Thursday 27 January 2011

Eating Shane Ritchie

We had Shane Ritchie for tea tonight.

Not the ipsa corpora of Shane, obviously, but Shane's Penne Pollo Arrabiata. It's a recipe he's fond of rustling up, according to Hello! mag (although I suspect Shane had about as much input into it as he has into Egyptian foreign policy).

Whatever (as I expect Shane said to the girl from Hello! when he realised they were phoning about putting his name on a pasta recipe rather than a cover spread about his lovely home), Penny-Whatsname-Arabia-Whatsname is a bit of a mouthful to say (never mind swallow - ho ho!) so when I ask what we're having for tea and that's what it is, Carol says "We're having Shane Ritchie".

The other night we had Kenny Logan. That's lasagne and we've even been known to have Sir Steven Redgrave's Baked Penne with Dolcelatte and Radicchio - which is too much of mouthful in every department, it would appear, because when I asked why we haven't had Steve for a bit, Carol replied with characteristic succinctness: "It gives me the skitters."

Celebrity recipes would be good material for a round on "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue". Do you have a favourite one? Do leave a comment if you do. Bit of breast, Kat?

(Sorry - this will be meaningless to non-UK readers)

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Atrasado por causa de mau tempo

Distracted by mouthing off about security at Heathrow, I said we travelled back to Flores by four simple steps but actually it was more complicated than that.

On arrival at Terceira, we were informed that flights to Flores had already been cancelled that day due to the weather there. We could fly on to Horta on Faial in hope of a plane to Flores the following day or stay on Terceira for a flight two days hence. Well I had to admire SATA-Air Acores for offering the choice but the Horta option was a no-brainer.

Picture credit Joao Toste
On arrival at Horta, there seemed to be a brief chance that they'd be flying on to Flores after all - we were directed through the transit channel and given the prized green card which entitles you to board ahead of people joining the flight at Horta. But this proved illusory and when the flight was officially cancelled 30 minutes later, the green card merely meant that we were at the end of the queue for hotel vouchers.

SATA-Air Acores put us up at the Hotel do Faial but first there was a nonsense getting away from the airport. A bus into town with 30 seats had been laid on to convey 50 Flores passengers. Naturally, this is a situation which has never been encountered before so that "can-do" attitude the Portuguese are so noted for was very much in evidence. (I'm being ironic here if the ghost of Henry the Navigator or any Americans are reading this.)

Anyway, we arrived at the hotel in time for lunch and jolly tasty it was too. Actually the enforced stop in Horta was a bit of a coup as it gave us the opportunity to schlep up to Modelo which is the Portuguese equivalent of Asda. There was no celery on the shelves but I got a very nice shirt for €9.95. That's my kind of shirt and so good that I went back to Modelo later to get another one in blue. I'm wearing it as I type this. Normally, cheap shirts I buy (i.e. all shirts I buy) have to be washed about 155 times before they're comfy enough to wear but this one's fine straight off.

Hotel do Faial
Dinner at the Hotel do Faial was very acceptable too - buffet with big meaty hot bits and nice salady cold bits. You can't get nasty. Next morning, we made a point of being early to board the 30 seater bus to the airport but it was of little avail as today's flight to Flores was eventually cancelled as well. So back to the Hotel do Faial again - this time in the cab of the lorry laid on to carry the luggage!

By dinner time on the second day, the Hotel do Faial was occupied by a further planeful of passengers trying to get to Flores. There was the post-mistress at Lajes and the pharmacist at Sta Cruz and if this carried on, then eventually all key personnel would be holed up in the HdF and normal services on Flores breaking down alarmingly. But all we could do was look mournfully at each other with a sort Dunkirk "what can you do?" spirit and nip up for another helping of pudding when you thought no-one was looking.

On Day 3, having had the foresight to bag a seat to the airport in the cab of the luggage lorry again, the flight got away to Flores. SATA-Air Acores had to lay on not one but TWO of their Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400s to transport eveybody. All in all, despite some minor irritations, I would say SATA-AA dealt with the situation pretty well. I think Henry the Navigator would give them 6 and a half out of 10.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Airport security

We travelled home from our annual Christmas and New Year visit to Scotland last week by the usual stages: Day 1 - A Scottish airport (Glasgow as it happened) to London Heathrow and then LHR to Lisbon; overnight in Lisbon then, Day 2 - LIS to an Azorean island served by direct flights from LIS (Terceira as it happened) and then TER to Flores via a stop at Horta on Faial.

Flores Airport

Now everyone's favourite travel bugbear is, of course, airport security. Let's look first at how they did it in Portugal. We went through the usual security checkpoint at Lisbon Airport. Then, when we arrived at Terceira Airport (which does not belong to the same company as LIS), because we were transit passengers for an onward flight, we went through a different door from the people ending their journey at TER. This kept us "airside" so that we didn't need to pass through security again before boarding our next flight to Flores. (If we'd accidentally gone through the wrong door, then of course we'd have needed to pass through security again.)

Terceira Airport - photo credit alfonsotrinidad

This all seems a perfectly sensible way of doing things so let's contrast it with how it's done in the UK. We pass through security at Glasgow Airport and then, despite following the transit passengers channel at Heathrow - an airport which also belongs to BAA plc, the same company as owns GLA - you have to go through security again!

This leads me ineluctably (as we lawyers are fond of saying even though we don't know what it means) to one of two conclusions - either the LHR security staff don't trust the GLA security staff to do their job properly or else BAA plc can't trust themselves to design an airport whereby transit passengers are kept isolated on the airside. Which is it? I think we should be told.