Above and Beyond

Thirty-six thousand feet above the desert of Saudi Arabia and I'm reading Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms' Love war and wounds in the Italy of the First World War. If you haven't read it you should G.

There are parallels with my great grandfather who also volunteered to become an ambulance driver for the Belgian army in 1914 before the British had even arrived.

In front of me, in the space between the aircraft galley and the toilet, and old gentleman is knelt on a worn green prayer mat, praying in the direction of Mecca. He finishes and his place is taken by a much larger and equally devout Arab, who a young woman wearing a headscarf on, steps quietly around as she opens the cublicle door.

The day should have started smoothly; after all, a first class ticket on any airline should ease the pain of modern travel. In my case events didn't run strictly to plan, as my ticket hadn't been paid for in full at the client end. A mix-up, I was assured but no ticket, no seat.

This was all because the client Government had upgraded me on a fully-booked flight to make sure I would arrive in time for my presentation on Monday morning but the ticketing desk at Heathrow had heard this all before and I watched as two Arab diplomats were turned away from the same flight. They were from another country, Morocco I think but the story was the same.

Fortunately for me at least, the airline still had the booking for the original Business Class flight I was booked on for Monday and offered me a seat and so I assume some poor soul was shunted-off the flight to make way for me.

When I finally boarded flight 103, an elderly Filipino woman was comfortably settled in my seat. She had an Economy ticket but had decided she preferred the view from 5F and claimed her heart condition wouldn't allow her to move further down the cabin. Eventually, the flight attendants managed to convince her that seat 18G would arrive at the same time as 5F and so she shuffled off down the cabin, taking my collection of business class goodies with her.

A little later having arrived at the Kuwait Sheraton, I'm glad I bought some large cigars at Heathrow. My old friend, one of the country's Minister's greeted me as I arrived, and I remembered his weakness for Havanna tobacco, reaching into my bag and offering him one immediately.

Steve Ballmer is making the opening address on Microsoft's vision of eGovernment in the morning, so I'm completely taken by surprise. My presentation title is also somewhat diferent to the one I have prepared, so I expect to be burning the midnight oil.


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