Stop: Loss

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My thoughts have withdrawn
As if the room they are in suddenly became smaller
They’ve become Brownian thoughts
Bumping into walls and each other
And changing direction all the time yet going nowhere

It’s like the world has become bigger
And I, smaller
The world is not itself
And where was my place in it, again?

I try to say to myself that it is all exaggerated
Yet I must confess to feeling what I feel
A cog went off the chain
Something slipped from its peg
There’s a lurking emptiness just out of sight

It’s like the knives all became dull
And noone can be bothered to sharpen them
Like the music plays from far away
And could someone please turn it up?
As if a thin cloud cover pulled across the sky
And took the edge of all the colours.

The melodrama rolls on, full speed ahead
As I know it would
While I slowly drift to a stop
Inevitably

And once again I agree with myself
That I am very bad at this

I hate it
When I am losing a friend.

Photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds
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Monday Motorway Music™, March 23 – Roads and Planes and Trains

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Just a short drive this morning – as I was going to catch a train to go to “the other side of the country” for a meeting with a “rather large” Danish company.

All the flying – and man, was there a lot of it – of the last few weeks went as well as that sort of thing can go. Special honorary mentions, though, to Air New Zealand as previously told.

The picture above is also from the trip – agents, 007-hopefuls and other spooks apparently have their own parking area at Melbourne Airport :-P

IMG_7083And as all that flying and sitting down is hard, I compensated – by the state of my right shoulder this morning, probably over-compensated a wee bit – and were physically very active in the early spring garden yesterday. Thus, the big tree in the garden that took the evening sunlight away from our terrace is no longer there…

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Under Your Spell – Shakatak
Weather With You – Crowded House

Photos by me.
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Cobblestone Cooking Music XIV – Lamb Porchetta & Risotto

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think the cut that is in use here is called a boneless (de-boned) lamb shoulder – but as so often before, translating cuts of meat is one of the most difficult things I know. Anyway, it’s a flat, broad piece where the ribs used to sit – and it’s still got the skin side on.

  • Pink Floyd, Money

Go fire up the coal for the barbeque.

  • Saga, Don’t Be Late

In a food processor / blender, mix: day-old bread, garlic, onion, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, lemon zest, salt, pepper & oil. It should be turned into an aromatic, lovely smelling paste.

  • Dion & The Belmonds, Runaround Sue
  • Peggy Lee, Fever

Lay the meat skin side down and spread the yummy paste all over it. The roll the meat from one end into a tight “sausage” and bind it.

  • Eurythmics, Better To Have Lost In Love

Put the meat in the BBQ, keep it on full heat for a short while, then turn it down somewhat. Let it simmer there for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Drip/brush some oil over it once in a while.

  • Sailor, A Glass of Champagne
  • Foreigner, I Want To Know What Love Is

We simply served it with a plain risotto. And red wine :)

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Quiet Is The Wind

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”Like a leaf clings to a tree
Oh my darling, cling to me”

The night seemed to cling to summer
In much the same way as the leaf of that song
Knowing, both of them, that autumn would inevitably arrive
They’d both lose their grip and their love
And let go

Walking down some quiet residential city streets
I considered whether I was like that summer night and that leaf
Meeting my autumn to your summer
Having to let you go

The night air lazily and effortlessly twirled around me
Like you did when we danced
The scent of flowers in the dark gently floated around
Like your perfume did when you walked away afterwards

This unexpected summer night
Carried sudden memories on its sweet and calm wings
And out of nowhere I felt like that leaf once again
Wanting to cling to you

If I asked a summer night and it had time for us
If I found a tree-lined street, just waiting to be walked down
If I found us some sweet lovely flower-perfumed evening air
If I met you on a corner there

Would you walk with me?

Photo by me.
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Cobblestone Flight Review – AKL-MEL on Quantas

Admittedly from a different part of this trip: Smeagol catching a nice fish at WLG

 

Let me say from the beginning: This trip got me and Quantas off on a wrong footing from the outset.

