October 2010

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Here are the contents of an email I composed that tells the story of our last day on holiday in Symi Greece that has just ended!!

Unfortunately, the lazy days of holidays 2010 are now passed again for another year and so it's back to the grind of work!

We left Symi, our paradise Greek island on the Dodecanese Express on Wednesday afternoon 29 September) at 16:30 filled with that gnawing sadness that we all experience at departure but also filled in the happy anticipation and knowledge that we would next see her in a totally different light in the coming Easter. We waved goodbye to our friend Jen on the key side and a few others that we knew before retiring into the air-conditioning of the downstairs lounge. Hugo hadn't seen us off as he normally would; as he had left earlier that morning on the very same boat, when she did the 08:30 run to Rhodes. I had been on the other side of the departure on that occasion having descended the Kali Strata and been the one on the key side waving Hugo away! Incidentally, I then left Yiallos from where the boat departs (close to Elpida's) and journeyed round the harbour, up the Kataractis (donkey steps) and onwards up to our ruin in 23 minutes. I am so unfit, as the sun hadn't really risen yet and a lot of the journey was shaded by both the Kastro hill and also the narrow alleyways and walls at the top but I sweated profusely and admit to having stopped above the second turning on the kateractis, sitting on the steps to have a rest!! Eventually I reached the ruin and climbed the pile of stones to have a last look on the holiday at the amazing view that is the reward for the effort of the climb!

Our crossing was just as usual before we alighted at Kolona and proceeded to trundle our cases, guitar, laptop etc to the Savoy Hotel. Swedish Katerina (Cat) had suggested this and booked it for us (50 euros) using her mobile phone the previous day, when we and Jennifer had met her at Toli's at Pedi. She knows the owner Lefteris very well, as she regularly stays there and is also very friendly on the grounds that she shares her nationality with Lefteri's deceased wife, who was also Swedish.

We had decided to book overnight accommodation as our flight from Rhodes to Athens was at 07:00 on the Thursday morning. After booking in and organizing both an 04:45 early morning alarm call and taxi for 05:30, we headed out for a meal at the Grill House, where we had eaten at once before, although on that occasion had been staying at the Manousos Hotel. We knew roughly the area that the restaurant was located and started out to find it, armed with a business card and reverse side map to help us that Jennifer had provided. Long story short, we got lost and I couldn't make much sense of the map! We went into a shop and asked the shopkeeper for directions and were told it was out and three streets up. We took these directions and still no joy so asked a receptionist in a car hire company who told us it was four streets and down to the left which we followed. We then asked a gentleman on the street who again told us it was three streets to the left so we again headed along exactly the same road as we had walked 20 minutes previously. I suggested to Linda that we get a taxi but she was determined that we would continue as pedestrians to find it and so on we marched! We got to the street where we had earlier asked the shopkeeper, passing again straight past her door before going to the bottom of the street and turning left. 100 yards along and down an alleyway to the right we were confronted by the welcoming sight of the Chinese that stands as sentry to the alleyway we were trying to find and from there it was plain sailingandhellip;phew!!! On checking the menu we both decided on fillet steaks and placed our order. The waitress had to go to the butcher's shop across the road (also owned by the proprietors and I believe the original reason for the restaurant!) where she obtained two lovely fresh steaks. We thoroughly enjoyed them with their supporting mushroom sauce, that the daughter specifically made for us, along with chips and rice. The steak house is where the Symi II crew used to always go, although we didn't see any crew when we there. This was almost certainly due to us eating so early and also us having passed Symi II on our own crossing (out by the Turkish point) and being a slower boat, she was probably just berthing at that time!!!

After enjoying our meal we returned to the hotel bar where we fancied a beer and so asked the price of Mythos. We were shown the smaller bottle and told the price was 2:35 each, at which point we politely declined. We decided to head for the Symi Bar, where we enjoyed a large Mythos each for a total of only 5 euros! With the ever more acute awareness of our early start the following morning, we then returned to the hotel to try and get a decent night's sleep. Although I probably did sleep reasonably well, it certainly didn't feel like it to me, as I felt like I just lay in the dark the whole night being consumed by the fear of missing the alarm call etc

I was awake at 04:15 and Linda and I were both up before the organized 04:45 alarm call, whereupon we both showered before going down to the breakfast area, where they had prepared our breakfast. Cat had requested this on her phone call and I was impressed that they made the effort. I was also impressed that Cat had asked for a room in the quiet side of the hotel that we also received. Although the room and hotel were air conditioned, the journey from the room to the lift (we were on the 4th floor) no more than 10 yards and the distance from the lift to the foyer a maximum of a further 4 yards, after the single journey of moving our luggage it felt as if somebody turned the tap on from within and I was literally sprinkling water form my bald head. I could not keep it dry and just sat wilting at the breakfast table, such was the extreme humidity. We both had an ample breakfast of orange juices while Linda had some cheeses and I muesli before it was time to go get the taxi to Diagoras Airport.

