Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wednesday in Madrid

After Thursday in Rotterdam, Friday in Birmingham, Monday in Paris and Tuesday in London, it was time, of course to go to Madrid on Wednesday! I was picked up from my hotel at 4 am by a taxi driver from Afghanistan who took half an hour to drive from The City to Heathrow. He told me about what a mess his country was in and how corrupt it was, saying that such corruption had come into the country from Pakistan and that at least the Taleban had tried to do something about.

Terminal Two at Heathrow is an insult to humanity, with an entrance hall/check-in area with a very low ceiling which was already crowded at 4.30, queues of people waiting to check-in. Upstairs the security people decided to start as they obviously meant to carry on by waiting until 5, by which time a massive and rapidly lengthening queue had built, to open up and start checking one’s bags, belts and shoes. Time for a coffee and a chocolate croissant as I had been warned that Iberia do not serve food on their flights, before getting onto the full flight for another two hours of sleep before landing in the bright sunshine of Madrid.

Terminal Four at Berajas Airport in Madrid, what a wonder! A beautful new building, full of light with high, flowing ceilings, decked with wood and lights in the style of large semiconductor discs, the struts painted in varying colours to mark the various areas of the airport. Lovely polished marble floors, easy to read signs and conveyor belts which worked. How much has been paid for my EU money, I do not know, but it looks to be money well spent!

A Spanish taxi driver took us to the office where we spent the day going over the issue for which we had come, there being time enough for a nice lunch from 2.30 to 4 pm (how Spanish) before having our closing meeting with the country manager who gave us a lift back to the airport.

I was lucky enough to be booked on business class on the Iberia flight back to Amsterdam and was greeted at the check-in counter by someone who reminded me very much of the travel agent in Little Britain, who types every question into her computer before replying that ‘computer says no’, having the same hairstyle and the same level (lack) of energy…. And, sure enough, the computer said no, and no again before she walked off with my ticket, coming back eventually to tell me that I had been booked on a flight for 11th July NEXT YEAR! Fortunately, there was plenty of room and, with a delay, I had time to sit in the business lounge with my colleague and have a couple of beers before going to catch the flight back. Again, one should never turn down the opportunity to try the various wines and champagnes on offer in business class before nodding off yet again prior to landing in Amsterdam.

A Pakistani taxi driver took me home and made the same point about Afghanis and the Afghan taxi driver was making about Pakistanis earlier in the day. Fred was still up and there was time enough to play a few Marc Almond songs before going to bed for a much needed and very welcome sleep in my own bed.

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