Three things I like about flying

I have a few bizarre rituals when I fly anywhere. Not sure why but in summary:

I always listen to the announcements; I always read the safety cards; I always eat the (free) food.

The safety demonstrations fascinate me – I listen attentively, watch closely and I wish I could remember the exact wording as a claim to fame party piece. It is interesting that it barely changes from one airline to another – guess there is some regulation about that – and I love to hear it in different languages and try work out what nationality the cabin crew are.

Funny safety announcements are available to view on YouTube, but they are few and far between. There was recently some coverage about new YouTube sensation for the South West Airlines Rapping Steward but I’ve only ever experienced “humour” in an announcement when I travelled on EasyJet and the announcer said: “Please look at the demonstration as it is more likely to help you in the event of an incident than the newspaper that you are reading…” or words to that effect. Got my attention…

I wonder at what point they are going to update the information to stop talking about smoking – surely everyone knows you cannot smoke on a plane? I wonder when the use of electronic equipment will be totally encouraged – sure I read somewhere that some airlines even have WiFi? And does anyone really understand what the point of the brace position is? 

Another fascination for me is the graphical interpretation of the safety card instructions. I liked this one on BMI – captions please:

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I was not sure what this woman was doing to here child – smelling a nappy:

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I was interested in the calmness of strange gentleman number 1 and then wondered why gentleman number 2 looked so laid back:

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And finally I actually thought this party of four standing waist-high in an incredibly blue pool of water. They almost look like they were having fun…

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As for the food, I have always liked airline food. I think it is incredible how they get the variety, relative freshness and correct heating for the range they can provide. An early memory was having KLM chocolates on a flight to The Netherlands (aged about 15); and by far the best for me is long haul Virgin Atlantic food which is totally fab and you even get ice-cream. But I have been let down on my most recent trip BMI/Lufthansa’s attempt at a breakfast wrap between London (Heathrow) and Berlin (Tegel) falls just a little short of my expectations. That said, at least it was included in the price and I did eat it. I don’t pay for airline food or drink – and I dislike how you can get told what the Business Class people are going to be enjoying whilst you are slumming it out back.

 

Three things I like about flying

Ich bin ein Berliner

I’ve had a couple of days in Berlin last month attending a Client’s conference and being there as an extra set of hands to help launch Field Agent to the internal teams.

I feel compelled to write about Berlin, just to note a few things. It’s been over 20 years since I last came to Germany…

Firstly, I arrived at a regional airport I’d not actually heard of before – Tegel. The German efficiency meant we arrived early – even from a Heathrow departure; and on the plus side you feel like you are stepping off the plane and straight into a taxi – definitely the quickest plane to taxi route I have ever experienced. The let down was that the taxis did not seem to take credit cards (but I had catered for this with a Euro Cash Passport I’d got from LHR and used to get money out).

The taxi driver let me speak some hideous German and understood where I wanted to go, and deliberately tuned the radio into BBC World Service – nice touch. Shame I missed a segment where Bill Gates was being interviewed…

I was booked into the Hotel Abba and met a few familiar Client faces which made not having a room ready bearable and the event staff were great. One thing I could not understand was how bad the internet was – low signal, breaking in and out; only one device per person at a time (eg cannot have smartphone and laptop); and the most irritating, each time you log on a user name (1w177m) and password (mpc1) which ironically I only managed to remember when I was leaving – not any of the 30+ times I did it over the days! Best set of freebie tiletries I have EVER seen BTW

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I’d arrived for lunch but had had probably the worst “breakfast wrap” in the world courtesy of Lufthansa and did not eat, but seeing as food is important in my life I have to comment:

Breakfast cold meat and cheese is probably my favourite meal in Europe. German bread is almost always stale and hard, they don’t do hot food very well and the coffee is not too bad.

Mid-morning snacks during the conference I would describe as curious – clementines or stale-looking pastries and sandwiches that look like a four-year old has been let loose in the kitchen. Cheese and ham in stale white bread just cut in half and chucked on a platter. Whatever happened to presentation?

