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Well it had to happen, the luck had to run out sometime.
In the middle of a stock photo shoot on Weds evening I just didnt feel well at all. Suddenly started getting twinges in my lower back. Now Ive had them before but the thoughts of getting sick in another foreign country really didnt appeal. A quick trip to the loo and it confirmed that another bout of kidney stones was on its way rapidly.
When I was a kid I remember my dad being plagued by them so it was likely Id get them at some point. Although looking back you just dont realise the pain people are in until you feel it for yourself.
Those of you that know me will also know Ive been taking painkillers almost constantly for 11 years now due to an old recurring injury. All that extra calcium probably doesnt help. I have refrained from blogging and facebooking about being painkiller/tablet free due to the heat and humidity for 12 days (until the antihistamine mosquito bites incidents last week) because I knew it would set me up for a fall.
Now those of you who have had kidney stones know that they can just pass with minor irritation and there are times when it feels like you are trying to piss a concrete block. This was the latter. Within half an hour I was sitting on the floor in a pool of sweat trying to knock the co-codamol into me as quickly as I could manage. After taking the recommended dosage for 8 hours in 15 mins it had eased somewhat enough for me to try getting into the shower. How I thought this would help I didnt know but I certainly wasnt going to get any wetter than I was.
By this time my flatmates had noticed my absence and packed up the gear as Id just left the camera on the ground and disappeared.
I asked them to get me to a doctor.
After 2 hours (well it was probably more like 2 mins) I noticed them in discussion to which the outburst was ‘what part of get me to a doctor, do you not understand?’ or words to that effect, there might have been slight swearing involved. Well a lot of swearing, infact every 2nd word was f…
Now Im not one for panicking, I rarely panic and usually in the worst situations can still think logically. The issue my friends had was that they didnt know a doctor, theyd never had call to call one. Not like my poor dad who often commented that a holiday in our house always ended up with one or more of us visiting the local accident and emergency. In fact by the time of any incident my dad could tell you which doctors was open, which hospital was on A+E intake and which local chemist was open on the rota.
So, again, interspersed with swearwords I requested my friends to find the nearest flat with old people or with kids as they invariably would know where the nearest doctor was. I also said that the building porter will know. They said he wouldnt and I slightly forcefully told them to at least walk out of the room and pretend they were doing as I asked. Poor guys didnt know what to do, Not even watching rapper videos on MTV had prepared them for the sheer volume of swearing an irishman in excruciating pain can muster.
We briefly discussed them looking up my travel insurance company on the web and ringing them for advice. I finally just produced every bit of cash I owned, my credit cards, passport and doubled over in the hall informed them that I was leaving for the nearest hospital and to summon a taxi.
At a party earlier in the trip someone here asked me what the people in the rest of the world were like, were they helpful and friendly. I said that no matter where I went people in the main seem always willing to help a stranger. I gave the example in a recent trip to Northern Nicosia I had got lost on the backstreets and my leg pain had increased. I sat down and took a tablet and drank the last of my water with it. Three late teenage or early twenties guys came up to me and I thought ‘oh shit here we go’. They didnt say anything just smiled and handed me a fruit sweet and walked off. There is nothing like the kindness of strangers, particularly alone far from home.
With all the wars and fighting and reasons given for people to kill each other, when you get down to individuals requiring help or just a smile then in most places people will offer it. I suffered horrific injuries in Kenya 11 years ago, injuries that would have left someone local to die but everyone I met was supportive, it wasnt until I reached London that people didnt care. A lesson there perhaps.
In what seemed like an eternity a taxi arrived and I was whisked at the speed of light as only taxi drivers know how to do to the local hospital. I was given a number and told to take a seat which was easier said than done. From home experience I expected to wait about an hour to be seen and be doubled up all that time.
I was seen in less than 10 mins, explained the situation and about 10 mins later had the much needed painkilling injection. 10 mins after that I was sort of back to normal with only the now translucent skin colour that comes with severe pain showing any problem at all. If you havent encountered this phenomenon, lucky you, I dont know the technical reasons but all blood and colour leaves the skin, probably the defense mechanism taking blood away from non-important areas. The only spots of colour I had were now the remaining multiple mosquito bites.
