On the morning of 7 Oct Sarah and I headed to the Stansted airport to fly to Glasgow. It’s fairly easy to get to the airport, there’s a train out of the Liverpool Street station that takes you right there. I got tickets in advance, and they’ll take them right from your phone screen. We cashed in the remaining funds on our Oyster cards before heading out – the normal Oyster machines at the station will give your remaining money back.
Once we got to the airport, Ryanair made the flights easy. By the time I’m writing this we’ve actually left Glasgow again on a Ryanair flight to Dublin. That second flight had a bit of a delay, but no other problems, so the service was reasonable. They have a carry-on bag weight and size limit, but nobody was measuring them, so no problems there. Unlike Norwegian.
Stansted makes security easy, but after security is a different story. Security is well organized, with many short lines and a couple large lines that feed into those in a fair manner. There’s an automatic bin-return hopper, so employees aren’t wasting their time there.
Once past security you have to crawl through the bowls of a shopping mall in what seems like a crowded line that will never end, with no sign to indicate the status or locations of any flights, no clues as to where to go other than forward, and a constant crush of people and what I can only assume are soulless automatons that are capable of spraying perfume and foisting garbage fliers upon you. This part feel like a bad dream. I told Sarah that I had literally had this bad dream before – at the airport there’s always this low level worry I have that I’m late and that coupled with the ridiculous market really is straight out of a nightmare.
Once you coil through this mall for maybe 10 minutes, and I’m really not exaggerating, you arrive at what is best described as the stomach of the airport. It’s a large bulbous seating area surrounded by restaurants, fed by the intestine-shaped mall area. That makes security the anus. There are a few screens in this area showing departure times, but a key part of how this airport works is that they want you to stay in the stomach mall area and away from the gates until the last minute. Therefore, the signs state that they won’t display your gate until about 20 minutes prior to boarding.
At this point, waiting at Stansted was largely pleasant. Eventually the airport threw us up, spitting us towards our target of Glasgow.
The analogy has to end there, because Glasgow is anything other than a toilet.
I had reserved a car at Budget from the Glasgow airport. The rental car woman and I had a funny little conversation, after which she expressed concern that I had rented the smallest cat possible. I crouched down and showed her that I would have no problem fitting.
She went away to look at the availabilities, came back, told me where my car was located with a little grin, and left us to our business. Sarah and I looked in the spot I had been told, but a beautiful SUV was there… I continued to search the lot for some other A-12, but none existed. I tried the unlock button on the key – the SUV was ours.
A Peugeot 3008 is a beautiful machine. That sounds like it must be a joke, but it is not. This was a 6 speed diesel beauty with all kinds of electronic doo-dad sensors. I used every one of them to keep us alive.
Here’s a thing: these people drive on the wrong side of the road. There’s no turning on red – none. There’s a red-yellow stoplight combo. There aren’t speed limit signs on most roads. The ones that are there look different. Street signs often don’t have any words to tell you what they mean – three slash two slash one slash why? There are all kinds of new street markings in paint. People jaywalk.
And the big one – the roads are narrow in the highlands, or single-track.
Overall though, once I re-learned how to drive, driving was extremely pleasant. Drivers are well behaved. It was really wonderful.
But I’m moving too fast. Glasgow was a beauty of a city. We stayed in a nice little hotel in a part of town called Finnieston. This is trendy area with great food and drink, for good prices too. We started by going to Kelvingrove Cafe for lunch, and I really can’t imagine a better way to start a visit to Scotland. Great whisky for crazy low prices, but we just had coffee and lunch and were impressed.
Sarah and I stayed at Sandyford Hotel, which is wonderful and really could be considered a good spot for breakfast apart from the hotel. I got in a great run around downtown and the river, and Sarah and I went for a walk from the hotel through downtown Glasgow.
At one point we stopped at this karaoke place, an old guy bar. We stayed for about an hour drinking cheap beer and whiskey, and then this old dude who had been giving Sarah the eye all night got up.
He leaned heavily in his cane, and as he stood he adjusted his jacket to cover the liver spots on his chest that showed through his dirty polo. He stumbled once on his ten foot journey to the karaoke DJ. He glanced back over his shoulder before telling the DJ what song he wanted to sing, fixing Sarah in his gaze. As he turned back to the DJ, a bladder attack struck Sarah, and she departed to the pisser.
Old guy talked to the DJ, then turned around as the opening chords played. A pallor came over his face as he saw that Sarah’s seat was empty, and he’d be singing without her to hear him. He raspfully crooned his love song to her empty seat. If his face had any moisture left in it, he would have cried as he sang to her empty seat.
Sarah strode back into the karaoke hall with confidence, and old man’s voice gathered new courage. He was now able to raspily sing in a way that was understandable, and he sang his song of desperate love to Sarah, alternatively looking at her and the ceiling.
As soon as I was able to catch my breath from laughing, we left.
There was also a part of the karaoke where an old dude sang a love song more or less to me, but we can save that for another post.