First, online check-in twice politely directed me to check in at the airport. Which a) is not something I like doing as checking in early among many other things allows the best chance for a decent seat and b) not something I at all enjoy queueing for when I’ve had to leave the hotel for the airport at 4:50am…

And it was not just any odd queue – it was a 30-40 minutes long queue. I’d guess on close to a 100 people in it – and 3-4 counters open out of 8. OK, ample time to fill out the departure card…

Next up: luggage. At check-in they asked if I had luggage to check – no, just my Red Oxx Metro Briefcase and cabin trolley. Apparently no issues with that. Until I came up the beginning of the queue for passport control and a stern lady asked me to put the trolley on the scales. Result: approx. 2 kg too much relative to Quantas’ 7 kg limit.

7 kg? Take a lesson from BA, dear Quantas – when we flew to the US, they allowed 23! Other comparisons, in the low-cost airline field: Ryan Air (not known for frills): 10 kg. easyJet: Size restriction only, no weight limit. So, dear Quantas – come again!

Back down, asked if that was really, truly, honestly so. Yes, it was. “It’s a small plane” – which is a new term for a Boing 737-800s in my book, And no, I couldn’t gate check the bag either. I did let the staff know that I already now was considering this Quantas experience the worst I’d had for a long time… Making sure, of course, to stress that I didn’t direct this criticism at them personally but at the rigid and limiting cabin baggage rules, the lacking online check-in, and the massive queues of the morning.

OK, one small ray of sunshine: while I’d been down at the check-in counter, the queue for immigration (or emigration?) had dissolved. Through security, no issues.

Then, at the gate, I realised that I hadn’t even checked what seat they’d allocated me. 28E. Way back, which is not something I’d battle, and a middle seat – which is. I made my kind inquiry as to whether a somewhat better seat might be available – and were told that there were very few open seats, all middle. Hm. Persistence. Asked if they could tell me why online check-in hadn’t worked – as I’d normally would have used that to avoid exactly this predicament.

The apparently superior gate agent stepped in and kindly told me that the lack of online check-in was likely to be because very full flights such as this one “locked down “ at least the last 20% of seats for airport check-in so that families could get seats together and such. Not an unreasonable approach, I reckon – only, it had a very poor match to the extremely few people I saw dropping off luggage at the online check-in counter during my long trek to the counter downstairs – and the corresponding large number of people in the check-in queue… Or, of course, people travelling from NZ to AUS just haven’t realised that there is such thing as advance internet check-in (and no, I don’t believe that, either).

Anyway, she let me know that as soon as the counters downstairs closed, she would check for no-shows. And, with my sincere gratitude, she eventually managed to get me moved to 4C.

Boarding by row numbers – which meant that I of course got on late-ish but still with some 20-30 passengers coming in after me. Care to take a guess on how much space there was in the overhead bins for luggage such as my confined-to-the-hold trolley? Yes, you’ve got it – plenty. And how many others carried similar ones, by the look of how they carried them, equally heavy or heavier? Yes, quite a a few. So in the game of carry-on roulette, I apparently landed on the dreaded zero today – just able to conclude that the rules were enforced rigidly but not uniformly. Oh well.

Last thing on that issue: The lady at the scales upstairs told me that I could go down to the airline and if they ok’d the bag, she’d let me through. Downstairs they claimed that I had to check it in – because the people upstairs would not let me go through with it. Very convenient to have someone else to put the blame on when you have an unhappy customer – just sad that it became clear that at least one of the two parties were not correct and honest about it. In customer service as in so many other circumstances: own up, take what’s your responsibility on your shoulders. Do not seek the easy way out and say “oh, it’s them there” – especially not if you’re not 1000% sure they will not say the same about you.

The flight, then? Decent seat, bad breakfast.

4C was the first row after business – and as such had plenty of leg space. Turned up that we were only two on the three seats, so 4B moved to 4A and we had storage space on the middle seat and an extra table to pile trays etc. on. Always nice.

