I got a new computer thingy!  Hurray!  Time for my first blog post on it…

This summer, around the time of my birthday, I was in Athens.  I had emailed R, D’s boyfriend (and my unofficial tech support guy) to ask him for advice about buying a mini laptop.  I know these things have a proper technical name like notebook, or netbook or whatever, but I use the words that I know, and this here is a mini laptop.

I emailed him the day before amazon prime day on the off-chance that there would be a deal to be had.  He did some research for me, and came up with a couple of choices, I looked at them both with my cousin D, (also a computer expert) and went for the prettiest one.

I am easy to please, people, I don’t have many requirements or enough knowledge to know the difference.

Here’s why I thought I needed one:  the laptop I have now is great and works fine (I think it can hear me and I don’t want to anger the beast).  Although it is a laptop, it is rather big and difficult to carry around.  I can’t carry things at the best of times, but whenever I have to take my computer anywhere, I seriously contemplate breaking out the wheeled suitcase.  I think it probably weighs in excess of 5 kgs, which isn’t much in the general scheme of things, but feels like more and more the longer you hold it.  The long and the short of it is that I can’t carry it around.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem.  I am not someone who needs her laptop with her all the time for work or whatever.  But I did have a problem when I was travelling.  Firstly, I am waiting around a lot when I travel and this is when the urge to write strikes.  And as a shameless people watcher, the airport and the plane is where one can observe people at their most natural.  It is also a time when there is literally nothing else to do.  You are trapped in the airport/departure lounge/airplane until something happens.  If there is a better time to write or a better way to pass the time, I can’t think of it.

Anyway, I found myself carting around notebooks and pens in my bag and writing (remember those days?  When writing involved the use of a pen and actual paper?) wherever I was. This not only made my bag heavy (see above for inability to carry things) but also it added a step to the whole process.  Write it out in longhand, bring it home, copy it into a word document – tweak it and publish it.  (I am such a modern blogger, me.)

What has ended up happening is that I have several unfinished pieces in various notebooks, in various countries and/or handbags and haven’t gotten around to writing them out.  I also get huge crises of confidence and often convince myself it wasn’t as interesting/funny as I had originally thought.  In short, I needed something that would work for me when I was on the go.  Also, this summer has been nothing short of spectacular in London (except for the two weeks while I was away in Greece (smug smirk)) and this means that I can now take my mini laptop and go out to the beautiful park behind my house and write outside as nature intended.

So.  That is what I was thinking.  Nothing fancy, just something practical, and light, that can run a word processing programme.  Oh and nothing touch screen.  I have goofy thumbs, and fat fingers and typing an entire blog post on a touch screen would be nothing short of torturous and would also end up reading like some sort of profanosaurus ™ with the dreaded autocorrect butting in where it isn’t needed.  I typed funny not sunny you stupid machine.  Also, just because you don’t recognise the name, it doesn’t mean you have to change it to something else.  Why can’t you just trust that there is someone out there called Eleni?  Must you change it to Else I? When I say I have taken Panadols, I mean Panadols.  Not Parasols.  People now think I am stupid thanks to you…

Not only did R do all of the research, he also bought me the mini laptop, which completely bowled me over – (Thanks again, R) and so here we are.

Anyway, I digressed.  I started writing this ages ago, put this down and started another one, and of course since I wrote that this summer has been spectacular in London, the sun packed a bag and pootled off to parts unknown.  It has been warmish, but generally grey and sometimes rainy.  Curses! Will I never learn about tempting fate? (Shakes fist at sky)

So some more time has passed and now I am actually on a plane writing on my mini laptop.  Exciting stuff!  The seatbelt sign is on at the moment as there is what they call mild turbulence.  I don’t mind turbulence so much, but use of the word mild seems to be the form.  It doesn’t matter what the turbulence is like, the Aegean pilots always refer to it as mild.  I remember Olympic pilots being the same.  Maybe somebody told them that the word for turbulence in English is mildturbulence.  At the moment, the turbulence is mild, but earlier it was the opposite of mild (Wild? Severe? Harsh? Spicy?). Either way, the lady next to me is praying to herself and gripping the arm rests as if they are going to save her.  She has turned to the person next to her by the window and is asking him why he thinks there is turbulence.  At this point, I am glad that she has not asked me because I might have to start theorising, and no one wants that.


Cartoon from The Far Side, by Gary Larson.

The people around me all have their quirks as usual.  The lady sitting behind me is wearing a fur lined parka zipped up to her chin, and is coughing, sneezing and moaning her way through the flight.  She has my sympathies, I have travelled sick before and it is never pleasant, but tomorrow or the day after, when I develop her cold, I will be cursing her and my sympathy will have evaporated.  In front of me there is a lady who is watching a film on her laptop.  Unfortunately, she is watching it without headphones.  That is rudeness.  There is no excuse.  I remember going onto a flight once and a little girl sat a few rows in front of us playing some sort of Dora the Explorer singalong DVD at top volume.  Her parents were approached by the airline staff and other passengers, they were even offered headphones.  The response was:

“Oh we have headphones, but [insert cutesy nickname here] doesn’t like to wear them.”

I think all of us spent the first half of the flight wishing the batteries would die on her laptop and the second half of the flight singing along.

Incidentally, the guy sitting by the window on my left who has been asked why there is turbulence, and been shown all of the photos on the lady’s phone, has now taken his phone to the bathroom where I assume he will spend the next half hour rocking backwards and forwards on the toilet.  His face was reminiscent of any of the people Ted Striker bored to death in the Airplane films.

Things seem to have calmed down for the moment.  I would like to tell you about my journey to the airport.

