Having arrived a little earlier than planned from my Johannesburg inbound flight, I deposited my laden suitcase at the Excess Baggage Company, who kindly agreed to look after it overnight for an exorbitant fee. However, this was conditional on me identifying some miscellaneous item they discovered on the x-ray as suspicious. Unable to do so, since I wasn’t aware of packing any suspicious items (I mean it’s not as though I behave or look like a potential ISIS recruit), this resulted in me having to remove the luggage glove, unlock the padlocks and rummage around in full view of the queue of surrounding and curious customers, only to locate an old cellphone (it was for my mother).
Anyhow, this done, I managed to deposit my bags, allowing me to more easily and nimbly catch the tube into London and dinner with dear friends (you know who you are), that had arrived from South Africa a few days before.
A brisk stroll through Earls Court (which I last visited about 40 years ago for the Ideal Home Exhibition… do they still have that?), and we arrived at a lovely little Lebanese restaurant called Orjowan for dinner. In our inimitable fashion (if you know the people involved, you’ll know exactly what I mean), we managed to mangle our order and ended up eating an odd concoction of meze, followed by a rice pudding that didn’t seem to be made of rice, but included a whole bough of orange blossom. It tasted wonderful.
You might be asking yourself, what was the whole point of this overnight detour? Well, besides spending time together with those same dear SA friends, which is always wonderful, it was to wait for the arrival of my son and heir who was landing the following morning from Amsterdam. Now, please don’t ask me why we had to be on separate flights, it’s far too complicated to recount here, but suffice to say that we never manage to do things the easy way.
The next morning, having caught the tube, well 2 tube trains actually, and retrieved my luggage from the kind (and now friendlier, since I had been identified as NOT from ISIS), people at the Excess Baggage Company (who then tried to rip me off by pretending to forget to give me my £10 change), I caught a bus to terminal 4. Yep, we were not only on different flights, but helpfully arranged to arrive at different, and far distant, terminals.
Once there, it became apparent that the KLM flight was delayed, so I decided to pass the time at Costa coffee next to the arrival’s reception.
Now, I don’t know why it is, other than to confuse me, but lots of these coffee-type places seem to try to deceive us non-coffee drinking customers by offering seemingly non-coffee drinks that actually do have coffee in them. I simply cannot work out why they do this, as it’s really annoying if you don’t actually like coffee. And so it was that, after browsing the menu, I came to order a vanilla coconut latte… and please could they put it into one of those thermal branded flask things that my daughter beseeched me to bring back for her, even though she already has one.
Being a fool, I of course obediently did as I was told. This meant that I didn’t detect any hint of an unpleasant coffee smell until I unwittingly lifted said branded thermal flask thing to my lips, sighed in glorious expectation of a lovely warm, creamy drink, only to get an entire gob full of coffee…. eugh!
Now you may say to yourself, “well it is a coffee shop, what did you expect?” “Well,” I would hypothetically respond, “it was not on the list of coffee choices, but rather with the list of non-coffee drinks”, where I imagine those Costa people hide it to fool us non-coffee drinkers and hopefully convert us.
I really hate coffee, and am adamantly and absolutely not convertible. I am however, also made of stronger stuff than that, so I braced myself and consumed the entire flask of that noxious stuff. Well, it did cost me £3.75 after all, and I wasn’t about to make an ass of myself and tell them that I didn’t expect it to have coffee in it!
Fortunately, and before I could manage any further episodes, the said son and heir arrived and we set off to retrieve the hire car. This involved first getting to terminal 2 and then to one of 5 identical Holiday Inn hotels located on the perimeter of the airport. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to do this though the warren of underground tunnels, escalators and lifts they have on offer, but suffice to say that if Heathrow ever need anyone to provide a thorough assessment of the efficacy of their signage, I’m your man (or woman)!
An hour or so later we finally, extricated ourselves from the bowels of Heathrow, a bus system comprising a fleet of buses with similarly unamused and laconic bus drivers, and an equally unimpressed car hire company, we finally set off at 3.30pm for the long drive to Scotland.