I think the most shocking was evening food. I did two meals to evaluate this:

The first one was at a venue we visited in the evening – The Story of Berlin. The venue is actually really interesting and does what it says on the tin – and I hope to come back here one day when 200 other people aren’t rushing through at the same time. Anyway there were “food stations” at points – not enough, but if you call the weird cold meat balls or the stale bread with 2mm of lard plastered on, “food”…Then the piece de resistance – boiled ham slices that you have to scoop out of a vat of salty water with a sieve; and the cut up luke-warm sausages with a cold BBQ sauce poured all over. Gross. No wonder the attendees were drinking loads! Oh, and smoking – it’s allowed inside and out in Deutchland!

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I stayed in the hotel on evening two, resisting the lure of a beach party in favour of writing up the results and summary for the event. I wandered down to the bar, ordered a beer and the “Large Cheeseburger and Pommes Frites”. Surely they cannot go wrong with that? Only by adding way too much gherkin pickle and a side glass of sauerkraut!

But to finish on a high, I like the way the rows of German shops have rows of glass showcases outside in the middle of the pavement to show off their wares – from shoes and bags to books and clothes. They would be vandalised in seconds in the UK – even in Henley! Back at the airport via a quick and efficient taxi trip, the customs people were verging on lovely. I was expecting grief for having hardly any clothes, loads of electronic equipment and a cheese slice in my carry-on luggage, but no! First passport check commented on how unusual it was for British people to be at the airport early for an early flight; smiles from the passport lady (where have you seen that happen before?); I did not have to take off my boots (which I nearly always do as I am always told to); and the only thing the lady queried was a glass candle holder I’d been given as a present which apparently appeared too “blue” on the xray? All-in-all, efficient, quick, friendly and pleasant and I am left with a very positive impression of Tegel, Berlin and Germany. Auf Wiedersehen!

So, in summary:

The Good

  • Regional Airports
  • Hotel facilities

The Intermittent

  • Taxis
  • Internet connection

The Odd

  • Food
  • Glass boxes outside shops

PS I’d totally forgotten how “liberal” the Germans are – so many Porn adverts on mainstream telly!

 

 

Ich bin ein Berliner

Bring me sunshine!

I was told about this in the morning and hoped to squeeze it in – a PR stunt where a massive glowing “sun” (lit up balloon ball thing) was due to “rise” at dawn and “set” around 7.30pm in Trafalgar Square. All in order to radiate a warm glow to bring happiness on (alledgedly) the most depressing day of the year. They were even laying on deck chairs.

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Now I’ve become a little cynical about PR stunts and I am also beginning to get fed up about being the last to find out about fun or amazing things happening in London, but I decided to make the effort to brave the chill wind and set off about 6pmish. I even read about it in the Evening Standard whilst I was en route…

Well, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Very surprised, in fact.

It was a great idea. A big glowing ball of light obviously like a sun near to setting. Loads of people were taking photos of course, some sat gazing whilst chilling in the deckchairs. Lots of smiles, laughter and happiness.

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From a PR perspective this was well-organised and well-publicised. Nicely timed, great idea and loads of branding everywhere. I even got a free bottle – which I drank – (impressed they still had stock) and the field staff were really friendly and represented the brand really well…

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I felt good – content and happy, I’d had one of my five a day and feel warm and cuddly about the brand.

BTW you can “Like” the Tropicana Facebook page and you can win prizes…the glow continues…

More pics on flickr.

Bring me sunshine!

La Poste Christmas Party 2011

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It was a privilege to meet you all the La Poste Christmas Party at Stoke Park in December. I really enjoyed taking the formal and informal photos at your event – I hope you enjoyed looking at them.

You will have seen photos on the night and now all the photos on my flickr photo sharing site.

Click on any photo to view and share it (on email, Twitter or Facebook); plus right click again and you will see “View all sizes” in the top right and you can select to download the original to your own PC for whatever you’d like to do with it!

Great to meet you! Please do let me know if you are interested in future events for La Poste or personal events such as weddings, portraits and parties.

My email is samlane@live.com and mobile number is 07708 247248. I’d love to see you again!

 

 

La Poste Christmas Party 2011

Harry Potter Franchise Photo Opportunity

Love it how the ficticious story of a boy wizard can make an entire organisation cater for the tourists.

