Category Archives: Travels

Airspace closed?

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As I search for ways of getting out of the UK to travel to Istanbul, I am continually told that there are no available seats on trains, no available seats on buses, I watch the news for updates, and see thousands of people struggling to get home, as the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajoekull eruption continues it is said to spead over the UK and Europe, ceasing all air travel.

I decided to have a break and go for a walk, on a quite nice day here in London, having a few white clouds floating above me.

As I looked up enjoying the fresh air, there were two aircraft vapour trails crossing overhead, over London and Heathrow.


Aircraft vapour trails over London Heathrow 20/04/10

I am not a happy boy.

So OK, they are perhaps above 35,000ft, (10,000m), but if they can do it why not the rest?

No travel again as the ash cloud covers the UK

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Monday 19th April 2010, I am still trying to get to Istanbul to give an NLP Practitioner course , and the situation did not look good.

Not wanting to disappoint the participants and to honour the commitment I had made to give the course, I had been continually reviewing my options, and modes of transport.

I had contacted EuroLines, a bus transport organisation, transporting passengers throughout Europe by road, but they do not go to Turkey. The nearest they could take me was Sofia in Bulgaria, a three day journey, and the earliest they could get me a seat was in five days time. I would then have to find my way from Sofia, across the Turkish border into Istanbul, perhaps another day in travel.

I could drive my car across Europe, that was not a solution as I have not taken my car on the road for 18 months, it would need a service, oil changed, brakes checked, the paperwork prepared, insurance, but the worse would be the fuel consumption, my car achieves 18 miles to the gallon, (29 kilometers 4.5 liters approx.)

I could take a train or trains. On my return from working in Saudi Arabia, I had visited a friend in Athens, and on the spur of the moment, decided to take the train home from Athens to England and in 1988, with slower trains, it had taken me four or five days, a wonderful experience, but would I want to do it again, London to Istanbul by train.

I decided to go to the offices of Europe Train in central London, as they were not answering the telephones, their web site did not give me any help, in fact at the beginning of this crisis, their web site was being rebuilt and was unavailable.

Arriving at just after 10am in the morning, I joined the queue of hopeful travelers, which stretched from inside the offices, round a corner, down a street, around another corner, and down that street.


The queue outside Eorope Trains in Central London stretches even further into the distance, inwhich I stood for over 6 hours.

I stood in that queue until 4:30pm, and still not reaching the last corner, and we were told that there was a chance we would not be seen as the offices closed at 6pm.

I was cold, the cold wind had reached my bones. I was hunger, I had not eaten since breakfast, I was thirsty, again not having anything since breakfast.

I was asking myself, was this worth the waiting? But I had made a commitment and a promise, people had booked time off work, not gone on holidays to attend the course.

Would Europe Rail be able to get me to Istanbul, after all, the bus company EuroLines only went to Bulgaria?

There was no information, no-one from Europe Train was to be seen. A young man, a fellow traveler made an effort to get information, and slowly went down the queue informing people that the earliest train to Rome would be Wednesday and the same to Spain. But I was going a different route, perhaps I could get an earlier connection from Paris.

Now, I had an idea, just like the ending of the very funny film, The Italian Job, (the original is far better than the recent release), what if I went to Rome and took a flight from there? Then I thought, would I get a flight? What happens if the ash cloud covers Rome, or as I had been told closed Turkish airspace, I would be stuck in Rome.

I had throughout the day been telephoning friends to keep an eye on the fluid situation, the ever changing news of the air travel, I had my travel agents checking as well. Nothing.

Then I had another “Italian Job” idea, check the internet myself on my mobile phone, and the news from the BBC news pages was, that flights were being allowed from Scotland the next day, and with luck London airports opening in the evening.

I had a British Airways ticket on BA0676 on Wednesday.

After spending six and a half hours in the queue, cold, hungry, thirsty, tired, my legs stiff and back aching, with no guarantee that Europe Train could help me, and at what cost, I left the queue to return home, spirits raised.