Another difference from home was that the doctor sent me for tests to make sure I didnt have an infection and that was all done in an hour and I was sent home with the all clear but told to drink as much water as I could get down me over the next few days and at least whilst I was still in the country.
So back in the apartment things started to return to normal. Pain was subsiding and colour was starting to return. I drank about 2 litres of water in the next hour which the guys had prepared for me and tried to get some sleep.
By now it was 3am and if things hadve been normal Id have been getting up at 6am to set off on my pre booked day trip to Colonia Del Sacremento, Uruguay.
Being the idiot I am and having been through this experience a couple of times before at home I thought, ah sure I’ll get up at 6am anyway and see how I feel….
I cant finish this posting without giving my thanks to my flatmates Gaspar, Juan and Luis whose role in all the above is portrayed humourously but who showed that despite language differences, despite cultural differences that there is kindness in strangers the world over. I appreciate everything you did for me lads, muchas gracias amigos.
Also thanks to the hospital staff at the hospital whose name I still dont know, who like hospital staff everywhere are overwork and under appreciated by the people who have never been unfortunate enough to have required their services.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
Well it finally had to happen. I managed to drag myself away from photographing beautiful women and drinking cheap beer to get my ass down into Buenos Aires.
It was time to get the camera out, dodge the muggers and thieves and get down to photographing the tourist spots.
But first another cup of coffee.
Then a look at the thermometer which surely must be wrong.
Then a look outside up into direct sunlight that would make a gremlin shriek.
So after two hours of faffing around further it was decided that no it wasnt going to get any cooler and we had a 3 hour window of good light to get at least some tourist shots under my belt.
When I came here I had two A4 pages of shots I wanted to take. I showed this to my hosts who did a lot of tutting, pointing, and sharp intakes of breath only before seen in the world of automobile mechanics.
It was decided that if I want to get home in approximately the same number of pieces I came in I’d better limit myself to all the other photos of Buenos Aires there are on the net.
It became apparent that there are only certain pictures from certain angles for a reason, firstly few tourists seem to come here and those that do are only stopping off for a day or two on the way to Antarctica or Patagonia or some other remote reason.
Thats a shame and then again it isnt. As people have offered by email I’ve long since lost hope of my chances of getting a job with the Argentinian tourist board. I like to think of myself as fairly streetwise having grown up in the lower falls area of Belfast during the height of the troubles but I keep reminding myself, you dont know _here_.
Thats what I have local guides for and for those of you thinking of travelling to places like BA this is well worth the investment. I say investment as its not really an expense. A local guide can give you a flavour no disney like cruise ship day pass can ever do.
Be sensible, dont wear jewelry, expensive watches, dont walk around with designer clothes on (fake or otherwise), take a minimum of stuff out with you, keep a photocopy of your passport somewhere. Always bear in mind that most crime is opportunist, no matter what country you are in. Dont take strange cabs, I had two young women jump in my car in Belfast one night and ask me to take them home because they couldnt afford a taxi. If I wasnt acting like their big brother I wonder what the hell they were thinking of. One lived up a dark road just outside Belfast and got me to drop them off there. Height of stupidity. But they were drunk, on a work night out and had spent their last few quid on a kebab rather than a bus or taxi.
It also sounds heartless but try to distance yourself from obvious targets as you might get caught in the crossfire.
Getting back to today the plan was to go to La Boca, walk to Caminito then walk round the shoreline to Puerto Madero. Sounds simple enough. Then why are tour busses dropping people off at the Boca stadium door, picking them up there then driving them the couple of blocks to Caminito? As my guide said, well it may just be a short distance between here and there but the muggers know that tourists will be walking that way so take your pictures, put your camera in your bag and then we walk down.
