Friday, June 30, 2006

Entrada Nueve: Knickerless in Manchester

Shameless Tabloid Title! Hola Guys.

I'm here and it's lovely, even though I'm whacked. I calculated that from getting up for work on Wednesday morning, to climbing into my comfortable hotel bed at 12.30 a.m. this Friday morning, I did a 44 hour day yesterday. Licence to ramble more than usual. I'd skip this morning's entrada if I were you, cos I'm writing it all down before I forget it.

Got everything done as hoped, and left work at 2.30 yesterday, having promised poor Habibi Í'd knock off at 2. Had to do it, Habibi! Sorry!!) Big job done! Yay!

Down at Jebel Ali Club at 3 for fish & chips and a pint of the golden apple with Habibi. Pleasant afternoon light shopping. Pleasant evening doing pre-hol household stuff, and relaxed packing while watching 'Rip Girls', Hawaiian teenage surfing rites of passage movie. Creeping realisation that I have to leave Habibi behind - yes I already knew this - which meant that he wasn't coming too - yes I already knew this too - butbutbut 11.00 taxi and time to go butbutbut..... I discovered that it's one thing to go away on my own for a conference or a course, but it's quite another when it's a holiday, even a working holiday. ¡sniff! Soppy bit. (MY blog - I can be soppy about my habibi if I want to!) OK. Done that.

Turkish Airlines have a romantic new advertising campaign on the airwaves (Where else?). I flew budget, so expected basics, and got basics. Basic check-in queue about which desk crew appeared to care very little. But I felt very sorry for this group of nine Indian workers trying to get home to Mumbai. All waving tickets, but nine passengers into five seats will not go. I noticed them because they started off at the Yemenia check-in desk next door. All waiting in a patiently subdued posse as various others talked over and round them, heads turning and holding in group formation like meercats. Poor things. They got moved to the Turkish Airlines desk. Then somewhere else. Who knows.

Not sure what type of plane, but certainly sardine class from Dubai to Istanbul. Pretty upholstery, nice cabin crew, naff food, and if we left 40 mins late due to a late connecting flight, the pilot must have pedalled hard, because we were only 10 mins late landing. (Note: their A/C couldn't cope with tarmac-strength power. We sweltered. Get one of those little handheld fans. A woman two seats ahead of me sat fanning her husband almost throught out the 4 hour + journey, mind you, he struck me as a domineering individual.)

However, time was obviously critical for luggage transfer: letter to Manchester Airport Customer Services

Hello there,

Your Ref.

I flew in from Dubai via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines yesterday and they appear to have left half of my worldly goods sitting on the tarmac en route. TK165/29JUN/TK1993/29JUN. I gather from the very professional and kind red-headed guy who was on customer rescue service yesterday that this is something they do a lot. I suppose the upside is that you get lots of practice at retrieval and return, which gives me hope of being reunited with my underwear in the next twelve hours.

OK. I´m the one that was flying on to Málaga with no forwarding address until I'd found one. Here it is: Pension La Mundial, Hoyo de Esparteros 1. 29005, Málaga

I was told that there are three services to Málaga after T.A. land in Manchester at 12.30 p.m. today. I don´t have a phone, and will be out doing fun stuff today, not sitting in my hotel room letting TA ruin my holiday! The manager knows that I've got a lost bag coming, so please instruct your courier to sign the bag over at reception.

Thank you for your time.

Yours in hope, Mama Duck (Names changed to protect the simple-minded)

Got a bus from the aeropuerto to the central estaçion de autobuses for E1.50, to check that there is a domingo service to Loja. There is, so I'll stay tres noches in Málaga. I bought a map and asked the woman in the shop in execrable español about hostales baratos (cheap). She directed me to those between the estaçion de autobuses and the estaçion de tren (¿¡Are you getting this?!). Useful for Sunday (and for the RENFE service when Habibibaba and I head out for Valencia). I subsided onto a chair at a pavement cafe facing the RENFE station, and studied the map over the very good cafe americano the grumpy owner brought me (Bloody English can't string a simple sentence of Spanish together...).

I decided to ask at a couple of places along that stretch, but thought that I'd probably find winding streets and cheap places in the Centro Historico, quite close to the places I want to visit. €54 a night (about the same in $. App. 250Dhs.) Too much. I folded my map open and started walking, heading for the Puente de Esperanza, which I felt had been put there specially for me. I found Pension la Mundial just across the bridge. All they had was a double room, not a habitaçion individual, but it was only €25 - €75 por tres noches. OK, let´s look further in.

Further into the centro was very handsome, with old buildings refurbished, or in the process, and public sculpture all over the place. There are wide pedestrian areas too. Trees. Space. Husbands and wives walking hand-in-hand and arm in arm, and occasionally giving each other a kiss. A five year old in a pink tutu walking home from ballet class with her mother. People sitting and standing in bars and cafes chatting and laughing. I have noticed how quietly lively this place is. Not rowdy, but wherever you look there are people sitting talking, standing talking, walking and talking.

Not just here. At Manchester Airport (which I liked very much: not glam like Dubai airport, but with more open spaces for people, not broken up into outlets and lounges). It was so alive! Mind you: this was afternoon, and the last time I was there was for a red-eye, and quite different! There were two hen parties there. Beck and her girfriends were en route for a high time in Tenerife, according to their orange tee shirts. Beck´s tee shirt was green, and she had a cute mini veil and tiara for identification purposes. The other bride-to-be was in hot pink, right up to and including her wedding veil, which also featured horns. Don´t know where she and her friends were going, but her sash said they were going for a GIRLS' NITE OUT. It´s going to be some night. Also on the plane was a group of ladies in their 50s, all wearing England flag stetsons trimmed with sequins. One of them had a hot pink feather boa. Odd pink ostrich feathers marked her movements on the plane. Beck and co in 25 years. Great fun.

Good flight with I was brain-dead, but that was ok because I wasn't driving. Lots of photos of clouds, England´s green crazy patchwork broken by classic fluffy white clouds and grey cloud shadows.

Slept over France.

Blue blue Bay of Biscay in holiday mood.

Brown patchwork of Spain.

Moving south above fields and fields of olive trees on mountains and plains. Black dots on more patchwork of tan, rust and beige. Little white rectangles of farmhouses, some with their own reservoirs: circles and rectangles of dark green water. From that height it was like a dot matrix image. Who was it did the pop art? Reminded me of being on a bus with one of those advertising decals on the outside.

Further south and greener, greener, greener, lower, lower, lower. Cloud formations straight out of Roger Dean's portfolio. And now I'm here! I walked for four and a half hours last night, exploring (ok, lost!) carrying a 6.5 kg backpack and another couple of kilos of stuff. Not much, but enough! Good night´s sleep.
Desayuno in a pavement cafe, with Málaga having its own breakfast, buying its lottery tickets, browsing shops, heading for work. All well-groomed, right down to the squawky old lady in floral print who walked stiffly and purposefully across the piazza with her metal crutch, to disappear down a narrow calle on the other side. She reappeared a little later with a wad of lottery tickets clipped together with a wooden clothes peg, and sat down next to an old man on a bench within spitting distance of a Lotto kiosk. Next time somone walked past her, she shouted at him, 'Ayayayay!' She was selling lottery tickets too! Anyway, the memory of breakfast prompts thougts of lunch. I'm on holiday, you know! Loose plan for the afternoon: Alcazabar and the Castillo G. The Arab connection for the new arrival from the Middle East!

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