Now, Tuesday morning, (20th April), I have seen on the news that there has been fresh eruptions from the Eyjafjallajoekull eruption, and an ash cloud is set to cover the UK.

Oh Poo Poo

Then I looked at what aircraft have been allowed to fly so far today from Scotland. They are small propeller driven aircraft being flown to the outer island around Scotland, which fly below any ash cloud, not the jet airliners flying to international destinations the majority of travelers and myself hope to take.

So, were we given the correct information by the news media?

We all assume that if someone says the flightpaths are to reopen, that ALL aircraft will be flying. We put out “cat on the mat“, in NLP terms we made a presupposition, we presupposed that we understood what was being said by putting our own understanding.

The other piece of information that was given was that an international flight was made. Where to? Iceland.
 

Tomorrows flight to Istanbul BA0678 Cancelled

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It is a wonderful day in London, not a cloud in the sky, yet there is, an ash cloud, grounding all flights in many European countries.

    
Trafagar Square and The London Eye, basks under a blue cloudless sky, well apart from and ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajoekull eruption

Still trying to reach Istanbul to give an NLP Practitioner course , I was booked to fly on Sunday (18th April 2010) at 0710 hours, but I have just received an email from British Airways to say that its’ flight BA0678 is canceled.

I have tried other ways to travel to Istanbul, but it seems to be near impossible to book tickets.

Traveling into Cental London to the offices of Europe Rail near Piccadilly Circus, I was met be a large queue of people, all trying to get train tickets on Eurostar and Continental railway systems.


A large queue outside Europe Rail hoping to buy rail tickets due to the Eyjafjallajoekull eruption 

Speaking to a number of them, I realise how lucky I am to be living in London, and being stuck here rather than being stuck in another country.

People who have been waiting for a number of days have had to find hotel accommodation, find food, all at their own expense.

There was one couple who were going away this weekend to be married, but now cannot get to their own wedding. Their guests were also not going anywhere.

I tried to purchase train tickets out of London to main land Europe, but all seats are booked, and I am told that all trains out of Paris are fully booked as flights are grounded in France.

I intended to get to Milan, but was informed that Italian airspace is also affected by the ash cloud. So, had I reached Milan, I would have been stuck there.

So the course in Istanbul will have to be postponed by one week, and somehow I will find a way to get to Istanbul, as I have just heard that aircraft could be grounded until next Wednesday at the earliest.

Pity that I have already ironed all my shirts, (22), prior to my now defunct trip, I could have spent this weekend with a purpose.

The Sunset after Ash Cloud

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One of the other outcomes resulting from the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajoekull eruption, was to be a beautiful sunset, as the sinking sun shone through the suspended particulates in the upper atmosphere.

To have a view of this sunset on Thursday evening, 15th April 2010, I took a short bus ride to Richmond upon Thames, and climbed Richmond Hill.

A stunning view over Surrey and in the distance a very quite Heathrow, with no aircraft taking off or landing.

Below me was the River Thames, yet to flow through London.


View of the River Thames from Richmond Hill

Many famous paintings have been composed and produced from the same view, although the trees and island in the River Thames have changed, plus the style of dress.


William Turner, “Richmond Hill on the birthday of the Prince Regent”, 1819.

Many people stood watching the sun set behind Heathrow Airport. A red sun and sky resulted, perhaps not what I expected, and certainly not worth the cancelation of all flights in the UK and parts of Europe. 


Sunset from Richmond Hill looking over to Heathrow Airport 15th April 2010.

Jet Setting is no fun

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Jet setting is no fun, continually flying from one country to another as I tend to do, seems a dream to some people, but it is not.

Having to wait for hours in an airport, a departure lounge, the delays that just seem to happen, having to wait for luggage to tumble down onto the carousel, arranging and getting a taxis, or having to catch a bus to and from the airport, to be squashed into uncomfortable aircraft seats next to other passengers who fight for some personal space with elbows everywhere. Then there is the airline food, promoted as gourmet, promoted as being high class, but then it tends to be just fast food in style, and depending on the airline and their cuisine or culture, not to my taste.

