THE FOURTH RULE OF FLYING:

is to never smuggle anything or have anything resembling a weapon on your person because all airports have their own rules as to what you can personally hold up a plane with. This will range from a nail file to lip salve, from hairspray to a green plastic space gun (sold to me at the airport airside !) and I think the whole system depends on what they are short of in the particular country you are entering or leaving, Some countries, such as Turkey, Xray all belongings on persons entering the airport, be it just to meet someone at arrivals, whilst others also Xray all your belongings and luggage as you are leaving the airport. This is despite it all being Xrayed at the airport where you boarded the plane. I mean, where are you supposed to have got your bomb or illicit goodies from at 47,000 feet ? Mind you, an airline sold my husband a SwissKit Grooming Kit during the flight and then confiscated it at the airport when he arrived ! I wonder if Ryanair have thought of that one yet ?
No smuggler of anything at all stands a chance at Sydney Airport as the whole place is awash with beagles ! Yes, little brown and white beagles with waggy tails and all wearing the cutest pink and blue vests that say ‘don’t pet me, I’m working’ ! Not a handler in sight ! I asked the man who was pushing my wheelchair what happened if one of the beagles who was trotting along the luggage carousel sniffing all the bags actually smelled something. He said they just sit down next to the luggage/person and bark till the cops show up ! Some are trained for drugs, some for meat and probably some for my lip salve, but they are definitely cuter that the average customs guy !
Is there anyone else like me who just ‘feels’ guilty when going through customs ? Probably from watching too many episodes of “Anything To Declare’. I find myself trying to look innocent of nothing at all, and guess what – I’m the one that always gets searched. Its a good rule to always empty your handbag before you fly anywhere and repack it minus the tampons, the screwed up bits of paper and the nail you found on the driveway when leaving the house. The one good thing about being in a wheelchair when arriving at the airport is that most times you are taken through the bit reserved for pilots and aircrew and don’t have to queue up for hours with the rest of humanity. This does make up for having to wait on the plane until everyone else has deplaned, especially on long-haul flights.
Also on long-haul flights you have to fill in a custom’s declaration. Read it carefully and whatever you do, don’t lie. My dearest daughter in Australia always insists I bring at least a dozen packets of Tayto Crisps to her! In order not to arrive with them all crushed, they have to be in a separate box and must be declared on this form, though I get the feeling that Customs think me more than slightly mad ! I also declare my RA medicines, but I think they consider the quantities not enough to topple the drugs markets in Oz, though as I’ve mentioned before, I always carry the Humira pens and Methotrexate syringes in my hold luggage wrapped up in ice packs and, so far, no little beagles have sat down and woofed !!

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AN APOLOGY………

Sorry to be late with this Blog, but I have been recovering from a quick, 4-day trip to London. As all RA sufferers will know, advance planning is the key to hassle-free travel. So I booked the wheelchairs, pre-ordered a taxi to get us into the city – what could possibly go wrong ??
Firstly, although Cork airport does have air bridges from the terminal to the plane, they don’t normally use them for reasons best known to themselves. This being so, I would have to avoid the stairs down to the plane by taking a wheelchair in the lift and out to where it is parked, then haul myself slowly up the plane steps. But this time, hooray – the air bridge was out and I could walk down the shute into the plane !
Aer Lingus only has one cabin class so they have put several rows of extra seats where Business/First Class should be. I find it really difficult to get to the seat near the window, and just slightly less of a squeeze to get in the middle seat. Sit in the aisle seat I hear you say ….. but then, as I have a wheelchair booked for Heathrow, I’m commanded by the cabin crew to stay in my seat till everyone else has left the plane. No problem except for the two people in the seat beside me who want to get out ! My RA has reached the stage where sitting and rising are quite painful and difficult for me so trying to do it in the face of everyone pushing for the exit requires me to grit my teeth and try not to swear too much !
The new Terminal 2 at Heathrow is brilliant and they have also got the new solid wheelchairs which make life so much easier and I found my taxi with no trouble. But although I was itching to get around London, see the shops, etc. etc. in reality I couldn’t walk very far and the pavements are quite uneven, forcing me to look where I am putting my feet and not in the shop windows ! After 4 days of meeting good friends and travelling by cab from one side of London to the other, I was absolutely exhausted. What I thought I could achieve and what my body actually let me do was not exactly the same thing and I will think twice before going on a ‘quick’ trip next time. I actually need a full day at each end to recover from the travelling and if faced with a late night (any time after 8pm !) I need an afternoon rest. In actual fact its worth saving up for a Business Class ticket to Australia because at least you have a bed and can sleep most of the way there and back !!
So now I’m home again, trying to catch up on everything and wondering how just a four day trip can generate so much dirty laundry ! But at least the dogs were pleased to see me after their trip to the kennels and husband Pat is here re-organising the house! It’s so lovely to be home !!

