All the way to Santa Fe.....well Mexico City and the Good old US of A really.

TonyHancock

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After almost 17 months in Blighty, I am on my way again...albeit in a jolly inconvenient manner.

Griselda, allegedly, had researched my predicament and advised me that the only efficient (as if efficiency was something that I spent hours thinking about, let alone striving for) means for me to reach the USA was via a two week jaunt to Mexico. Now I have been to Mexico before, even my Coates Plymouth Gin, Navy Strength, soaked mind can remember the horrors of Chihuahua back in 1996. Griselda had organised a less than fun filled week at a Holiday Inn where the staff were not remotely aware of a full bodied Cabernet-Shiraz and the only entertainment was a cut down billiards table where the guests were forced to play something called pool. (It reminded me of those days in Blighty when Fred Trueman introduced the much and rightly maligned Indoor League.)

So, in my new found status as an "internet sensation" (whatever that is) I needed, apparently, to engage with my "fan base" in the United States. (these are all terms Griselda uses and are, quite frankly, baffling to me.)

"Mr Hancock, if you fly to Mexico and spend 14 days there you do not have to quarantine and you can fly to the USA and you will not need to quarantine there either." Griselda informed me over some sort of television meeting. ) Modern technology never fails to astonish me, or for that matter annoy me.

I had no desire to fly to Mexico and quite frankly I wasn't overly enamoured by a visit to the USA, but I was growing restless in the East Anglian Pile, even the crop rotation in the field I could easily view from my state room window was ceasing to entertain me. (It was not even possible to drag the tenant farmers in for a dressing down, how the world has changed, and not for the best.)

So Mexico it was.

"I have found a flight for you Mr Hancock........but I can't get you a seat in First Class" Griselda informed me, I sensed a tone of glee in her voice.

Well this was going well, not only was I heading to somewhere I did not want to go I had travel there in Business Class. What sort of dystopian nightmare was this? I acquiesced to this only because I believed common sense would prevail and British Airways would see sense and ensure my presence in the correct cabin.

I still had to work out how I would get to London's Heathrow Airport from the provincial city of Birmingham, an appalling metropolis in the middle of England. Griselda had organised rail transport and I found myself on something called a "Super Voyager" operated by some sort of Italian company called Avanti West Coast. Oh how I yearned for a sleep cabin in a coach pulled by the Flying Scotsman.

Now First Class on these new fangled train services is quite frankly appalling. For a start there is no champagne when one takes one's seat, the meal selection is a disgrace and worst of all absolutely no cutlery to speak of. I made do with a tepid and weak cup of English breakfast tea. Griselda will be sending a strongly worded letter to Mr Phill Wittingham (who does not sound very Italian) with some advice on how to improve service.

Apparently there is no First Class service on the Heathrow Express (Heathrow Express? I did wonder if I had inadvertently stumbled into a Harry Potter novel.) and I had to make do with something called Business First Class. there was no champagne and no food. How on earth this rail company remains a viable business I have no idea.

With no valet to take my bags from the train to the First Class Check In Suite I had to fight my way through hordes of.....well.....people. What an earth were they doing trying to fly anywhere? Griselda has already penned a stern letter to Mr Johnson about this. Quite why ordinary people are allowed to travel in beyond me.

Whilst I had not flown for 18 months it all came flooding back to me as I entered the British Airways First Class Check In Suite. What I did not expect was that firstly I was going to have to fly in Business Class with the masses, and secondly the Concorde Room was closed and had been replaced by a space on the terrace in the First Class Lounge. Whilst disappointing it was still mildly pleasing not to find myself mixing with those dreadful OneWorld Emerald Types in the First Class Lounge.

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The Concorde Lounge area still maintained an aura of exclusivity and there was still some pleasure to be gained from popping in and out in full view of this One World Emerald types wondering what lay behind the magical door.

What was poor was the food offering - I expected rather more from my Steak and Ale Pie - fortunately the staff has not changed, and knew to provide me two such pies - given they were effectively "party pies". Fortunately the Grand Siecle flowed, taking my mind of the impending twelve hours to be spent in the hell that is BA Business Class.....

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drron

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What a breath of fresh air with another TH epic.The thing I have missed the most in this pandemic. :)

And thanks for getting Freddie Trueman into the story.A mist came over my eyes remembering 1963 in Sydney when a couple of pimply chavs and I escaped a boring swimming carnival and headed to the Hill at the SCG.Fred mostly fielded right in front of us and we had a bone to pick with him.He had been asked a simple question about Sydney's beloved bridge and he said this.Was easy to find with google.
Your bridge? Our bloody bridge, you should say: and bugger it, a Yorkshire firm, Dorman and Long, built it and you coughs still ain t paid for it!

I think freddie got the better in the exchange of insults.
The test was memorable for another trivial fact.My idol, Slasher, was out injured for the test so we got to see Colin Guest pay his only test.
 

RooFlyer

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What an earth were they doing trying to fly anywhere? Griselda has already penned a stern letter to Mr Johnson about this. Quite why ordinary people are allowed to travel in beyond me.

Ah, well met, fellow traveller. Even domestic in Australia, I'm astounded at the number of people who the authorities have allowed to fly. Very poor form.