The breakfast with scrambled eggs, yoghurt, a muffin and coffee? Well, the scrambled eggs had an odd taste that reminded me more of cod than of eggs and the coffee must be on the shortlist of the worst coffee I’ve ever had on a plane. About the only thing I could not detect of taste in my white coffee was coffee.

But as I left the hotel well before breakfast was available and at this time I knew that my blood sugar was heading for the basement – beggars can’t be choosers and I guess it did its nutritional job.

As for the rest – nothing out of the ordinary. Not better or worse than any other flight. But altogether, with the help of a Draconian lady in the ALK airport, Quantas lands with two cobblestones.

Fly safely, out there!

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Cobblestone Flight Review: CPH-SIN-AKL on Singapore and Air New Zealand

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Man, after that trip, a night in a bed was much needed!

Referring back to a previous post, this trip has given me a long awaited chance to throw this particular status post up on Facebook: “Landed in SIN.” ;) Other than that small twinkle, I must admit that the trip’s main feature is that it was long. As in loooong. But not without redeeming features.

A little bit of sub-optimal online check-in from the outset: only first leg possible and no go for mobile boarding pass. Singapore Airlines allows check-in 48 hours before departure and I got in reasonably early in that time window. No particularily good seats – but, true to experience, I did pick an aisle seat in the middle section of the 777’s 3-3-3 configuration. Always go for the chance to be beside an empty seat – which held up, it turned out.

And that was a lifesaver! Here is a piece of weight-worth-in-gold traveller advice:

Do not pick a D seat on SIA’s 777s!

Seatguru didn’t mention it at all – but there’s a big entertainment box underneath all of the D seats – taking up almost half the footspace. The Norwegian guy at the F seat confirmed that it was consistent on Singapore airlines. Would have been grim for 12+ hours without the extra space besides me. (And yes, I did send Seatguru feedback on this so it may be added to their database, hopefully). Hearsay will have it that this is true for C seats as well – haven’t been able to confirm that so far, but maybe be doubtful of those, too.

2015-03-10 11.47.29Other than that, the Singapore flight was run-of-the-mill: pushback right on time, full service on board (listening, SAS?), lots of water and juice runs by the crew, landed just a tad ahead of schedule. If I should point fingers at anything, the inflight entertainment system was actually not very good – the screens had to be looked at just at that angle and the sound quality was very poor. Don’t think I heard more than half the spoken lines in “Fury”.

Changi is absolutely an OK airport – in any case I only had about an hour from coming off the plane until scheduled boarding. The free and available wireless is much appreciated – that was where the “SIN” joke came in along with Emails to home saying so far, so good and catching up the latest about the work for the trip. I walked up to Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer Gold lounge but must admit I was disappointed in what’s presumably their showpiece, home base offering. Large, ok – but also largely full. And especially, I had hoped for it to have facilities for freshening up a bit – after all, the region has many long-distance connections. But no. Nada.

So I left again and walked to A15 instead of using the Skytrain the last bit of the way. Needed the blood circulation! Through security at the gate, and then it was time to figure out why I hadn’t been able to check in for this flight from home: My itinerary goes to Auckland and home from Melbourne with nothing listed in between. The system found that too odd to handle automatically.

2015-03-10 11.49.51Of course, my TripIt itinerary at this point also include the inter-NZ flights as well as the AKL-MEL flight that connects the dots and once that was entered into the computer there, I was good to go. I asked if any better seating had appeared and got 47A – window exit row. There should have been someone in 47B – no show, apparently, as I had these two seats to myself.

And here is where the really good stuff started happening. First I walked down to the aft gallery and asked the cabin crew if they expected any of the maybe five empty middle sections might remain empty. Air NZ flies the 777 in a 3-4-3 configuration and so I figured that stealing one of those would be brilliant and allow me to stretch out and get a 2-3 hour top off of sleep as the CPH-SIN had offered some but nothing solid.