Today has been a horror, a nightmare, due the the grounding of all UK flights and much of European flights.

I spent an hour sitting in front of a travel agent I use, just to find alternate ways of getting from London to Istanbul, perhaps they could get me from London to Paris by Eurostar  train, then from Paris to Milan, and I could catch a plane say from Milan to Istanbul, but there were no seats available on the trains from Paris to Milan, and so it was on all trains from Paris, all are fully booked.

My travel agent gave up trying.

I returned home to try myself on the telephone and internet.

I go onto the Eurostar web site , and there are shown seats available, so I go on the Rail Europe web site, to book train journeys onwards from Paris. Rail Europe  web site is down due to maintenance, so I tried their booking telephone line, engaged, engaged, engaged. Eventually I get connected and put on hold for twenty minutes, listening to music and a woman saying they are extremely busy, please hold, or visit their web site. The *?££$% web site does not work Rail Europe. When I speak to a very friendly sales person, she does her utmost to help, but everything is fully booked.

Oh Poo Poo.

Then I am told that even though Eurostar web site shows availability, actually when you do try and book, it says, no seats available.

Oh Poo Poo.

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull eruption and the ash cloud has much to answer for. The disruption it has caused worldwide, the cost of lost holidays, work, and visits must be extremely high.

Flitting around the world has become easy, and we now take it for granted, just to jump on an aircraft and in a couple of hours be in a far off country. It is only when incidents like the Eyjafjallajoekull eruption  and the ash cloud over Europe, that one can begin to appreciate how lucky we all are, we take for granted airline travel.

As far as jet setting is concerned, forget it, it is Poo Poo.

I still have to get to Istanbul. How?

The fallout from the Iceland Eyjafjallajoekull Volcano

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The Eyjafjallajoekull eruption in Iceland has caused havoc in the UK and other countries in the area, including Ireland, Belgium, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries, especially to the airline industry.

As a cloud of ash is sent into the atmoshere, at about 20,000 ft and as high as 55,000 ft  (6,000 m – 16,500 m) from Eyjafjallajoekull, the jet stream or winds at that hight are sending the cloud over the above counties air space, making it very dangerous for aircraft.

The fine ash being sent into the atmoshere has been created by Eyjafjallajoekull sending molten lava up through a glacier, the effect of the lava reaching the ice is producing a tremendous amount of steam or clouds, plus the super cooling creates very small particulates of glass.

The effect of these very small particulates if they enter an aircrafts jet engine is devastating. The metal will be eroded, a coating of burned ash within the engine made and the fuel and air intakes will be blocked. The result will be engine failure, as happened when a British Airways 747 flying over Indonesia in 1982 flew through an ash cloud and lost all four engines.

I am due to fly on Turkish Airlines TK1980 from London Heathrow to Istanbul in Turkey tomorrow to give a series of courses, starting Saturday 17th April with a 7 day NLP Practitioner course , and I have been monitoring the situation.

I have just telephoned Turkish Airlines in Turkey to be told tomorrows flight is canceled, and the next available flight could be in four days time, even though I am a frequent flyer and gold card holder of their frequent flyer card.

So Eyjafjallajoekull has even more fallout than ash, their will be no course starting this Saturday, sorry to my participants in Istanbul, we will have to delay the start.

The knock-on effect of fight cancelations affects the whole world, as aircraft cannot takeoff say from the USA to overfly the cloud  affected countries. Aircraft are trapped in those countries as are the passengers.

The ash cloud knows no boundaries, it will not just stay over the UK for example, but will follow the jet stream high in the atmosphere perhaps taking in France and Germany.

Oh Poo Poo, I will have to unpack my suitcase and await further news.  