I stopped to get a picture of a local cop who was standing on the ‘border’ street corner giving out advice. He posed for a picture and asked me to make sure I captioned it with the word ‘underpaid’, so I will. We walked a block (about 100m) away from the Boca shops and had lunch, a steady stream of the odd one or two tourists walked past looking obviously like tourists and covering their cameras round their necks with their hands. Yes from my experience of Northern Ireland I highly doubt that will stop a bullet.
So on to Caminito and to be honest as a lot of the locals here describe it its the disneyworld version of BA. A couple of brightly painted houses, street cafes that even Michael Schumacher couldnt weave his way through and a few handicrafts stalls. We even had a Maradona lookalike to get photos with. Poor guy must have ate a lot of pies to get that physique.
I was more interested in the old areas that Caminito had been refurbished from, lots of old colonial and crumbling architecture, old bridges and cranes undergoing refurbishment. Real town planning or lack of in all its glory. As with any waterfront each building tells a part of the history and one leads to another telling the story of the area.
Then I got stopped by the police.
At first I thought it was something to do with no photos in the port area, there was a sign saying argentine naval prefecture or something like that so thought it must be something military. When my guides translated it as, your friend will not make it through this area alive, not with those trainers, we decided to get the bus to Puerto Madero.
On the bus through what can only truly be described as a slum it was obvious that our maps didnt tell the whole story, from tourist traps of Caminito to 3rd world in less than 300 yards. It was that stark.
Dont get me wrong when you live in that type of poverty and I remember similar stuff growing up, you really cant blame people for taking the only routes open to them. It is good to sit in an ivory tower and say I wouldnt do this or I wouldnt do that, you never know what you will do until you are in that situation. If your family havent eaten for 3 days and some dumbass tourist walks past with something that will feed your family for a month, then dont say what you would do in that situation until you are actually there.
As the saying goes, ‘Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes’, which reminds me I better put both pairs of Nikes back in the bag and buy something local.
As we got off the bus at Puerto Madero there was the sight of two cops in a wee hut which now I come to recognise as the boundaries of safe areas. We stay in a relatively safe area, the shops dont have grills on the windows and at busy times theres an armed cop every 100 metres or so. In the other areas they seem to be just left to get on with it.
Puerto Madero is a testament to new money, like a lot of other previously neglected cities it is full of gleaming new buildings, lovely walkways by the water, new bridges, cafes, expensive shops, a nice place to be. For me though I could be any modern city. The Santiago Calatrava bridge has its double in Dublin and to be honest it reminded me a lot of the regeneration of Dublins docks. The layouts were similar, right up to the masted ship sitting next to the Calatrava bridge. Maybe he thought no-one would find out.
Dear people of Buenos Aires,
I’ve designed you a new bridge that represents two people doing the Tango.
‘Santiago, Dublin have been on the phone asking where their new bridge design is’
‘Quick give me the Buenos Aires one’ quick scribble ‘Here that will do’
Dear people of Dublin,
I’ve designed you a new bridge that represents the Irish harp.
Well ok maybe a slight exaggeration but judge for yourselves.
So where does the take the boy out of Belfast come in?
Well at the start of the journey we visited the home of Boca Juniors. Argentinas best club ever (so I’m told). As I was completely unattached in the Argentine football world I am now a Boca fan.
So the stadium tour had to be done. Due to my love of football and having been in or toured a lot of the worlds great stadiums this really was the highlight of the day for me. Getting in and around the stadium, seeing the terracing, long since gone from UK football, the sparse nature of the visiting dressing room to the plush surroundings of the home dressing room with accompanying underground 5 a side warm up pitch. Just what you want to see, opposition – sod them!
On the tour the tour guide said she would split the couple of hundred people up into two groups, the spanish speakers and the english ones. So we were left in a group of about 9 and asked where we were from. Poland, England, Ireland, Scotland, France. We were then asked what teams we supported, which of course in my case is Liverpool (for my sins). As they went from Warsaw to Middlesborough to Norwich, the scottish guy in front of me said ‘Rangers’. Now, I dont follow Scottish football but something deep down in me wanted to scream ‘Celtic’. I did think better of it as to come halfway round the world to start a sectarian fight would only leave the muggers very confused.
