Monthly Archives: September 2011

Shitty Roses in Southern Spain

Is it good luck – or bad?

Yesterday when I left Portugal I thought I should be smart and fill up across the border in Spain as it’s about 5 cents a litre less.  The fuel warning Light came on somewhere around Faro I guess and the needle was nowhere near the bottom so I passed Olhào without a thought, over the river and into Spain.  Missed the first turn off for fuel but checked the gauge and it was still fine.

Yep, you guessed it – dead car at 80mph in southern Spain.  You may call it stupid, you may even call it unlucky – but for me, it was a stroke of pure good luck of the best sort.  The car managed to conk out less than half a K from the gas station that I had just missed. Jumped out, fluorescent orange bib on, 1st warning triangle at 100 metres, 2nd at 200 metres, left my phone number in the window and went for a little hike – just like clockwork.  Bought a 20 litre jerry can, filled it up and hauled it back to the motor, poured in the contents and she fired up straight away!  Less than half an hour lost!

I kept the can and refilled it at the next fuel stop too – just in case.  Now here’s a thing for any of you trend setters that drive 75’s like me – the gauge was nowhere near the bottom, and the engine just cut out without warning, stutter, judder, loss of power – nothing.  It went dead so quickly that I was looking in the rear view mirror to see what engine components of mine were bouncing their way along the Andalucian highway – but it was all good, just out of fuel.

Finally managed to get rid of that old dog too – the Mondeo sold on wednesday for the princely sum of  800€ – thats about 1/10 th of what it owes me.

Good run up to Brussels overnight – only managed to get flashed by 1 speed camera this time.  SatNav had me all over the place though.  Sometimes it would tell you to turn off the motorway, go half a mile down the road, make a U turn and get back on the motorway – all for no reason.  Another time, it gave me a screen shot of the distance being too far to calculate.  Strange I thought – but then it hit me, it is after all Lana’s satnav – so it is American.  Being American it is not used to going any further than two blocks because you can find a drive thru, KFC, Pizza Hut and Gun Shop all within 2 blocks of home.  Thankfully I knew the way roughly anyway.  Is it just me but if you ignore the satnav directions, does the voice sound a little ‘disappointed’ when she has to tell you she is ‘Recalculating’?

There was one point on the trip in southern france due to a motorway closure, I found myself in a dead end car park in a small french village after listening to the satnav for instructions – I was not alone, there were 4 other cars there too.

Spain – let’s talk about Spain. I am fully aware I have a spanish subscriber (olà christina !) but I am going to give those spanish drivers a good old dressing down.  What a bunch of fuck heads! – They drive like they are late for an appointment with the grim reaper.  Leave a space between you and the car in front, they’re in it in a flash.  Leave a space big enough for two cars – and a truck will be there before you can blink.  80mph and so close to your back bumper that you can’t see the numberplate or front lights of their car in your rearview mirror.  Having spent some time in Mallorca and ‘studied’ their driving skills, I did wonder if it was just an Island thing (cue music from ‘Deliverance’) but nope – surely they can’t be inbred on the mainland too ?

But now let me make amends – Spain, oh Spain – is such a beautiful country to drive across. I always head into Seville before turning north to Madrid, Burgos and then into Basque country.  Seville is only around 7 metres above sea level but once you get north of Madrid, expect 1500 metres in the mountains – just stunning.  It gets better though, the further north you go – Basque country is waiting and that my friends – has to be done at first morning light for the best scenery in Europe.

Sadly – due to my planning – it was pitch black when I got to Basque territory – but next time, I promise.  In fact, next time will be early January so might even be a snow covered trip by then.  I did reel off a few photos while I was, ahem, driving – will add them shortly so remember to take a look.

I did also manage to see the Eiffel Tower today.  It was way over in the distance as I joined the ‘Peripherique’ which is Paris’ answer to the M25 but considerably less classy as you would expect from a nation that eats so much cheese! (Ooh – Magali, I wonder if you are reading this too?) – I say managed, purely because it was covered and obscured by pollution and smog.  It was hard to believe that people view Paris as the most romantic city in the world as I starred through the gloom.  I think I would rather catch the National Express up to Scunthorpe.

Now the French drivers were a world apart, and dare I say it, almost as equally skilled and thoughtful as us Brits.  They don’t pinch your safety space, if you indicate to pull out, they wont accelerate to close off your gap – more likely to move out into lane 3 to give you more room, all in all, a rather splendid drive through France.  Now France is a Beauty too but not a patch on Spain.

