Sunday, 10 January 2010

Virgin Soldiers

Night Rider and the Blonde decided to head towards warmer climes for the New Year - namely to RSA, the Republic of South Africa. With some trepidation heading to Heathrow to catch the Virgin 6pm flight to Jo'burg on December 17th; heavy snow was forcaste for that evening. Judging by all the traffic on the M4 motorway out of London, it looked like everyone was leaving the City to a few visiting Americans and the hordes of asylum seekers to their own delights during the so-called "festive period" ( political correctness prevents NR as referring to this time of year as "Christmas" )

Sure enough, not long after getting in the Upper Class cabin, the promised snow started falling in generous quantities. However, a saviour was at hand. Sir Richard Branson himself, complete with at least three generations of his Upper Class family climbed aboard and enschonced themselves a few seats away. Sir R seemed to be in a great mood and no doubt, it was his influence that finally got us airborne by 7.30 pm. He is clearly one of the world's cleverest businessmen and so inspirational, that his Virgin staff work for a fraction of their bad tempered British Airways colleagues and always, have a smile and kind word for you.

Sir R had his ancient parents with him; but Dad who must be at least 90 in the shade, still looks like a fit old root and i can only wonder at the admiration he must have for his clever son. In deference to the ancients, Sir R announced shortly after take off that the oldest 15 or so punters travelling cattle class as the back of the plane, would be invited to join us in the Upper Class section. There then followed a procession of what must have at first sight, appeared to be the central committee of the Conservative Party, complete with shawls and sticks, stumbling into our midst and momentarily disturbing the flow of bubbly to the Blonde's glass.

Some sort of mediocre dinner followed and while the Blonde cackled through a showing of Bruno, I managed to get some zeds before the lights were turned up again before our landing at Jo'burg. There we were scheduled to catch a South African Airways "Air Link" flight to the Kruger Park. No one had told me that Airlink had suffered three serious accidents in the last three months and was in danger of having all its flights suspended until its safety record was put right. However, after seeing the crew and a few local maintenance staff fiddling with our first alloted plane, while we sat in a steaming hot bus next to it on the runway, I can understand why.

We finally made it onto one of their planes some 7 hours later; I could not help thinking that i could have driven to the Kruger in half the time and made a note to be not so lazy next time. I wonder what Sir R would have thought of "Air Link" - probably have shed a few crocodile tears.

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