A couple of hours beside the sea

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My work and travels take me to many exotic places, China, Malaysia, Sri lanka, India, Turkey to name just a few, as I am invited to give my courses in NLP, PhotoReading, Mind MapsMemory and Hypnosis, plus working with people on a 1-2-1 basis for personal issues like phobias, fears and confidence building, and today was no exception, as I visited Clacton on Sea.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. (click to listen to the song). Yes it invigorates me, it relaxes me, it clears my mind, I feel refreshed, and I needed all these, so a visit to Clacton on Sea on the East Coast of England, a place I had never visited before.

I took the train, a quick trip into London Waterloo Station, the Jubilee underground to Stratford where the new buildings for the London 2012 Olympics are clearly visible, and then a fast train straight to Clacton on Sea.

Well it should have been a fast train. Unfortunately, the train was stopped at a very small station in the middle of nowhere, Marks Tey as there was a person under the train further up the track, and the police had closed the rail track.

We were asked to get off the train after sitting there wondering what was happening, only to see the train return to London, and we stood there asking the now invisible station staff what was our next move. After a long wait we were told a bus would take us on our onward journey, and it would be with us in fifteen minutes. Obviously the locals had other ideas as the passenger numbers reduced as some of out fellow travelers jumped into arriving cars and taxis.

What seemed like hours the bus arrived, and the driver told us that he would take us onward to the next station, Colchester, were we could take another train to Clacton on Sea. Arriving at Colchester, I asked a member of the station staff what was our next move, and was told to go to platform one and a train would be there in five minutes.

Strange how railway staff have a different concept of time, as we were still waiting an hour later.

Still, one has to consider that someone had lost their life, that there were people who had to deal with the aftermath of that death, and there would be friends and family who would have lost that person. Being delayed seemed insignificant.

The stiff upper lip of the British came into play as we made conversation, told jokes, asked for advice from each other.

Eventually I arrived in Clacton on Sea, a typical small British holiday resort, especially on a not so warm out of season midweek day. It was empty.

I had come for a purpose, and I carried my work out that need.

     Clacton on Sea Pier

I found myself on the seafront, with the pier, amusements arcades, and fast food restaurants, similar to many other resorts around the coast of the UK.

            

I relaxed as I strolled up and the down the prom, watching the sea washing the sand and shingle beaches, with the odd family building sand castles, children enjoying themselves, people just walking taking in the good fresh air.


Clacton on Sea seafront promenade.

It is sometimes good to get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, to take in good fresh air, to allow the mind to empty, to become one with the environment, even when to get there, there could be many trials, many distractions and many things that we had hoped for do not happen.

The Transport we use, I’m becoming a Grumpy Old Man

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The world is in a big debate as to global warming, are we the human race effecting the warming of our world, the only place we can exist?
 
Yes we have a space station where less than ten people live for just a few weeks. Yes we have been to the Moon many years ago, but sorry, we are stuck on this round thing floating in space for many, many years to come, there is not room on the space station to house the billions of people if our world fails due to global warming tomorrow.

Oh Poo Poo.

So we are told that we have to reduce our carbon emissions, use less coal, use less electricity, use the car less to reduce petrol consumption.

The lifestyle of the human race has changed rapidly over the last hundred years, and one of the changes has been how the human roams or move about in the environment.

Before the existence of motorised transportation, people only traveled within a few miles or kilometers of their home, for the average person, to travel more than say ten miles, (16 kilometers), would take a day with meals stops, rest, etc. Now, with cars, we will go and buy a packet of crisps (chips for my American readers), and be back home in half an hour and think nothing of it.

We used to shop, buy our food at the corner shop which was within walking distance, now we go to the large out of town supermarket, maybe ten miles from where we live, and even if we had a day to walk there, we cannot because the supermarket is on a motorway, an autobahn, which does not permit pedestrians, and the shopping would be too heavy to carry back. We need our own transport.

Our jobs, the factories, the offices are located often far from where we live, in central city centers or business parks, we need transport to get to them.

Our entertainment, restaurants, theaters, cinemas are located long distances from where we live.

In the UK as in many countries in the world, we are being told to use the car less, to use public transport, to walk, and this way we use less polluting fuel, and we get healthier.