So you can take the boy out of Belfast but you cant take Belfast out of the boy.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
In my last blog post I mentioned about a trip to the park on Sunday. Everywhere I go I try to do the local thing rather than the touristy thing and whilst staying in Buenos Aires Im staying in an apartment with 3 local guys who act as guides, mentors and in some cases bodyguards.
I know very little spanish which is a bit of a disgrace travelling to a place without knowing how to converse but as usual I try some faltering spanish and people want to practise their english with me. In the vast majority of cases they are better than most native english speakers!
Whilst I know how to get around, order beer, order food, work my way around shops and supermarkets its a great opportunity to learn words and phrases not normally in the tourist dictionary. Just everyday run of the mill stuff, normal phrases that will get you through most situations ‘yes’ and ‘that would be an ecumenical matter’ type of things.
Of course living in an apartment with 3 other guys and one bathroom you quickly learn the phrase ‘I would leave it a bit before I go into the bathroom if I were you’.
As I mentioned before the scale of things here is massive. Last weekend we did the local thing of going to a park for an extended family day out. Back home its the sort of thing we used to do as kids and even when we were kids the longest trip was maybe an hours walk the couple of miles to the Falls Park. Here is like two busses and about 2 hour journey! I live about 300 yards from a country park at home, about 10 mins drive from any number of municipal parks and very little isnt within a half hour to an hour drive. So its completely alien to me to pack to go to the park and spend half the day on busses.
The park trip is very much a picnic and a fun day out and people do the same they do the world over, play football, play with their kids, fly kites, eat stuff, chill, chat, sit in the sun and generally relax.
Of course each culture and place has its own pecularities. One interesting part about here is the concept of drinking mate. (pronunced mat – eh, well I think it is). Its a herbal mixture which I liken to sort of chinese green tea. It is served in a gourd with hot water and a metal drinking straw, this is passed around from person to person with one person finishing one gourd full, refilling and passing it on. This goes on all day and you can buy backpacks to hold a big flask of hot water, your gourd and your mate mix. People take it everywhere on the train, in town, on the way to work, probably our equivalent of an on the go cup of coffee or tea. Its more ‘friendly’ than that with the sharing aspect and you only say thanks when youve had enough so the gourd gets passed around all day.
I like that. One other aspect I like is the kissing people on the cheek when you greet them and when you leave, ok the kissing blokes on the cheek bit takes a bit of getting used to but after a while even the locals stop offering to shake your hand and adopt you as one of their own. Id say its hard to be annoyed with someone if you have to kiss them on the cheek as you leave. Great idea.
So when I was asked if I wanted to go to the park with three beautiful women to do some model shots, how could I refuse. We bought the picnic, filled up the mate flask and went down to the subway.
Of course still bear in mind I was thinking the 2 hour journey to the park was a one off, well I suppose it was as it took us 3 hours to get to this one. I should have asked really….
So tube, then another tube, then one of those huge trans continental diesel trains you see on tv. Then after an hour on it and a right few rounds of mate we arrived at the park, or well close to it…
When I first arrived here I was looking a few props, just some small stuff I usually source off ebay. I was told that there isnt much ebay here in Argentina and I wondered how on earth people here survived without sourcing cheap chinese tat from the internet.
Its quite a simple answer, just take a train or the subway. Its a strange experience, you take your seat and a long procession of hawkers pronounce in the same loud deep nasal voice, never before heard outside of Belfast, about their products, how good it is, what it can do for you and how cheap it is. Pretty much an ideal ebay description. Oh and the voice is the same man, woman or kids. From knock off nike socks, to lighters (5 for a pound indeed), to flashlights with your favourite footballer on, to whistles that sound like birds, battery chargers, clothes. You name it they sell it. I even saw a group of lads get on the train with car tyres. I’ll never slag off northern ireland railways again. Of course theres always something to tempt you and in my case its those fake bamboo looking things that you buy on every holiday that are a beach mat that roll up for carrying if you know the things I mean. I must have about 10 of those things in the loft, bought each holiday, probably late on when I finally crack and buy something to sit on. Of course I hadnt the 30p in local change the purchase required and showing the 20 quid note was likely to get me hung drawn and quartered before the next stop.
