually means only one thing - that we have a blockage somewhere. Drains and blockages are not my department. So I pointed it out to my husband. The afternoon was turning cold and the light was beginning to go, but it needed to be investigated sooner rather than later. The  drain outside the kitchen was indeed blocked and the man hole cover in the patio was stuck and husband couldn't lift it. He needed some more muscle, which meant a phone call  to the local farmer. He was busy but might come later. Later did not happen. So next day - December 31/New Year's Eve he tried the farmer again first thing in the morning. This time he was at the cattle market but would send his son, which he did. The man hole cover was lifted to reveal a drain full almost to bursting.  The septic tank was also brimful. What were we to do?

The septic tank is half way down the garden and basically consists of three chambers and a pump. Clean water should be discharged from the third tank into a soak away in the middle of the lawn. This obviously had not been and was not happening. Probably because the water table has been so high for such a long period of time. Our garden has been water logged for the last three months. Every time that it has started to dry out a bit we have had yet more rain. We have lived at the cottage  for nearly sixteen years and this is the wettest that we have seen it. We tried having the pump permanently switched on instead of the usual short stints twice a day. That didn't do much and we were concerned that the pump's motor would burn out. By now it was early afternoon and husband decided to go round to see the farmer who was entertaining the previous owners of the cottage. Grrrh! I thought. He would come round later and he did, but  by then it was late afternoon and starting to get dark as well as cold. After some head scratching and fiddling with drain rods he offered to pump some of the water out of the drain, which helped and we hoped that the water level in the drain and septic tank would then drop. I don't suppose that the farmer had expected to spend late afternoon on New Year's Eve  pumping out a drain. We gave him a good bottle of wine for his trouble.

We had New Year's day off from drain watching, but by January 2 husband was back to check on the water level in the drain after I had noticed water standing on the patio. Disappointingly the water level in the drain had not dropped. Husband was convinced that there was a blockage just before the drain reaches the septic tank. Out came the drain rods again. They made no difference. Perhaps they weren't long enough. The following day husband went off to buy some longer drain rods. Still not long enough he thought. He would go and buy some more. No I said it is time to get the professionals in. By now it was day five and as I put it to husband, if you had be ill for five days and self medication had not helped you would have gone to the doctor. Husband phoned some local drain people to whom he paid a princely sum, for them to come out the next day - Saturday. A lad did come. He spent about ten minutes looking at things and announced that he couldn't do anything. The septic tank was so congested that it needed to be pumped out and he would arrange for a tanker to come in the afternoon to pump out the septic tank. Unsurprisingly no tanker arrived, which meant more phone calls. After a string of excuses husband eventually spoke to someone who pointed out that if we had the appropriate insurance, we could make a claim against it to resolve the matter. And guess what we did have insurance cover. By now it was around 6 pm. Nevertheless a call to the insurance company was needed. Yes, an engineer would come out on Monday. We thought to pump out the septic tank. However, he came in a van. Where was he going to pump the contents of the septic tank to? After a good look at the septic tank he found the fault. The pump isn't working and needs to be replaced. So the septic tank that should not need to be emptied, did not need to be emptied after all. And the pump, well that will get replaced when we return from holiday. Tomorrow we are off to tick some more destinations off our bucket list.