Being that I drove less than 400 miles last year in my own car, and have done for some years, I have not taxed, licensed, my car to be on the road, so I am car less, I have no transport of my own I can legally use.

So I walk, I use public transport. It is cheaper than paying out for petrol, having to pay to park the car when I get to my destination, and as I am entitled to free public transport in London, it is very much cheaper than driving.

I have a supermarket immediately opposite to where I live, so my daily needs are easy to acquire. The major town center is 15 minutes walk away, so good for my health, and I work from home. I do not need a car.

Until.

Yes, until I have to travel beyond my normal living existence.

My quest to research and look at the Blackburn Buccaneer jet fighter aircraft, took me to visiting the RAF Hendon Museum. That is easy, a quick train journey into London’s Waterloo Railway station, about half an hour, a ten minute transfer to then catch a tube train (metro, underground) to Colindale Underground station about another half an hour, (actually it is on the surface not underground), and a 15 minute walk to the museum. Let us say about one and a half hour journey, a journey by car which would perhaps take half and hour by car door to door.

I was asked to give my services to allow local school pupils to experience what it is like to have job interviews. To get to the school by car would take about ten minutes maximum, but by public transport, I had to take two buses, waiting for over 15 minutes for each one, plus the bus rides took nearly one hour.

Last night I went to a meeting which would take about 20 minutes to drive too, and an exceptional meeting it was, making many new acquaintances, but my journey back took one and a half hours, catching three trains, walking through dark country lanes to a deserted train station, where there was only one train per hour, to change to another train with a 15 minute wait, to change to another train with another 15 minute wait, and then a ten minute walk from my home railway station to home.

Then there was my trip to the wonderful Fleet Air Arm Museum of the British Royal Navy at RNAS Yeovilton. This journey meant that I took a train into London to catch another train back the way I had just come from, for on a two hour journey to Yeovilton Junction railway station. I relaxed and read, watched the changing countryside, having no stresses of driving a car.

On reaching Yeovilton Junction railway station I asked how I could reach the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and was told there was just one bus a day, but that left the station at 10:30 am, goes to the museum site, I expect through the villages, and leaves the museum to return to the station at 1:30 pm.

Um. That is useful as it was mid day when I arrived, and I did want to see more than the front door of the museum before I took the bus back again.

The only other options were walking, well it was ten miles away I was told, so I could do it if I walked fast only to see the “Closed for the Day” sign being put up, or I could take a taxi.

I took a taxi. Nice and quick, but £22 each way.

I am trying to do my little bit for the environment, replacing my light bulbs with low energy bulbs, (see Energy Saving Lights, becoming environmentaly friendly ), switching off electrical equipment when not in use, not having the heating on as much as required or set at a lower temperature, using public transport, but I am paying the price of convenience, of my time, of being at the mercy of a train driver, a bus driver or a taxi driver.

Have they turn-up for work that day?

Is there going to be the train, bus or taxi?

Have they taken an extra five minute break meaning that I miss my next connection?
 
Are there going to be engineering works, closing the rail network?

What are the timetable changes for evening and night time travel, they could be every hour instead of every 15 minutes because there is little demand in the evenings?

We have to start somewhere to stop global climate change. The infrastructure has to be set-up, the extra modes of public transport put in place so that people have a way of moving about no matter what time of the day or year it is, and the organisers of events also have to do think about people doing their little bit to save the planet by using public transport.

I will keep my state, for my NLP’ers, Mustafa, Fred or Antonio, to tell that little voice in my head to shut up and stop complaining, and to relax and enjoy downtime sometimes sitting on a slow bus or train, and stop being a grumpy old man.

Phillip Holt a Grumpy old man?

My interest in the RAF and flying

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It was in the late 1970’s that I worked for NCR, a computer manufacturer, and I was tasked to design, write the software to customers requirements, install, train the customers staff, and maintain the installation thereafter.

The area I covered from my base offices in the UK, Nottingham and Leicester, covered a vast area, from North and South Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, down to the south of Liecestershire, from caravan manufacturers to a door-to-door cosmetic selling organization, and often I found myself driving hundreds of miles to visit my customers.