During refurbs at Kings Cross a mocked up “Platform 9 3/4” had been established outside the station by a brick wall. And it was a tourist trap for everyone. I am surprised that they did not charge for the privilege of standing by a cut off trolley under a sign…

Now been brought back into the station, at the end of Platform 8, and now has a new special place which was also incredibly busy when I checked it out early one Sunday evening.

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Still, I can see myself bringing nephews and nieces here in the coming weeks. I guess I am a tourist too.

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Harry Potter Franchise Photo Opportunity

Love is in the Air

I’ve been in StP for just over a month and already seen some amazing things. Today was no exception…

There was a hive of activity that had blocked off the area around the Betjemen statue. Ropes were hanging from the amazing roof and there were many official-looking people were hanging around complete with a small camera crew.

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So off I set with my Nikon, lenses and coffee to go and see what the score was.

Instead of doing the British thing of casual observation with not contact, I looked for the man in charge and got the details:

Apparently a love-struck chappie was going to abseil from the roof to propose to his girlfriend who was due to arrive on the 2.20pm Eurostar from Paris. He’d planned everything, she thought she was going for a birthday lunch with her sister. (Where is Cilla Black when you need her?).

Health and Safety was particularly concerned about the proximity of the ropes to the 25,000 Eurostar power lines. The camera crew were in constant contact to co-ordinate the hanging man, the arrival of the girl and the chaperoning of the oblivious (and slightly tetchy) tourists so they did not get in shot. But I was, along with the gathering crowds, starting to feel nervous for the proceedings – would she say “yes”?

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After the last minute checks that groom-to-be was happy with the sign his mate was holding…She came up the stairs, even with a camera in her face by the time she’d reached the top she did not realise this was for her. See clocked the “Look Up” sign by JB’s statue and did so. Then he descended with the fab Olympic Ring backdrop as she gasped, cried and genuinely looked stunned.

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He landed, he un-shackled and then dropped to one knee in his DJ. 

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She said yes! Champagne popped (and cork nearly hit me) so cheers, hugs and kisses all round!

 

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I did not stay to get their names, take close ups or ask for details, somehow that did not seem right…

 

Love is in the Air

Night Street Photography

I joined a new “Meet Up” group in London last week – for Night Street Photography

I’d seen a few pics from the organiser Linda Wisdom and I liked her style. I was free on Tuesday and for £3 for two hours wandering around London I thought, why not?! I could learn something here.

From what I understand Street Photography is essentially taking photos in the street, mainly of people, mainly when they don’t know it’s happening. A bit covert, a little nerve-wracking and certainly quite interesting. Oh, and at night when your camera settings are tested to the max and where almost all photos seem to look better in black and white afterwards.

We set off from Green Park Tube station at 6.30. An eclectic group of five strangers with various sizes of cameras and a an equally varied range of experience – allegedly one guy was a pro.

Wandering past The Ritz I noted that I took pictures of things rather than people, buildings rather than people and actively waited for people to get out of the way. Bad start. I did take a quick one of the doormen which I quite liked:

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As we progressed up through Bond Street, Regent Street and the like I liked taking pics of shop windows, abstracts and buildings… still no people. Unless they randomly got in the way of the shot and I made it black and white ;0)

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It’s weird. I love people. I love weddings, portraits and events…all places where people KNOW they are getting their photo taken. Somehow this feels weird, naughty and on the edge of legality!

Then I managed a few backs of people… I like my tourist shots and the man looking over the road at Piccadilly Circus without a bus, then with a bus.

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It was starting to come to me. Lovers kissing proved quite an attraction – nothing could distract them from their activitites (one of the group stood less than three feet away with her red eye reduction flashing away and they did not even blink!). 

Smokers were an obvious draw. Then we got a few people eating/drinking/minding their own business in shops, cafes and pubs. Linda got some great ones. I was still nervous taking pics, felt like I was intruding on private moments… lived in fear of confrontation that never came…

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Some fab times were had in China Town which was gradually getting ready for their New Year Celebrations and so many people were taking photos we blended in a little better. I liked a group of girls taking their own group self-portrait and I ended up taking a photo of them, then for them.

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The evening finished up in the construction site which is commonly known as Leicester Square and I finished with possibly my favourit pic – a group of four older people enjoyng a night out.

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Great time and I will definitely do it again. See all my pics on flickr.

 

Night Street Photography