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The Kenmare Bay near where I live- a long way from London !

THE SECOND RULE OF FLYING…………

The second rule of flying is to seriously label your luggage. You cannot put too many labels on to a bag that is going to be checked in. I take the precaution of also having luggage that is recognisable from a considerable distance, my current case being all colours of the rainbow which I found by chance at a handbag shop in Port Douglas, Far North Queensland!  Bright colourful luggage means you will be able to spot it when it comes in at completely different carousel to the one you are waiting by and also gives you a good description to give to the man who is totally disinterested in finding your luggage after it has not arrived from Paris or Heathrow, or wherever you changed planes at.  I remain convinced that Paris CDG only moves the luggage from Terminal One to Terminal Two once a day – and vice versa – after numerous occasions of having a no-show of luggage at my final destination. So now when I go via Paris CDG I take my luggage off at Terminal One and then lug it across to Terminal 2 myself – not easy with a wheelchair though my luggage has four wheels and can be pushed with one finger ! A vital necessity for the handicapped.
What you can take in your hand luggage has also changed massively over the years and it is necessary for all of us to conform. The liquids ban has me mystified. You can’t take liquids through security, but you can purchase them by the litre in Duty Free and then take them on the plane. Sales of such innocent stuff as water must have rocketed airside, and surely if you were inclined to blow up the plane, you would take whatever you needed in bottles of less than 100mls ? I had a clearish bottle of Oil of Olay confiscated at Security just he other day when they could see that it only had a half inch left in the bottom which I thought I would use up on my two week trip. But the label said it had 250ml originally in it, so it was over the limit. Had I bothered to decant it into a smaller bottle, etc. etc……. but life is too short for that as is taking the rules and regulations that far.
The first time I went to Australia, I phoned up Singapore Airlines to find out how I could take my pre-filled syringes of Humira and Methotrexate  (for my RA) with me. They said I could take the liquid in the aircraft fridge, but not the syringes.  A long discussion followed on what the words ‘pre-filled’ meant, but I eventually ended up wrapping the syringes in ice packs, putting them in my hold luggage and hoping for the best !
The absolute opposite of all this paranoia can be found at Adelaide Airport in Oz where (possibly due to the nearness of the Barossa Valley) you are allowed to carry up to six bottles of wine on to any internal flight as long as you haven’t unscrewed the lid for an early impromptu wine tasting and don’t put it in the overhead locker. The bottles are gently laid down at check-in and scanned with no trouble at all.
The two times my husband has taken me to stay at some of the most expensive hotels in the world – the Burj al Arab in Dubai for our 30th Wedding anniversary and The Residence in Tunisia (just because he was missing me after two month’s away !) I have arrived with only the clothes I had been wearing all day and no sign of my luggage anywhere. Admittedly these sort of hotels have everything provided in their bathrooms from dressing gowns to moisturiser, but it’s a clean pair of knickers you really want and a fresh t-shirt that hasn’t been flying for the last 24 hours ! The only shops you will find nearby are Designer Shops of the Burberry and Gucci variety and the cost of a pair of extremely flimsy knickers is likely to bring on a heart attack at the very least ! Also those Designer Shops have never heard of a size 16 and the size they label ‘extra large’ would be hard pushed to fit an 8 year old in.
So whilst sticking all those labels on your luggage, put a pair of spare knickers in your hand luggage and pray your handbag doesn’t get searched at security and your smalls displayed to one and all on that moving belt ! Lost luggage does eventually turn up, usually just after you get back from shopping for new clothes to wear !