Often my journeys, especially through Lincolnshire, would take me past RAF airfields, and since a small boy I had a fascination of aircraft, mighty birds in the sky.

At RAF Coningsby, the B1192 road I took to my customer in Wragby, passed the end of the runway, and there was a convenient lay-bye, where I could stop and watch the fast jets, Phantoms, take off, looking directly up into their jet exhaust and afterburners. (click to see map).

At RAF Waddington on the A607 road from Grantham to the City of Lincoln, the massive Vulcan bombers of the RAF “V” Force, stood ready to launch at minutes notice on their dispersal pads near the end of the runways, ready to retaliate against Soviet Block targets with nuclear weapons should NATO be attacked. (click to see map).

At RAF Wyton on the A141 near Warboys, English Electric Cambera’s, RAF reconnaissance planes flew low over the road as they came into land. (click to see map).

At RAF Wittering, the V/STOL Harrier Jump Jets, would fly over the A1 road. (click to see map).

At RAF Alcanbury, further south on the A1 road, USAF U-2 spy planes, with their albatross length wings glided in to a now closed airfield. (click to see map).

So many more airfields I would pass, fascinated by the power and beauty of the aircraft.

My love for knowledge of aircraft has stayed with me all these years, and reading, researching books, visiting museums on aircraft, gives me great joy and happiness, although my interest does not or has not become an obsession. As I discover more in my research, I need to fill in the blanks, find out more about information presented to me.

It is now I appreciate the art of reading, PhotoReading, allowing me to absorb so much information quickly, and when reading normally after PhotoReading the book to get specific information, getting so much more enjoyment.

Reading fictional books like Biggles, a pilot flying mid world war planes, solving problems and having boyhood fascination capturing adventures.
 
Living in Kingston upon Thames, the home of the Hawker Hurricane, led me to read about the history of the iconic aircraft, and visiting museums, the Imperial War museum at RAF Duxford, the old airfield and race track at Brooklands, the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm Museum, RAF Uxbridge and the RAF Museum in Hendon.

As I read, one piece of information has led me to another, to another, to the book Phoenix Squadron by Rowland White, which I wrote about in my blog a few days ago. Then my cousin Glynis, read my blog and suggested that I read Rowland White’s other book, Vulcan 607, as her husband Dave had been involved with them, and my mind went back to those early days as I passed RAF Waddington, with those big jets, the Vulcan’s, just waiting to reach for the skies.

I had to buy the book.

It is a small world

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Whilst having my birthday breakfast with my good friend Jill Lawday begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting in Kingston’s Frank B’s Diner, we were served by a very happy and pleasant person, Kapila Amarasinghe.



Phillip Holt and Kapila Amarasinghe in Frank B’s Diner

He had time to make sure that he took our order correctly, to make us feel at home and at ease.

Obviously not from the UK, I asked where did he originate from, and he said Colombo in Sri Lanka.

I have spent many days giving training in Sri Lanka on many visits, especially staying in the very old Swimming Club of Colombo, and in the next few weeks I hope to return.

I told Kapila my association with Sri Lanka, and what a wonderful place I had found it, but not what I actually did there.

The time came when Jill and I had finished our breakfast, and it was time to leave, so I went to the till.

Kapila, again being very friendly wished me well, then mentioned that he had been involved with the Sri Lanka tennis team, along with Maxwell de Silva.

What? Where did that name come from? Why did he name Maxwell de Silva?“. Questions raced through my mind.

I was in shock.

Maxwell de Silva and I have worked together for a number of years, being co-directors of a company we formed, NLPNOW-Lanka, to provide training in Sri Lanka.

I never mentioned what I did in Sri Lanka, or my associations with people there, and yet Kapila and I had a common friend.

Here I am in the UK, and Maxwell in Sri Lanka, and suddenly, there is a direct link between us.

It’s a small world, you will never know who you may bump into on your travels.