Do remember: ask first – the crew does not like you moving seat without permission before reaching flight altitude due to weight balancing!

Turned out they’d be free. And Debbie, the cabin attendant who had her crew seat for take-off facing me at row 47 took a keen interest in my well-being after hearing that I’d flown 12 hours to get to Singapore. She discussed the case with her colleague across while we climed to 33,000 feet and literally jumped up at the signal from the seat-belt sign. First, she landed me in a four-seat block but then immediately upped that by finding me a Skycouch™. Basically, these three-seat sections have a foot-rest thingy that clicks all the way up in horizontal and closes the gap to the seats in front so that it becomes a bed when you raise the arm rests. Then you get a seatbelt extender that hooks into a solid D-ring in the back of the middle seat in front and presto: Bed :)

Served me well for 2½ hours – a choice of mine not to take more as landing time in AKL would be just short of midnight and I’d like to have some sleep left in me.

One more thing to say about the Air New Zealand flight – first airline I’ve been on to sport book shelf wall paper and music playing in the lavatories (top picture, check the titles – photo quality allowing – they’re quite amusing).

On the approach to AKL, I asked Debbie about her tips for people who are new to the world of frequent and long-distance travelling. Her two main gems were:

Keep hydrated!
(your cabin crew comes around regularily with water and juice – take some! Or drink what you carried onboard. Just do it!)
– and –
Make good use of your cabin crew – ask for help, assistance, advice, something to drink… That’s what we’re there for!
(my personal additional comment to that: remember to give them back a smile and a word of praise. Makes their day – and yours – much better! Karma, you know.)

Before I jump into ratings, my one remaining worry doesn’t reflect on SIA or AirNZ – but on the revised SAS EuroBonus earning tables. In the week before this trip, I learned that my booking class on LOT to WAW didn’t count for anything at all. And from a short look, I didn’t spot booking class “V” in the table. Have to say: Hey SAS – if we fly, we fly. And if you want the frequent flyer programme to be a loyalty programme, you should consider giving us something to be loyal about…

Cobblestones, then. On the first leg alone, the D seat entertainment box and the sub-par entertainment system would take off probably two. Some travellers would be harsher – but as I normally don’t use the screens much, I’ll let it go at that.

On the other hand, the Air New Zealand experience surely puts those two stones back in the rating. Nothing short of stellar – I only hope that I adequately repaid Debbie by giving some useful tips for when she and her family will be coming through CPH (and Copenhagen) a bit later in the spring.

And then I haven’t even mentioned the Hobbitesque safety video. It’s been all over the Interwebs so you may have seen it. If not, do – it’s such a refreshing brush up of a rather boring genre.

Altogether then, an average of 5 – 4 for SIA and 6 for Air NZ.

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Monday Motorway Music™, March 9 – No, Sorry – Globetrotting Instead

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This Monday and next, I’ll be flying (almost literally) around the world. New Zealand & Aussie-land, here I come. Work, of course – so probably no hobbit-sightings, unfortunately.

With some luck, there’ll be a CFR post or two in that trip…

Have a good couple of weeks :)

Photo by me.
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CFR Traveller Tips vol. IV

After a very long delay – or maybe a holding pattern – here is vol. IV of CFR Traveller Tips. Please take your seat and fasten your seat belt…

This time, the topic is on travelling light – inspired by the last two trips I’ve done which have been two days / one night trips on relatively short hops within Europe: CPH-MUC-CPH and CPH-WAW-CPH.

I’ve said it before and will continue to do so: If at all possible, do not check in luggage.

I thought it merits a little more – what do I mean when I say “travelling light”? Well, both these trips were of the variant I call ultra-light. Basically, all I have with me is my regular workday bag – a much beloved Red Oxx Metro Briefcase. It’s small enough to be ultimately handy, yet big enough to contain laptop & other electronics as well as a small toiletry bag and one (partial) change of clothes.