PS is that a Red Cross flag on the party pies?
 

TonyHancock

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It was the usual routine at the gate.

“Please can you just scan the boarding pass again I am sure there has been a mistake?” Was my go to line.

“No Mr Hancock everything is fine no changes” was the response.

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So I was going to have to travel in business class. Grisleda had secured seat 7A which faced the wrong way but was in a sort of mini cabin and I would not find myself climbing over anybody after one or two bottles of claret. There was nobody in First Class at all……until what looked like a troupe of reality TV types waddled through the business class cabin into First. I assume they were reality TV types because the females in the troupe all had those lips that made them look like ducks and appeared to have stuffed footballs down their jeggings.

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I was in two minds now, it did look as though I had successfully avoided being trapped in a cabin with people who don’t hold a champagne glass by the stem, but I was still in business class and British Airways business class to boot.

It did not start well – no pre flight champagne or sparkling wine service. Presumably this can be blamed on the pandemic. It would also be necessary to wear a face mask for the entire flight other than eating and drinking. My plan was simple I would drink for 12 hours.

The meal, if you can call it that, was essentially the sort of thing you see in movies when people travel in economy. It came, in its entirety, on a tray and there wasn’t much of it. I wondered what the economy set were having for their meal. My wine of choice was a cheeky Rioja but it was far too young.

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The chappie in charge of the crew was helpful although he did go on a bit about mixed fleet and worldwide as if a, I cared and b, I knew what he was talking about.

I settled in to watch Churchill, the one with Brian Cox and not the physicist Brian Cox, it was awful, The King, which was interesting and then something else which I don’t remember because I was comatose.

An early arrival into Mexico city rather took me off guard, and the purser chappie was non too keen on instructing the captain to have a fly around to enable me to gather my belongings and fill the relevant forms in.

The staff at the currency exchange bureau “helped” me by sending me in completely the opposite direction of the Hilton Hotel so by the time I actually reached it there was a queue of 6 people, none of whom seem to understand how checking into a hotel works. Griselda will be sending a strongly worded letter in Spanish.

Quite why the check in staff thought a room overlooking the runway was an upgrade I was unable to ascertain. Nothing like aircraft noise to help with sleep.

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Major

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Looks like the glass of water should have had Scotch in it.
 
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TonyHancock

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The point of 14 nights in Mexico City was to avoid quarantine, or so I thought. Griselda had selected the Doubletree in the business district of Santa Fe, for two reasons, firstly it would be safe and secondly it had a decent executive lounge.

Quite why the Mexicans had built a city a mile and a half above sea level was beyond me, I had rather fancied an early evening stroll along the beach but the prospect of the return journey requiring the mountaineering skills of Sherpa Tensing ruled that out on day one.

The Argentinian steakhouse was open but even a journey there required grappling hooks to get back to the Doubletree and besides they had taken braised beef kidneys off their menu.

I am getting ahead of myself though. My driver delivered me, after what I can only describe as a road trip of speed bumps, to the lobby door of the Doubletree. I was early, but the hotel appeared to be empty.

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“Good morning, my name is Mr Hancock and I believe you have a splendid room for me” I stated loudly in plain English.

Whilst the response was not exactly “que” it may as well have been. It does amaze me that foreign types do not take the time to learn English, it is not as if they did not know I was coming. After some sign language and the use of a small tv that appeared to be some sort of universal translator I discovered that my room was not ready and not likely to be ready for another two hours

The restaurant was open……but not serving a full menu, in fact it was serving the room service menu, this was going to be fun. Thirteen nights in a hotel that was only serving a room service menu.

Quite rightly I was upgraded to a suite, but things took a turn for the worse – the executive lounge was closed. I was about to find out what solitary confinement was like in a one of those dreadful prisons. Even the TV was in a foreign language.

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I did wander down to the local 7-11 store but there was not a bottle of Coates Plymouth Gin, Navy Strength, to be found anywhere. The police were also out in force, playing with plastic cups in the street. They were apparently popping a cup down everywhere they could see a spent bullet casing. Looked like lots of fun. More worryingly everyone was wearing masks outside and it rained every day. For all intents and purposes I was a prisoner.

The hotel breakfast buffet was open…..but yes you guessed it with a much reduced offering. So scrambled eggs and spicy sausage it was to be everyday.

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Griselda would find her next week to be a very busy one – lots of letters to be written.
 
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TonyHancock

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After a night at the Airport Hilton, thirteen nights of hell at the Santa Fe Doubletree, I had one further night at the Airport Hilton before heading off to Dallas. Griselda had wanted to play safe and complete 15 nights in Mexico to avoid any possible discussions about completing fourteen 24 hour days in Mexico.

She arranged for a chap to come to the hotel and undertake something called a rapid antigen test – apparently some sort of testing was required before I was able to enter the USA. I couldn’t help thinking that it was all going to go horribly wrong.

I was not upgraded at the Airport Hilton and found myself at a restaurant, I use that term loosely, called Chilli’s. The food was poor but the marguerita almost made up for it.