The weirdest thing of all is the people who put small pieces of paper in your lap or hand you them. I dont know what they are, bible quotes, stories, fortune telling, sayings for the day good luck charms or what. I think the idea is they give it to you and you read it. How the exchange happens I dont know, if you read do you have to buy or if not do you buy it if you like what you read? Dunno.
I can only describe them as a fortune cookie without the cookie.
So here we are at the park, standing at the entrance, of course we didnt know it was the entrance so our intrepid guide decides to make us walk down the train track and through the forest for about 30 mins in 35 degree heat carrying a load that only sherpas should carry.
We finally get to about 100 yards away from where we started then head into the forest.
Then things started to go pear shaped.
There had been light rain overnight so the pathway was lined with small pools of water and the next few seconds were like a scene from Apocalypse Now. In slow motion entire squadrons of mosquitos took off and came at us out of the sun. It was a massacre.
I was bitten in the region of 30-40 times in the time it took me to get my backpack off, pull out the mosquito spray and start spraying indisciminately. A sort of drive by de-bugging if you like.
Like all the old world war two movies based in the pacific, we suffered heavy casualties but started to turn the tide. I truly do love the smell of deet in the morning.
It still took me a while to find out to my cost that I was getting bit through my clothes, something that would end up with me being taken to the pharmacy this morning, but the bottle of altan I bought at home started to take effect.
I can only describe what happened next as similar to the old ready brek ads in the uk. The ones where the kids come out of the house covered in a red glow. There was now an invisible cloud barrier all around me and the next mosquito squadrons pulled into sharp dives and evasive action about an inch from my body. For those of you not from the UK and used to the ready break ‘central heating for kids’ phenomenon liken it to the alien ships in independence day that had the invisible force field.
Of course in such a survival situation spacial awareness goes out the window so the fraction of a second my backpack was on the ground it got covered by what must have been the ground invasion follow up after the mosquito carpet bombing. They werent mosquitos but they got a dose as well.
So things then calmed down, we did the shoot, had our picnic, scratched a lot, cursed a lot (well me mainly), packed up and went home strangely by a shorter route than we came.
When I got back to the apartment I sat down on the floor and promptly announced that I thought I had been also bitten on the ass. After the two waves of laughter (one from the english speakers and one after the translation), it was pointed out to me that I might have sat on one of the poisonous caterpillars and I should google it to be safe. Now one of my childhood memories was of a ‘bring in and show’ episode in primary school. A bit like show and tell without all the american razmatazz (must stop saying american and say US, the other americans do tend to correct me a lot). We had these hairy caterpillar things in our garden at home so I brought a few into school on some leaves. I told the class they were hairy and were poisonous to birds etc etc. On the way home our class wee shit (read bully for those not used to the northern ireland vernacular) grabbed my box and crushed it saying that if they were poisonous they deserved to die.
That left so much of an impression on me I still remember it over 30 years on, such wanton cruelty sums up kids….
Of course bent over in the bathroom last night with two mirrors trying to work out if it was mosquito bites or a poisonous caterpillar that had stung my ass, I tended to agree with the wee shit.
So in the cold light of day full of antihistamines and covered in calamine lotion you have to say was it worth it.
Well heres just one photo of angie from the set and I’ll let you decide.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
Sorry its been a while since the last blog but Ive been a bit out of touch.
Its a week now since I landed in Buenos Aires and just when I think Im getting used to the heat it just gets hotter. Between the day I left Belfast and out and about yesterday in downtown BA there was almost a 50 degrees centigrade difference.
First impressions of BA was that it was hot, damn hot. That was followed by, hot, hot and sticky, hot, overcast yet hot, hot and damp, hot. My poor wee pale blue irish skin now has a peeling patch on my right elbow where I put it out the bus window on the way in from the airport.