Here are the contents for the WAW trip I came back from today (on a background of a Persian rug):

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  1. iPad Air
  2. Thinkpad Laptop
  3. Toiletry bag – toothbrush & -paste, shaving gear, deodorant, aspirins, comb, nail clipper & file (and a plastic bag for those security checks where they insist that all this must be in such a bag)
  4. Pouches with iPad and iPhone chargers & lightning cables (blue) and a portable 2 tb harddrive (pink)
  5. Eagle Creek PackIt Folder 15. Holds, in this bag, 1-2 shirts or a long-sleeve light sweater + T-shirt/underwear for a day change.
  6. Logitech presentation remote, Thinkpad charger, Webcam for Lync calls, VGA adapter for iPad (those things are always in the front pockets of the bag)
  7. Small notebook (rarely used but if…) and small pouch with some USB sticks
  8. Mesh pouch with polishing cloths for glasses, lip balm, hand lotion, nice company name tag, spare in-ear headphones, small power bank
  9. The Metro briefcase – in it (not shown): a couple of pens, a mini-flashlight, business cards in case – and that’s it, I guess

Et voila.

Confession: I don’t bring sports-/running gear etc – because I don’t run, simply – but even if I did, I’d still be able to do it in carry on. I’d just go to a roller or my Red Oxx Air Boss. The latter would also be my choice for 1-2 days more on short trips (easily holds that extra clothing plus an extra pair of shoes) or if I needed to bring a suit I wasn’t going to wear en route.

Oh, and if you need to pack a bag such as the Air Boss with as few wrinkles and at the same time compact – go bundle wrapping!

Happy flying – take care out there!

Photo by me
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You Took Your Blue Eyes…

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You took your blue eyes and left
Left me in a world of only gray
Except for, in a cruel twist of fate, blue.

How can the colour of your eyes
Be the only colour left for me to find
How can it remain
When you left with it?

Will I find the other colours again
If follow you and once again look in your eyes
Or will I have to let the gray slowly fade away
Until the world once again shines through it?

That I don’t know
But while your blue is the only colour
In my gray world
I will revel in it
Put it on a pedestal
And let it shine for me and through me.

My Mood Indigo.

– – – – – –

Yes, you’ve guessed it – I heard this classic recently. Not with (excuse the pun) Ol’ Blue Eyes but in a more recent – and, I find, brilliant – version with Annie Lennox from her “Nostalgia” album (Spotify link)

Photo by me.
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Monday Motorway Music™, March 2 – Whatchamacallit?

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You made a promise, to be faithful
By all the stars up above
Now you call it madness
But I call it love
Diana Krall, “You Call It Madness”

It’s been a little like that with me and Spring, so far. Officially, yesterday marked the arrival of spring here – March 1st, now it’s spring. And Saturday was a quite nice day, with some blue skies and in the sun, you actually could believe that springtime was sneaking in.

And when I got out of bed yesterday morning? Wet snow falling, gray skies, quite windy. Meh!

Wasn’t much better this morning – there just is something not too pleasing with a Monday morning when you get the “pleasure” of driving to work in sleet-laced rain. Meh! Meh!

It often misses
…says it gives it all that it’s got.
And when it asks me if ev’rything is okay
I got my answer, the only thing I can say:
I say meh-meh;
that’s what I say: I say meh-meh.
With due apologies to Matt Bianco (“Yeh-Yeh”)

The photo is one more from the long hike last weekend – a boardwalk that strictly speaking wasn’t on our route. But we took it never the less as it looked too cool not to, even at the risk of a slightly longer walk…

Touching Me, Touching You – Alphabeat
When Tomorrow Comes (Live) – Eurythmics
Hotblooded – Roxette
Rockin’ All Over The World – Status Quo
Love Me Two Times – Joan Jett
Amerika – Rammstein
She Loves You – The Beatles
Son Of A Preacherman – Hanne Boel

Photos by me.
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