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Eurostar

I had hoped to have been able to fly myself to Brussels yesterday but the 'summer' weather made this impossible.



With a 24-hour PPR (prior permission) required for the flight plan, I had spent £17.00 on a call to the Met Office to speak to a forecaster for a stronger idea of what Friday morning’s weather might be and I have to confess, he was spot on. Heavy showers and high winds, which forced me to take ‘Plan B’, the Eurostar from Ashford, a convenient, more expensive and longer journey than simply hopping in my aircraft and starting the engine.

What surprised me at the Eurostar check-in at Ashford International Station at 08:45 in the morning was that only one person was on duty, with a row of empty positions next to him. People in the lengthening queue, include me, were starting to mutter with annoyance. After all, at this time of the day, one might have thought that Eurostar might be able to organise more than one ticket desk?

When I finally reached the front of the line, I asked the stressed, middle-aged man behind the desk why he was all alone. “The other person is on breakfast”, he told me, and “we’ve been here since two this morning”. “But only two people to manage the Eurostar rush-hour”, I asked incredulously, “Isn’t that ridiculous”? “We’re always understaffed”, he replied, “We just have to cope”.

The train to Brussels was five minutes late; this is England after all, and although it was a very civilised journey with polite service, I had to beg several times for a cup of coffee, which took roughly half the journey before it arrived and I managed to throw it all over my notes and mobile phone. On arrival in Belgium, Brussels station was only ten minutes away from the restaurant, the Portofino, where I was to have my meeting and on the way home, I just managed to squeeze back on the 4’ O’clock train back to Ashford.

One thing I did notice on the train is that at 300km/hr the GPRS signals from my mobile phone have trouble keeping up. More accurately, I think we were moving so quickly between the cellular masts that my Sony P900 phone was having problems finding a consistent signal to pick up my email ‘On the fly’.

Working my way home from Ashford on my motorcycle via Canterbury, I was horrified to see how bad the traffic congestion problem has become in recent years. Canterbury at rush hour is the equal or worse of the infamous Wandsworth ‘one-way’ system in London and the Deputy Prime Minister urgently needs a sanity check, if he believes that he can squeeze a million more homes into the flood-plain between the two towns. He and his planners are completely out of their minds. The infrastructure and the environment simply won’t accommodate such a grand plan without burying what’s left of the Kent countryside under more concrete.

Anyway, today is Saturday and I was supposed to be revalidating my instrument weather (IMC) rating between Lydd and Le Touquet. A kind of blindfold driving exercise, with a friendly but frequently sarcastic examiner in the right seat, as I make attempts to shoot instrument approaches onto a runway on instruments alone. The weather has however struck again and there’s a howling gale outside, so the exercise is cancelled until Tuesday, which is fine by me. The low cloud would be fine but the wind would make it very difficult indeed and I’d probably end up back at Brussels by mistake, so instead, I'll try and pedal my mountain bike along the sea wall to Reculvers against the gale.

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