Wheelchairs and the like……

WHEELCHAIRS and the like …

I have discovered that there are all manner of wheelchairs throughout the world and due to my RA I find them a necessity when travelling – especially in airports ! I can walk, though slowly and not very far, In Gatwick you used to have to walk halfway to Ireland before getting on the plane, though they have recently shortened this distance. If you need a wheelchair when flying, do book it in advance and make sure it is booked for the way out and the way back! You will be asked a number of questions, such as can you make it up the aircraft steps or are you bringing your own wheelchair? As long as I am pushed from check-in to departure gate and possibly to the door/steps of the aircraft, I’m happy.
I can recall once arriving at Frankfurt Hahn on our way home to just being given a folded up wheelchair at check-in. Luckily Pat was there and able to push it, but several other disabled passengers had no one to help them and had to struggle through to the security check and departure hall clutching their wheelchairs ! In the departure hall, we could clearly see our plane just outside, so I folded my wheelchair up neatly and tried to go through the boarding gate only to be told by the stewardess that I needed a wheelchair! I pointed to the one I had and said I was quite capable of walking the 20 feet to the plane and up the stairs, but she refused to let me (or Pat, though I’m not sure why he was included) on board. She then summoned a sort of tilting cart with full body harnesses and strapped me into it. I was then formally wheeled the 20 feet to the plane steps and let go again, by which time all the overhead bins were full and Pat and I had to put our hand baggage on our laps and feet – not happy travellers at all ! Thank you Ryanair !
As a travel a lot on my own, I make a point of chatting to the poor person having to push me and give them a small tip if I can. They are, without exception, happy, cheerful people and have to come through all the pre-departure security with me. When the Shoe Bomber was caught and we all ended up having to remove our shoes in security, this originally gave me a problem as I have trouble putting my own shoes on and off. The trick is to travel in slip on shoes and bare feet ! Being a Bionic Woman with all my new hips, knees and feet, I certainly set all the alarm bells ringing ! This necessitates a full body check to see if I am armed as well ! What I really like is when they check the wheelchair too and I tell them it is their chair, not mine – all to no avail.
Some wheelchairs are comfortable, some are definitely not. Newer ones are made of hard plastic , really comfortable for my bad back and allow for your hand luggage to be put underneath. After the 2 and a half years it took me to recover from my botched knee operation, I could not have any hand luggage dumped on my lap, so it got put on my feet instead ! In Tunis one time, there were two wheelchairs to meet the plane and mine only had 3 wheels ! Undeterred the man pushing tilted it up on to its two back wheels and ran me down to arrivals – quite exciting really !
In Singapore the wheelchairs are motorised and you sit facing backwards clutching your hand luggage whilst the driver whizzes along at great speed weaving in and out of the other passengers hooting loudly ! Quite took my breath away!
I have more stories, but you will just have to wait till next week and the next blog for them…….!!

THE GALLOPING GRANDMA

Married to an oil man who works as a Consultant all over the world, his job calls for extensive travel and oil companies consider wives to be much along the lines of a rather bad smell  – i.e  something to be endured at most and, if possible, got rid of in the nicest possible way !  Whilst the children were growing up he would come and go at fairly regular intervals, but as they grew – he also climbed the corporate ladder until one day they had all left home and he would be gone for months at a time to some far flung corner of the world and it was left to me to trot along after him if we wanted to retain any semblance of a marriage !  Also by this time I was on the wrong side of 60 with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis,  plus the common variety of arthritis as well and all the added extras you get thrown in for free such as bursitis, fragile bones and an inbuilt hatred of packaging that I can never undo.   Just the kind of nasty passenger to wander the world’s airlines!  I also have this strange idea that as a ‘paying passenger’ I have to be treated well at all times, not given a load of bullshit, expect my luggage to arrive along with me and generally be flown from a-b without hassle, physical effort or being treated as an active member of Al Quaida!  Oh rue the innocence of the unwary Grandma !   Here are some of my tales………