Well, that's 2004 over and done with. Here's for a decent 2005 for everyone...
For a total change of pace and tone, I'm going to revert to telling you about my own life, instead of hectoring you and demanding your money.... at least for now.... I'm not making this a resolution or anything - I don't believe in them - there may well be more politics to come. For now though, I present for your enjoyment, another stressful episode from my life....
My elder brother and his wife are coming up for dinner tomorrow. They live in Prestwick in Scotland, and have been spending Christmas and New Year with my parents. My younger brother is getting married this weekend in Worthing on the south coast, so rather than head back up to Scotland, they are hanging around this week so they can go directly to the wedding rather than up to Scotland and back down again (they must have more patience than me to spend this long with my mum and dad - I went stir crazy after 3 days back at home).
They got married in August 2004 but as the bride is from South Korea, there will be another ceremony in Seoul in May this year. The good news is that the Koreans take family very seriously, and so my presence will be expected. Shame, eh?
The trip is still five months away, but my dad seems quite anxious to get the dates of our trip to Korea and the flights and everything sorted as quickly as possible. Just before C. and I headed off back up to Nottingham on Sunday night, I was compelled to show my dad the best places on the internet to hunt around for cheap flights (well, no one made me, but seeing my dad groping blindly around on the KLM website forced my hand). A quick scoot around places like travelocity, cheapflights.co.uk and expedia and I soon decided that the best deal was to be had from travelbag.co.uk- which is where C. and I booked our trip to Australia last January. Seeing what was available only made my dad more eager to get it all booked, so with my dad's anxious presence over my shoulder, I checked out the various options travelbag had for flying out to Seoul in May. My dad is pretty internet and computer literate for someone approaching his 60s (he has a wireless LAN and about 3 computers) but he seems to have a fear of internet commerce, for some reason, and was keen to have me around when we made the transaction. Anyway, we had a close look at the KLM flights via Amsterdam, but settled on the Lufthansa flights via Hamburg. So far, so good. My brother and his wife would be flying out in advance, so I was looking to book 6 tickets: 4 going out for a fortnight (my mum, my dad, me and C.), and 2 for a week (my younger brother and his wife-to-be). I booked the first 4, and it all seemed to go through alright. Excellent.
Then I had a closer look at the confirmation. Shit. Shit. For some reason, the system had decided to book up the KLM flight instead of the Lufthansa flight I wanted (I had the KLM details open in a different window, and I think it was something to do with the session cookie being transferred as I completed the transaction, but to be honest, I could also have confirmed in the wrong internet explorer window...). Bugger.
Not the end of the world, as the flight was going to the same place for basically the same price, but was mildly more inconvenient and anyway, we had settled on the Lufthansa flights... no joy with the helpdesk though because it was a bank holiday and about 8pm in the evening.
My dad of course was anxious - that was £2000-odd worth of flights....
We left to come back to Nottingham, reassuring him that we had a travelbag store in town, and would pop in on Monday and sort it all out (we are covered by the consumer credit act, which means that we should have the legal right to cancel the transaction). Today we popped into the shop, only to be told (relatively rudely, I thought) that they had nothing to do with the internet site and we would have to call them. Sigh. Had to ring my dad to get all the confirmation numbers and things, and then rang the number, which turned out (inevitably) to be a call centre in India. Explained my story.
"Sorry sir. Nothing we can do"
"Well there must be - it was your website that made the mistake"
"Well, the Frankfurt flight must have been booked up, so it picked an alternative"
"No - I checked the Frankfurt flight and it was fine"
"well, your booking with KLM is fine"
"but I don't want to fly with KLM, I want to fly with Lufthansa"
"let me check"
"I can cancel it for £175 per person"
"That's not us - that's an airline charge"
"Can you put me through to your supervisor please?"
"She'll only tell you the same thing"
"Well, I'd like to hear it from her"
After a short pause, I was put through to the supervisor, who simply said she would cancel the card transaction with no fee. Excellent. I decide to complete the rest of the booking with a person in the Travelbag shop - only to discover that they were charging £100 extra for the same flight. Internet it is then.
Sigh. Fine - I'll look for an internet cafe. Apparently Nottingham is not blessed with them. Try Debenhams and find 2 terminals (one broken). Queue to buy a token, to be told that they don't allow online transactions (why on earth not?). Apparently the only other option is McDonalds (huh?). We buy a token there and then discover it doesn't load the travelbag page properly. This is great.
I'm getting a bit pissed off with this. I can't get these bloody flights booked, I want to do some other shopping (joy of joys, we're buying a kitchen..... as if my day wasn't going well enough already), and my dad keeps on ringing me to ask me questions. Decide it can wait until I get home. I didn't want to get tied up in this in the first bloody place, and now it is causing me aggravation.
A couple of hours later, I get home and park myself in front of my PC and broadband connection. The price comes up the same as it did on Sunday night, and I check it through with my dad and, in spite of some background noise from my mum ("have they cancelled the other one yet?") make the transaction. Finally. Now I can go for a swim and have my tea.
oh hang on.... wishful thinking....
"Can you book the flights for your younger brother and George?"
"But the credit card holder has to be one of the passengers" (he and his wife-to-be are planning to come back on an earlier flight)
Turns out there is a form you need to fax to travelbag to let them complete the transaction - so I email the form to my dad to fill out and talk him through what he needs to do. I then book the flights for my younger brother, and ring my dad with an update.
"Done it. But I've booked George [his wife-to-be, allergic to nuts] a standard meal as nut-free wasn't an option. She'll need to ring them and change it"
"Could you ring her and tell her"
"but I don't have her number...."
and so on, and so forth.
I am very much looking forward to getting out to Korea and embracing my new family and their culture, but if this is a glimpse of what it is going to be like being cooped up in a plane for 15 hours and then spending 2 weeks in close proximity with my family.... well..... I'm a bit nervous.
Thank God for my IPod and my noise eliminating headphones.
Ah well, back to work tomorrow - that'll bring my blood pressure down.
I've just made a compilation CD for a colleague of mine at work, who was kind enough to do the same for me just before Christmas. Sounds like an odd thing to be doing, but we have been chatting about music for a while now and I have just helped him get all sorted with his new IPod. He's 40-something, but he is a mancunian and has impeccable taste in music - bands like Joy Division, the Buzzcocks and The Cure.
I opted for:
Walk Idiot Walk - The Hives
Helicopter - Bloc Party
Cut Your Hair - Pavement (but only because "Range Life" wouldn't fit)
It's A Sight to Behold - Devendra Banhart
Lost In the Plot - The Dears
Freakin' Out - Graham Coxon
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
Black Dollar Bills - Hope of the States
PDA - Interpol
Reason is Treason - Kasabian
Come to Me - Mark Lanegan feat. P.J. Harvey
Your Sweet Voice - Reindeer Section
Mathilde - Scott Walker
Hounds of Love - The Futureheads
His CD to me was full of older classics - the cure, Lou Reed, Joy Division etc. I was aiming to get a more contemporary feel without scaring him off. I've already turned him onto The Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol this year, so I hope he likes some of this stuff.
What do you think? I like it, but I'm biased. Reckon it works??