Thankfully, there weren’t many Portuguese drivers around for the trip – they do find it hard to get the donkey and cart up to the minimum speed required for Europe`s motorways.

It’s time for me to shower now, I have to pick the woman up from the airport soon but please can I leave you with a little thought.

Remember when petrol first started getting expensive – it used to be displayed in cost per gallon but that would never have really hid the truth now would it, so ‘in line’ with decimilisation that happened a little over 40 years ago, we switched.  so instead of paying near 2 pounds per gallon, we are paying around 1.50 per litre which on the face of it makes it much easier to swallow doesn’t it?  Now convert it over – and you will be around 6.80 per gallon

Now – if that doesn’t get the conspiracy theorists going, this will

Compare the cost of a litre of fuel to a litre of bottled water from the supermarket – I bet you, you all happily pay more for a litre of water from the supermarket than you do for a litre of fuel from the same supermarket.

If you could get fuel out of your tap at home for free, would you still go to the supermarket and buy it ?

 

 

Shower time – I need to trim my ball bag

 

 


Palma de Mallorca

I saw on the plane that a classic movie has recently undergone a remake.  I am shocked, I find it hard to imagine that anyone could improve on the original ‘Footloose’.  Can any one really do better than Kevin Bacon – I think not

Smart Car users – remember to apply the handbrake.  As an automatic, I normally just pop the gearbox into ‘P’ and walk away.  This I did yesterday with my Smart rental car only to watch it start rolling backwards as I locked the door.  Thankfully, it weighs as much as an empty crisp packet so I could hold it while i opened the door and put the hand brake on.  There is no ‘P’ function on the gearbox, just neutral or reverse. Leaving it in neutral without the handbrake on will not hold it on a hill – please remember this if you ever drive one.

I have been lucky enough to get my discharge book stamped  so all in all a good trip.  I also picked up a months work in January on a race boat called ‘Open Season’ so straight back from Costa Rica to Mallorca in January.  All in all, a good visit, well worth the spend to get here.

I did bag the cheapest hotel on the island – after all , I am tighter than a ducks butt – but it is cheap for a reason.  75 pounds for 3 nights, I wasn’t expecting too much and I was right to think so.  You get what you pay for anywhere in the world.

I also managed to catch a classic episode of ‘Cheers’ on the plane – I had long forgotten how funny that programme was, living proof that the states can give us europeans some good tv – I don’t class baywatch as good tv.

Managed to catch up with a few chums while I am here too.  Tall Paul, Mick and Cat, Mark Durham, Nigel, English Harry, Absolute Neil, Miles and a quick skype with Tom.

So back to Portugal tomorrow and am also giving serious consideration to bailing out immediately and heading for belgium.  My concentration is struggling at the moment and I need to study hard until I get to England.

Just need to get rid of that bloody Mondeo.


Closing Chapter

One I am glad to see the back of in fact – that bloody Mondeo.  Bought it just over a year ago on eBay for the princely sum of 4 grand.  Drove it to portugal, used it for a bit , then tried to improve it, to stop it smoking too much – that, was my downfall.

Almost a year later and now around 8 grand out of pocket, I have decided to sound the death knell for the damn thing, not out of spite or expense but purely because we just can’t find out what is wrong with it.  To add insult to injury, it’s not just mine that suffered.  I started searching the internet forums for TDCI mondeo problems – cyberspace is full of them, full of horror stories and unbelievable tales of even Ford dealers not being able to fix them. I even sent it to a Ford dealer in Portimao for their input but that proved as much use as wiping my arse with used,heavily soiled toilet paper.  After reading so many peoples problems, I was left wondering how Ford not only managed to sell so many of these things but also how they have managed not to get bad press about them – a 6 year old car shouldn’t have so many problems – worse still, so many six year old cars shouldn’t.

So, it’s back on eBay, with a very honest and frank description.  Now this surprises me, after just 2 days, over 500 page views, 70 odd people ‘watching’ it and 8 bids – so I might get some money back after all.

Now I can solely concentrate on my studies again.

My Seaman’s discharge book has arrived.  No, before you ask, it’s not a record of how much I ejaculate over the course of a month – think of it more like a passport for boat people (and I don’t mean illegal immigrants either).  I should have got it many years ago but I never thought how important it was – but now I have it.