It wasnt long before I was food for the mosquitos either. You have to love nature, mosquitos hit the veins each and every time, something that any NHS doctor would be proud of. I know I know a lot of people will be screaming at me saying I should have used insect repellent, I did, just not the right one. Im now using a local formula that belongs somewhere in the arsenal of North Korea.
Buenos Aires is an amazing place for a pseudo city boy like me. I say pseudo because Im a city slicker, a townie, someone who has grown up and lived in and around Belfast. Belfast is a city. Well it is and it isnt. Buenos Aires IS a CITY. We all went to the park the other day, we needed a 20 min train ride and an hour on the bus and still hadnt left Buenos Aires. The bus from the airport was about an hour to here and we took another bus ride in the same direction for another hour the other day and was still in the city.
Now Ive been in cities with similar populations, Cairo, London, New York, Tokyo but they have all had geographical features like rivers or hills or something to break them up. BA is just one big city. Unlike other places I´ve been too it is all up. Not New York up where you have sections of the city going up but the whole place is apartment blocks and medium tall rise buildings. Well as far as I can make out so far. Whilst Tokyo is more blade runner, this place is more gotham city.
Ive been in other cities that proclaim to be 24 hour, sure in Belfast you might get the odd 24 hour garage or supermarket but this place really is 24 hours.
The last week has been pretty much trying to get used to the heat and the pace of life here. Clothes are out in the laundry at the mo, not that I didnt bring enough clothes, I did. I didnt bring enough clothes that wouldnt get me killed! Crime is rife here, theres no getting around it, with nightly news making Belfast during the troubles look like tellytubby land. On the way back from the park we missed our bus change stop so got off at the next stop and walk back one stop (which was at least a mile). Now normally that would be bad enough (I have a bad right leg and walking a mile is usually enough to see me visit an Accident and Emergency ward) but not walking a mile would have had the same consequences. The place we were walking through was ´colourful´to say the least, no street lights, broken pavements, small low rise buildings, those with windows not boarded up were barred and razor wire. If I didnt know better I´d call it a shanty town. At one point one of my friends said to me ´Man, those Nike trainers of yours will get us all killed´. Charming. So the next day it was ´dont wear that, nor that, nor that, nor that, dont wear any of those.´ Even stuff which is cheap back home is likely to end up bloodstained being worn by someone else.
Sooooo lets just say that the photo list that I had prepared in advance for BA is a hell of a lot shorter now having looked at my ideas and the places I wanted to go. I did wonder why such a huge city has a limited photo coverage. Until they make that 22 megapixel camera that attaches to your optic nerve, its probably gonna stay that way.
On the positive side Ive had two good model shoots so far with a few more to come, basic scenarios I´ve wanted to do in the likes of Belfast for a while but waiting 9 months for the sun to shine for 2 consecutive days was long enough to wait.
Whilst here I had planned some traveling ‘in country’ but havent managed to get that sorted yet, nothing is ever as easy as it seems on the web here. Will post more on that later.
The first night I arrived here we went up onto the roof terrace, 13 odd floors up its an amazing sight, just buildings as far as the eye can see in all directions, pretty flat too, just people, civilisation etc etc etc. No lights on the roof but enough light to be getting on with just with the reflected city light bouncing off the clouds. Straight back down in the lift for the camera and some night city shots I´d been interested in taking but never found the right place, now I have. (photos to follow). I’ll also arrange a model shoot up there before I go home.