When we arrived to check-in, the guy initially wrongly thought that our journey ended at Heathrow and therefore only issued and attached baggage tags to the two cases and guitar showing Heathrow as our destination. Linda had already spotted this just before the check-in guy asked Linda if we were flying on any further, to which she replied Edinburgh. He then had to remove the tags already issued in error and replace them with the correct Athens ATH andndash; London LHR andndash; Edinburgh EDI ones. What we didn't notice until slightly later when we sitting at the departure gate, was that he hadn't however issued us with the additional final leg boarding passes from Heathrow to Edinburgh. Linda asked the girl at the boarding gate about the missing passes and she re-assured us that this would be OK, before we walked out across the tarmac and boarded the plane. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side (LHS) of the plane for that wonderful early morning view of Symi from the air, instead being presented the alternative view of the whole of the West and South of Rhodes. Symi may not have been visible anyway, as very soon were going through rain-laden clouds that obscured any view below, these same clouds that may well have been providing her with much-needed rain, as she has not had any real rain for some six months!

We arrived in Athens at around 07:55 with an 08:55 departure, our tickets showing the same flight number and having (with hind sight, stupidly) concluded it was the same plane and that we would just be shunted around the very brief circle of out one door and in the other back to the same plane! No, it was a trot from one end of the terminal building to the other, a journey on which we unfortunately ended up getting penned in behind a squad of stationary soldiers, that were also on internal transfer. With the now loud clock ticking in both our heads we side-stepped them from the cul-de-sac they had created and went on our way through the security checks, fortunately arriving at the gate in plenty of time. On boarding the plane, the captain announced that we would be setting off in around 5 minutes. 5 minutes quickly became 15 with no further announcements made, although the stewardesses had started to distribute orange juices and soft drinks, confirming there was additional delay. After around a further 10 minutes the captain announced there was a delay due to the French Air Traffic Controller's strike and that he would keep us informed. The initial announcements are clearly made in Greek (followed by English) but there was no need to wait for the English translation to know it was bad news, as you could tell from the sighs and groans from the Greeks as it was made, not to mention their body language!! We finally departed just on one hour late, already aware that we only had 1 hour and 25 minutes between flights (had this plane been leaving on time) but also relatively comforted in the knowledge that there were many additional BMI Heathrow to Edinburgh flights later in the day to potentially fall back on.

We arrived into Heathrow airspace to be 'stacked' (that big oval repeated circuit holding pattern) due to the high volume of Heathrow inbound traffic for a further twenty minutes, before finally joining the train of planes bound for Heathrow runway 27L. I had hoped because we were again sitting in a left hand side seat that some compensation for missing the Symi view would be a landing on to Heathrow runway 27R because Linda would have been gifted the opportunity, from her window seat, of the scenic tour down the Thames, with all its icons, The O2 Arena, The London Eye, The House Of Commons and Big Ben etc but alas, not to be as 27L beckoned.

Having landed we had a long taxi to the gate. We were also sitting in seats towards the rear of the plane, that was emptying from the front due to the position of the air bridge, and so were pretty certain that we had no way of meeting the intended departing Edinburgh flight due to leave in a mere twenty two minutes but just at that, the stewardess called over the plane speakers for Linda, myself and another passenger!!! I shouted from the back of the plane, before Linda and I started to struggle our way past the other passengers in our quest for the front, at that point thinking we were getting quickly transferred to the plane we should have been on! The expectations were dashed however on exiting the plane as we were met by a BMI employee who confirmed he had our luggage and handed us boarding passes for the next Edinburgh flight due to leave at 14:25. It was nice to receive confirmation that he had our luggage and although no huge hardship to have to spend an extra two hours at Heathrow Terminal One, still at least a minor irritation as the 'hame heid' is on at that stage and all you want to do on the homeward leg is to get home.

We then had the grand tour of Terminal One past the Biometric Scanners, Scanning of hand baggage etc before we could try and contact the taxi that was due to meet us off the previous flight to take us home to Linlithgow Bridge and who would not have known we were not on it! I was just about to use the laptop to find their number, when Linda found it in her diary. I phoned on the mobile to confirm our delay and the taxi company said it was fine and that they would meet us of from our later plane. The later plane was not delayed and we proceeded as normal to collect our luggage at the baggage carousel. Off came a first case then the guitar then nothing! Linda checked the adjacent carousel, before I went to the International one (vaguest of possibilities!) but nothingandhellip;..so much for confirming that he had our baggage! We went to the BMI baggage help desk where we furnished our boarding pass with the luggage tags and the lady confirmed that she already had a trace, it was sitting at Heathrow and that it would be delivered out to our home, as it was booked on to the next flight. Interestingly, although the trace facility that we were given to INTERNET trace the lost baggage progress showed it as having been delivered on the day of our arrival (Thursday), the case never actually arrived until late Friday night, just as we were going to our bed???

Ah well another holiday in paradise and all's well that ends well.

I have also been sent a mix of a song I was requested to sing called Earthman that I think you might like. The harmonies are great I think!!

On to November!!

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