So my battle for self improvement continues – Also looks like Costa Rica for christmas and new year, the missus has managed to talk me into it.  I am also seeing if I can stay a little longer over there and complete my Dive Instructor tickets – not bloody cheap though, another 4 grand leaving the bank account.  I might have to park it for a little while as there may be some movement on the house in November – all hell could break loose, decisions on that soon.

It’s good to blog with a beer and a Bohemia but soon I will be back in Belgium on that ‘Chimay Blue’.  Stand by for a flurry of activity

 

 

 


Mr. Wendal – A man, a human in flesh but not the law !

That was a fun weekender – Mallorca in August, a first for me.  The Jones picked a rather splendid spot on the side of the mountains to host his little ‘soiree’ overlooking the hustle and bustle of Palma.

And boy was it hot!  Until the evening came and we all cooled off a little – better still, as midnight approached me and Tall Paul went for the strip off and into the pool – shortly followed by a cascade of various other guests – guys and galls alike.  It was great to see some old faces and friends too – it has been almost 2 years since I have spent any serious time there. Its also fair to add that his bride was absolutely stunning, and I don’t say that often.  It’s one of the oldest clichés for me, brides and new born babies looking great – in fact , most of the time it’s not the case – especially the babies, they can be really ugly.

So for the second time in a month, I have worn trousers and a shirt – weddings and funerals only !

Got that out of the way, so lets move on.  Brussels Airlines it seems I owe an apology. They have in fact followed the rules with regard to delayed flights – if your flight is delayed, you get food vouchers and phone calls and that’s it.  I trolled through the EU directive and realised they were in fact telling the truth so I have duly sent my apologies. I may accept their kind offer of 5000 flight miles added to my account – 5000 miles, now here’s the other con.  It doesn’t actually mean you can fly for 5000 miles, it probably means 100 miles in real terms but a little something is better than a kick in the soft eye.

Also need to update the previous post which I found in my draft folder over the weekend.  It looks like it has been sitting there for 3 months. I know this because it mentioned my troublesome Mondeo being in the garage for 9 months when in fact September will be the first anniversary of it’s arrival there.  I am truly hoping to resolve that in the next couple of weeks.

I also must pull my finger out of my arse and get a plan for my house.  Time is running out, or almost – must make a decision soon but now I have a new distraction to add to my studies – the tourists have gone, it’s time to reclaim the beaches (please don’t mis-read that as bitches)

So nothing more to add

 

Mr. Wendal’s a bum !

 

 

 


Civvy Street

It really does drive me nuts.  Within 2 days of getting away from the solitude of a yacht, I am already at my tolerance levels for fuckwits and  jobsworths.  Things do not need to be this difficult surely?

Tried a bank transfer on sunday which then failed.  The account that is was going to is now overdrawn, another account i have couldn’t handle an internal transfer in the same day so I am almost penniless – I could take money out on my credit card but we all now how much that will cost.

Better still, my car still remains unfixed in portugal more than 9 months after it was DRIVEN into the garage, it still does not run. Ok, slight issue with that but now think on, I have spent 4000€ and bought a new engine, fuel injectors, fuel pump, clutch and flywheel and also 4 new tyres – none of which have yet covered 1 mile of tarmac, and still, today, the car does not run.  So low is my confidence that this car will be ready when I get to portugal, that yesterday I purchased another car so that I can get to Portugal and have the summer off.

Now, being the good citizen that I am, I need special insurance that covers me for european extended use but can the agent sort that for me before tomorrow at 6pm when I want to collect the new car?  Not sure.  Should I return to my old insurer whose own break down and recovery service for which I paid extra, refused to recover my car from Portugal to England?  I don’t know!!!

Because it is so expensive to fly with all of my gear, I am using the Eurostar to get back to england.  This was a pleasant surprise.  A short walk to the nearest tube station, 4 stops down the line and I am at the Eurostar station – Even better still, the Eurostar goes from Belgium to London non stop in just over 2 hours.  And all of this for less than a ton.  I reckon that the total travel time will be less too.  Downside though, I have too much luggage to lump all that way so will drive back to belgium at the weekend and collect it all before heading to Portugal.

The boat I have just finished with is now a week late on my final payment – to the tune of a little over 10 grand and you might begin to see why I am struggling with Civvy Street so much.

Of course, there is some good news – I do have the summer off, I can work again at the local dive centre, I have my study books with me in Belgium and I did find a car at a decent price.

I wonder what Blighty has in store for me.