Last night the local weather forecast was predicting a storm, thunder, lightning hail the size of tennis balls and the like. Naturally it seemed like the best place to observe this was from the roof terrace, rather than just look at it out the window 12 floors below. What a sight, I´ve never seen a storm like it, I´d seen a big lightning storm in the Alps a long time ago which at first appeared just like a fireworks display but last night the lightning was going left, right, down, around, across, everything. Real storm weather, the 10 or 20 degree sudden drop in temperature, rain that gives you a headache it hits you that hard and that change in atmosphere that scares the life out of you now, never mind a couple of thousand years ago when people thought the gods were angry. The gods were indeed angry last night although according to my mate nothing like as angry as they were one time last year.
doing the old one one thousand trick (sound travels at roughly one kilometre every 3 seconds so if you count between lightning strikes and thunder claps you know roughly how far away it is and if its getting closer or going further away) was interesting until there was one I didnt get to say the one part. So less than 100 metres away lightning hit a rooftop and I could probably tell you which one it was. At this point in time it did then become apparent that standing in the rain on top of a 13 storey building drinking beer out of a metal cup wasnt exactly the greatest decision I had ever made.
In Spanish the word for storm is ´Tormenta´to be honest I couldnt describe what I saw last night as any different.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
Thats it I’ve had enough, snow, frost, cold, wet, dreary, etc etc etc.
Sunnier climes beckon.
Its been a while since I flew on a ‘proper’ airline, as opposed to low cost or booking a seat on a charter plane. Its unusal to be asked where you would like to sit and to have boarding passes for belfast to heathrow to washington to buenos aires printed out automatically in less than 2 mins. Not having to stand and queue for half an hour just to reach the checkin desk or just sit and wait until your seat row number is called at this point in time seems well worth the extra. Of course not every route is open to this so it will still be a case of no frills (sorry not low cost as sometimes its dearer than others) for the time being.
I booked this trip before the underpants bomber decided to try and make a statement, so am awaiting the check in for a flight to the US with dread. I havent flown from the UK to the USA for over 14 years, all other times have been via Dublin and you clear US customs and immigration in dublin making the whole experience a lot easier (well you used to dont know about now). I just went through the flight connections section of Heathrow Terminal one and a lot of people have been caught out by the extra layer of internal security. There are piles of water bottles and duty free alcohol being taken off people. The folks naturally assumed that if you have a connecting flight you are airside so buying the duty free seemed the normal thing to do.
For me theres an issue. I couldnt buy anything in Belfast as it would be taken off me in Heathrow. I cant buy anything in Heathrow as it would be taken off me in Washington, if indeed it got that far as the one piece of cabin baggage would have divested me of bushmills finest long before I got stateside. So if I want to bring my hosts in Buenos Aires some alcohol it will have to be picked up in Washington and theres probably nothing Irish on sale there at all. Also I find it strange that transitting US airports, even if you are staying airside and going on to another country you have to clear US customs and immigration. Dont get it? Any ideas?
So In Belfast city airport I got three boarding passes, got my luggage routed (hopefully) to Buenos Aires but I still have to collect it in Washington, clear customs and immigration and then hand it back to the airline staff even though I’m not setting foot on US soil (unless of course I am and I dont know it yet). Odd. Still at least I’ll know by that stage that my bag is still with me.
Which leads me on to the single piece of hand luggage thing, surely you can do as much damage with half a bag or one bag or indeed a pair of underpants or your shoes as with half a dozen bags. A young family checked onto my Heathrow flight just in front of me in security in Belfast, two small kids, one toddling, one in a papoose thing. They must have had about 10 items to go through security. I know the reasons why all this is being done and yes its a small price to pay, but seeing security taking a bottle off a toddler who is drinking from it and asking the father to open it and drink out of it is a bit of a shock. Yes I know it could be a false teat and all that and yes I do know there are enough psychos out there who would blow their kids up as well as themselves to try and make a point.
I think its all self defeating really, but I dont have an answer, its like back when I was a child, to get into Belfast city centre you had to go through a security zone and were body searched, all bags were opened and searched. Compared to that current airport security seems a little on the liberal side! I remember being body searched as a 7 year old but that was normal for the times. I guess the people who grew up in ‘normal’ times before that were wondering what on earth was going on.
Right time for me to go and buy my 2nd bottle of water for the day, might even get to drink this one this time. Some enterprising souls should rent water bottles out in transit lounges in airports, or maybe they are doing this already!