Saturday, July 29, 2006

Safe and Sound in Engerland

Phew, made it! Not that I didn't think I would, but it was an incredibly long trip. From leaving my apartment at 1 a.m. till meeting my buddy at Manchester Airport was fifteen hours - the first few hours of which were spent hanging around at Dubai Airport being awake when I should have been asleep.

Note to self: don't use Turkish Airlines on this route again. Not that there's anything wrong with Turkish - I've flown with plenty worse airlines. I hadn't realised that Istanbul was so far from Dubai - it was five hours, and then almost four for the second leg to Manchester.

I bought a beer at Istanbul Airport. Paid with a ten pound note. Got a five-dollar bill and some Euro coins as change (anything's better than a few million Turkish Lira!).

Arriving at Manchester almost killed me. I had to walk about a mile through non-airconditioned, airless corridors. No trolleys anywhere, and no travelators. Spoilt Dubai brat I am.

For the first time in many many years, UK Passport Control not only actually looked at my passport, they entered the number into a computer!

I was mildly astonished to see my suitcase turn up on the carousel at Manchester, and headed off down the green channel past swarms of customs officers and cops. The last one of this gaggle wanted a little chat. He wondered where I was going, and very helpfully checked my ticket to Spain to make sure it was OK. He completely overlooked the 2 litres of spirits in my Dubai Duty Free bag (I read on the way through that you are still only allowed 1 litre if you are coming from outside the EU, although for some peculiar reason the allowance is ten litres if you're arriving from inside the EU).

And so to Liverpool. A tour of a few pubs, a Post Office and a noodle house before I faded out and retired for an 'early night' - about 8pm GMT but midnight for my body clock.

And why the rush for the Post Office? My buddy needed to renew his Road Tax. All Brit motorists have to pay 125 quid a year for the privilege of driving on the skinny, congested strips of potholed tarmac that they call roads in the UK. Without an up-to-date Tax Disc you cannot renew your insurance. And without insurance, in Merseyside at least, this is what happens:

Your car is clamped. If you cannot immediately pay the release charges and fix your insurance status, the car is impounded. If the car is worth more than three thousand pounds, the Police sell it and keep the proceeds. If it is worth less than three thousand, they crush it! Amazing - no court proceedings, no appeal, no nothing. We drove past Merseyside Police HQ where we saw a collection of half-a-dozen impounded vehicles on display outside. Sadly today there were no crushed car cubes to be seen. Apparently the number of untaxed, uninsured vehicles on the roads has plummeted!

So, a full day in Scouserland today, and then an early flight to Valencia tomorrow.