Bloody hell, Lexa finally subscribed – I think that makes 5 now, geographically speaking I now have readers in South Africa, America, England and also an American in Belgium – I guess not to be sniffed at but it could be better, much better.  I guess I need to try some cheap shots in the headline so i get more hits from search engines?


Brussels Airlines Customer Service

Superb delaying tactics on behalf of brussels airlines!

Earlier this month I had what was the biggest flight delay of my life, a little over 6 hours.  I debated whether to seek compensation from them as. in my mind, I had after all arrived in one piece.  Several of my chums said ‘do it’ and after considering how the people on that flight were abandoned in Faro airport I decided that was grounds enough to chase them.

So, i read the rules on their website – more than 5 hours delay, flight distance between 1500 and 3500 kms, start or finish flight in EU – compensation to be paid 400€ – Interestingly, this is exactly as the Civil Aviation Authority suggest it should be – unless the delay was the result of ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’.

Now, I expect this is where it will all go tits up.  Define ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’ !   Sometimes I feel bad for the airlines when they get slated for delays due to bad weather, that i think is fair enough – but where do you draw the line?  Even more interesting is that the CAA will impose a fine on the airline of 5000 gbp per passenger if they do not issue compensation where they should have but, and it is a very big but – you must approach the Civil Aviation Authority in the country of origin of this flight.  Now, under normal circumstances, this would be difficult geographically and also lingually, but for me, with a house in Portugal and a reasonable grasp of the language, I think i will give it a go – so stay up to date with how I progress.  Below is the ever so friendly email I sent to their customer services – check out their initial response ‘5 weeks response time’ – customer service my arse.

My initial message on August 16th

I am trying to find out how to claim delay compensation for a flight i took last week.  The flight was over 6 hours late due to a fault with the aircraft.

Flight Nº SN 3802
10th August 2011
Between Faro (FAO) and Brussels (BRU)
Miles & More Nº 9920 0150 8310 149
Passenger name – Wayne Maunder
I have asked at the airport this morning but there is apparently no-one here that can help me with this.
Please advise

Brussels airlines automated response on the same day


Dear Mr. MaunderOur ref. : CR/2011013670
We duly received your comments concerning your flight of 10/08/2011.

We will investigate your claim and have made up a file in your name. Kindly be advised that, at the moment, the handling of a claim can take up to five weeks.

Assuring you of our best attention, we remain.

Yours sincerely.

Customer Relations 

Then yesterday came the very non committal response

Dear Mr Maunder,
 
We refer to your email of 16/08/2011 concerning the delay of your flight on 10/08/2011.
 

We present you our sincere apologies for the inconvenience you were caused on this occasion.  We do our utmost to avoid flight cancellations knowing how important our passengers consider on time travel.  However, in the process of operating scheduled services over many different route segments each day, occasional mechanical, weather-related and other interruptions to routine performance plans do occur and interfere with the operations of all airlines. 

 

Should you have incurred direct costs (meals, drinks, telephone) due to this delay in your travel, we will of course consider a refund if you send us the original receipts.  Please mention the above reference on your correspondence.

 

Our address:

Customer Relations

b.house – Brussels Airport

Airport building 26 box 1a.4

Ringbaan

B – 1831 Diegem

 

We reiterate our apologies for the unfavourable impression we may have given you on this occasion and hope to be able to welcome you again on board our flights in the future.

 

Yours sincerely.

Viviane Degreef
Customer Relations Officer | Customer Relations

So naturally I upped the ante

Sirs – please continue to investigate this case.  Your response so far, has not addressed my situation in the slightest nor has it answered any questions, frankly I see it as a delay tactic, hoping that I might just go away.

The plane was delayed, according to the Captain, due to problems re-starting a computer.  As far as I am aware, this would not fall into your ‘exemption’ clause to not pay compensation.  Also according to the civil aviation authority, they state that the level of compensation for a flight more than 5 hours late over a distance between 1500kms and 3500kms is 400€
I am also aware that should you fail to address my complaint, you as an airline can be fined up to 5000 pounds per claimant.
I would like for you to check again to see if you feel you should be paying compensation for  a flight where you left customers sitting for 6 hours on a floor in an airport and gave them little or no information as to their options.
I await your response, and as previously suggested – i find a 5 week response time unacceptable

Of course, I fully expect to get passed around, ignored, fed bullshit and many other things but I am curious to see just how simple the process is to claim compensation as required by EU law.  Did you know – there is no customer service desk for Brussels Airlines inside of Brussels airport?


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