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Griselda called and spent quite a lot of time talking me through something called “verifly” which she explained was an “app”. After an eternity and her complete inability to explain clearly the “app” was installed on my small portable tv thingy and the necessary information added. She assured me this would help with my forthcoming flight to the USA.

Covid-19 had been devastating for people like me – for a start the priority lines I was used to being whisked into and through had gone. The only priority I could see was for people who had the “veryfly app” so at least Griselda had got that correct. A lady guided me to the head of the queue to check in.

The flight was at 6:00 AM and the Admirals Club was supposed to be open at 4:00 AM. It wasn’t of course and I had to sit in the terminal with everyone else for nearly half an hour. Fortunately, First or Business or whatever American Airlines calls its premium cabin these days was almost empty. I had to wear a face mask for the duration of the flight and had to replace the mask between sips of drink or bites of food. The food offering was a rather ghastly cardboard container named "mix and munch".

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As I disembarked at Dallas Fort Worth a rather pleasant lady held up a screen with my name on and greeted me.

“Hello I am from the American Airlines Concierge Team and want to welcome you to Dallas.” She said. Smiling at me. “You are one of our partner airline’s VIP’s” She showed me a list on her screen and sure enough it showed my name followed by “BA VIP”.

This was more like it; I would no doubt be whisked away in a limousine and not have to queue up with everyone else at immigration. At last, the gods were smiling down upon me.

I stood waiting for her to take me off to the waiting car. She said “Welcome again and pointed me in the direction of immigration”

So now having been greeted as a VIP, I had gone from being first in line at the immigration counters to twentieth in line. Griselda will be writing a stiff letter to American Airlines.

What did surprise me was the complete lack of interest in anything covid related. I breezed through immigration despite the setback of the AA Concierge Key team. Same again at customs. As a result I found myself in the Admirals Club in terminal B. (The Flagship Lounge at DFW was closed)

Nobody was wearing masks which was not something I was used to of late. In Mexico they wore them outside, in the UK they were worn inside. It was almost like being back to normal, bit without the food and alcohol the Flagship lounge afforded.
 

TonyHancock

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Whilst I may not be on top of the latest fashion trends I am well aware of the mullet hair style, but what I was not prepared for was the twist that awaited me on a flight from Washington DC to Cincinnati. I found myself sitting in First Class on a smallish aircraft with a 1-2 configuration. My seatmate was a congressman. Now I don’t keep up with US politics but given this individual was wearing a name badge with his details on it I could hardly not notice.

I am familiar with the mullet from the 1980’s – hair short on the sides but long at the back. What I did not expect to see was the politician’s meteoric level of creativity. It would be fair to say that he didn’t have a lot, if any hair, “on top”, but man alive he had developed a mullet that would have stretched a good 15 inches down his back. (Griselda tells me I have to also say about 40 cm to cater for my younger “Insta” and youtube followers) That the mullet did not stretch down his back was entirely due to his decision to comb it up and over his head. It was an extraordinary effort, and I am sure fooled everyone in to thinking he had a luscious, full, head of hair.

Now I am assuming that this chap was probably quite familiar with the flight from Washington DC to Cincinnati, he is a congressman representing an area in southern Ohio, but watching him struggle to extract the tray table from the centre arm rest was something to behold. Fortunately the charming crew member was able to help him, had she not there was no way he was going to work it out himself.

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It got me thinking. I reckon I would be a great politician; I mean it is not like I would have to do anything……ever. Well certainly not anything useful. I could easily rock up to parliament, in first class, and sleep through a couple of sessions, and then claim a nice pension. I presume I would have access to a chauffeur and posh airport lounges. Griselda is investigating this as I write. (I hope I can count on your votes? I have heard that this democracy nonsense can be a bit tricky!)

As usual I am getting ahead of myself. My home base for nearly two months is Cincinnati, actually to be precise I am likely to spend more than 30 nights at the Holiday Inn at Cincinnati airport. (Although Cincinnati Airport is not actually in Cincinnati – it is of course in Hebron Kentucky.) Given that it is awful, and is mostly empty when I have stayed there I tend to book a week and then extend as necessary. (I will be doing a fair bit of travel throughout the USA so need some degree of flexibility.)

After a few days at this somewhat dark and dingy Holiday Inn I approached the front desk to extend my stay by four days.

“I am sorry Mr Hancock we are fully booked” the young lady responded after asking to repeat myself twice. (That only seems to be a Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky thing – everywhere else I visit in the US people understand rudimentary English.)

How can this be I thought – there are multiple half decent hotels in the vicinity.

“It is the annual Vent Haven Conference, but we will have space next week.” She said helpfully.

She said Vent Haven as if that might mean something to me. I set Griselda onto it and she came back with this - https://vhconvention.com

On my last day prior to moving to another Holiday Inn in the area, I found myself heading down to breakfast in a lift with an adult male with his right arm stuffed up a fluffy toy pretending it was “alive”. I am very rarely at a loss for a reaction but found myself scrambling to understand etiquette. Does one punch the ventriloquist or the dummy in these circumstances?

I often feel that my life can be somewhat surreal but wandering into the lobby of a hotel filled with 500 ventriloquists takes surreal to a whole new level.
 
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