I am a nervous traveller.  I mean, I am not nervous about the mechanics of flying, but more about the logistics of it.  I don’t like to be late to the airport.  And by that I mean, I do like to be early to the airport.  So if my flight is at say 4:30, and I have checked in online and my boarding pass says latest bag drop at 15:50, I leave my place at 14:00 because it is a 45 minute car journey and that gives me plenty of time to sit around at the airport and observe people, but also because once I am at the airport, the part of the journey that I can control is over and so I am immediately much more relaxed.

So I booked a cab yesterday, for 2pm.  I did my bit and was ready, suitcases packed and at the door when the cab came.  It was a Nigerian guy who seemed nice enough and immediately announced where we were going.  This was a good start, as many times, I get into a pre-booked cab and they don’t know where we are going.  So Heathrow Terminal 2 here we come.

First thing he does is plug it into the satnav.  Then he commits a rookie error and follows the satnav onto Baker Street and instead of turning off at Melcombe Street and avoiding the gridlock that is the 100 yards outside Baker Street Station, he decides to keep going and turn right onto Marylebone Road.  8 traffic light changes later, we are on Marylebone Road.  Annoying but not a disaster, we continue on onto the A40 Flyover.  At some point he fiddles with the satnav and then turns off towards Shepherds Bush.  I know this is sounding like a London route finder app but seriously there is only one circumstance in which you get off the flyover at that point, and that is if the A40 is chocca.  It wasn’t.

I am still calm – if a little irritated at this point.  When we got to the shepherds bush roundabout though, and it was congested, my irritation levels went up a notch or two.  After sitting for 10 minutes in crawling traffic, he turns off the road into a petrol station.  We queue for 10 minutes to get petrol, all the while he hasn’t said a word and I am fuming. He finally rolls up to the pump, puts £10 worth in, buys himself a drink and a snack and gets back into the car.

“Sorry Yeah?” he says. “You are late?”

“I hope not,” I said, at my most passive aggressive.

We turn back out of the petrol station and into the crawling traffic.  At this point it is 2:30.  The journey is still redeemable, if we can get out of the gridlock.  We sit in it for another 15 minutes, and then he fiddles with the satnav and turns off the road and speeds up these back streets.  Only to come to another grinding halt behind Hammersmith.  Hammersmith Bridge was closed, so the traffic was at a complete standstill.

“This London” he says, “It is so busy”

I took a deep breath and counted to 10.

After 20 minutes, we finally arrived at the exit for the M4.

“Traffic too bad.” he says “This London.”

I snapped.  “This would have been avoidable, this is because we are driving through town because you had to put petrol in your car.”

“What time is your flight?” he asks.

“I have to be at the airport at 3pm I said.  This is a 45 minute journey.  It is already after 3 and we are only halfway there.”

He sighed and rolled his eyes.

Sighed and rolled his eyes!!

Like I was annoying him.

Finally we got past the Hogarth roundabout and the traffic began to move.  He drove like a bat out of hell.  I sat in the back texting with D as she tried to distract me and calm me down.

I texted her saying that at least we were moving now and would be there in no time.

Then he took the wrong exit off the motorway. (see above for tempting fate, honestly, I deserve everything I get)

“We’re going to Terminal 2 yes?”  I said, alarmed.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said fiddling with the satnav. “This is the way.”

“Are you sure?  I think this is the way to Terminal 4.  We have to go round this roundabout and get back onto the motorway, it is the next exit.”

“No, no. This is the way.”

Just then we saw a big sign saying Heathrow Airport Terminal 4.

“Oh no,” he says. “This is not the right way.  This is the way to Terminal 4.  You were right yeah?”

“Yeah.” I replied.  “Follow the roundabout and get back onto the A4.  It’s the next exit off there.”

Finally, finally, we get to the airport.

“How much?”  I asked him.

“What did they tell you at the office?”

The truth is, I had forgotten to ask.  I erred on the side of lower than I thought.

“£30” I said.


I gave him the £30 and no more.  I took my suitcase and ran into the terminal.  Remember my boarding pass said last time for dropping off 15:50?

It was 15:40.  I ran up to the machine, put in my details, printed out my luggage label, stuck it on whilst in the queue and dropped it off at 15:48.

“You’re cutting it fine,” said the check-in person.

“I know, sorry.  It took longer to get here than I thought.”

I went through security, (fortunately in a different queue than the 10 Japanese Tourists who were busy drinking flasks full of coffee so as not have to throw them away – theirs would be an uncomfortable flight after mainlining 750ml of coffee beforehand) and made it to the gate as the flight was boarding.

I got on the plane and found myself surrounded by the interesting people I have described above.

After the announcement about coming in to land, I closed up the laptop and shut it down as per the instructions of the cabin crew.

As we were a few minutes from landing, the lady next to me’s phone starts ringing.

She scrabbled about trying to get it out of her handbag, looking embarrassed.  I assumed that she would switch it off.

She answered it.

I don’t know why I was so gobsmacked really, Greeks answer their phones wherever they are – the cinema, funerals, operating theatres, regular theatres, the sea, they all answer their phones whatever happens.

“Yes! “ she stage-whispered. “I’m in the air! Why are you calling me now?!!” Like it is the caller’s fault for forcing her to answer her phone, rather than her own fault for bloody answering it.

“We are nearly landing, oh wait – here we are…”

The plane landed and the head of the cabin crew said:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Athina, Eleftherios Venizelos Airport….”

Exactly right, I thought.  Welcome to Greece.

On the plus side, after my tension-inducing ride to the airport, I realised why some people leave it to the last minute.  I got off the plane, walked through security and as I approached the conveyer belt for my flight, my suitcase was there waiting to be picked up.  Last one in first one out, I thought that was a myth.

Oh well, every cloud…