Tag Archives: British Airways

Many years ago – it seems today

A LITTLE BIT back I wrote about Franco’s Fascist Spain – I enjoyed getting out of Spain and into Morocco. It was an adventure.

In Ceuta, in Ceuta and the mighty bats flew and the little claque of hitch hikers quivered and quavered on the beach all night, worried that the Guardia Civil would carry out their threats and machine gun us to our deaths before we’d hardly start living.

The brave band of 20 year olds decided to park on the beach and maintain an all night vigil against the possibility – we were ready to repulse any Fascist threats, if necessary we would die for the cause like the anarchists did in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

We survived the night for several reasons. One, we were obviously paranoid kids that weren’t even threatened with intelligence and two we were young kids that liked to sit on the beach and hear the waves beat against the North African sand.

But we survived the day to be able to go to the Ceuta bus station and pass through Spanish emigration into French Morocco. My school kid French held me well once we’d crossed the border – this was French Morocco I’d passed into it. There were strange things on the road to Tetuan – we got stopped quite often and the Moroccan police sailed into the bus to inspect the chickens people were carrying and to cast a kindly eye on our British and German passports. And the Moroccan people were so hospitable and friendly. The bus played Moroccan music and the Moroccan music was good and we all loved it.

To Tetuan. You could hear the guns firing in what was then called the Spanish West Sahara.

My colleagues wanted to score the best Moroccan hash, but I’d already learned of the draconian Moroccan laws. You could get thrown into a Tangier jail forever if you scored. Plus les flics were complicit in the deal. The deal being that some western kid scored hash and paid a fortune for it, the dealer and the cop were in cahoots, and once money had passed hands you found yourself in jail, the dealer got his hash back to re-sell and the cop got his payoff. A simple circle, simply completed.

In Morocco in 1969 you did not buy from the dealers. You met the locals who would give the European and American kids a pipe full of the freshest kif from the mountains, show them hospitality, give them a mint tea, and fare us well on our way.

The Danish guy with a German boyfriend who found himself conscripted went native in Tetuan – a delightful little city in those days but so small that everyone knew everyone else’s business. I particularly liked Coca Cola written in Arabic and beautiful mint tea in the very beautiful square.  Met a couple of Brits there – I don’t think they were looking after themselves very well – one had sores on his legs with maggots as garnish – probably just as well he got the maggots, they were probably eating away the rubbish on his leg.

I met the most beautiful Glaswegian lass who had been convinced that it would be a great idea if these guys took her down to Marrakesh. We tried to persuade her this probably wasn’t a great idea, but off she went. She was skint, she was young, and she was going to risk it for a frisket. She was probably all right. I’ll never know.

Never saw the Danish guy again or his German girlfriend – me and my companions went to the Tetuan bus station en route for Tangier, or Tanger as the French called it. A rather beautiful city full of kids trying to earn a crust and who addressed you in what they thought was your native language. I largely escaped detection because I was said I was from Island (Iceland).

The gendarmerie spoke French then – my schoolboy French did pretty well. Years later, I found myself in Tangier but couldn’t track down Barbara Hutton’s palace, complete with Nubian slaves with drawn scimitars. Otherwise the city remained much as it was when I was there in the 1960s. After a few weeks in Tanger, we took the boat back to Algeciras – Gibraltar was still out of bounds from Spain. I’d run out of money. I was waiting for my daddy at the Tanger post restante and had to catch a plane from Malaga back to the UK.

I had to say goodbye to my friends that had been with me during our Spanish and Moroccan time – apart from the great Dane, of course. He was still in Morocco.

As I said in my previous piece, Malaga Airport was tricky to stay in for a couple of days before I caught a British Airways fright back to Heathrow.  It was the first time in my life that I’d flown. It was pretty exciting. At Heathrow, I was lucky. I walked along the tunnel and hitch hiked all the way back to Leeds on only two thumbs up.  My dad wasn’t very happy with me, all told. 

Fascist Spain – it’s all such a long time ago, init?

MY FIRST VISIT TO Spain was in 1969 – I hitchhiked from Leeds to Dover, caught the ferry then hitch hiked all the way through France although the motorists thought my hair was too long, and crossed the border between France and Spain at the usual spot.

We caught the train across the border at Bayonne – in the carriage there Basque people introduced me to goatskins full of wine. They were good company and sort of understood my schoolboy French. We all got quite getrunken.

In Spain we found the going even harder than in France although a kind English couple gave us a ride over the Pyrenees and took us as far as Burgos.  This is an ancient city with soldier ants bigger than we’d ever imagined them to be and quite prepared to take on a curious 20 year old youth. Bless them.

From Burgos we were forced to take again a train in Spain to Madrid – long haired youths were obviously not considered to be worth picking up – Spain was such a poor country then anyway. My pesetas went a long long way, San Jose.

A nice young guy on the train said that Spanish wasn’t a hard language, and proceeded to give me a bit of instruction in the lingo/bhash. It’s a shame I never learnt Spanish, it seems a lot more intelligent than Esperanto, or I hope so anyway.

Wikimedia Commons image of FrancoThe Madrid underground system had just opened – so recently that it hadn’t got round to putting signs on the individual stations – we had to count the stations to get from one side of Madrid to the other. Already having given up on any chance of hitch hiking, we took the milk train down to the Costa del Sol.

Andalusia, ah Andalusia. Here our thumbs started to work again and a kind American gave us a lift all down the Costa del Sol main road. He said that he’d been down here a while ago when the coast road didn’t exist and every single town like Torremolinos and Marbella were fishing villages, pure and simple. In Marbella, I learned to my alarm about The Troubles. And so the IRA.

In his car was a Danish guy and his German girlfriend. Although Danish, the German Army had called him up and he was a draft dodger, having a lot of fun in the south of Spain.

I’d already noticed that there were a heck of a lot of different police forces in Fascist Spain – every time we needed to sleep we had schlafsacks and that and just camped towards the beach. One morning we woke up to find three members of the tricorn wearing the uniforms of the Guardia Civil pointing their machine guns at us. As their motto is “Everything for the Fatherland”, we took their advice about sleeping on the beach and decamped rapido.

To Malaga and to the Morocco ferry. Queuing up I made some observations to my fellow travellers in English about my impressions of Fascist Spain and the number of police forces there seemed to be. In those days, speaking against the  regime could get you thrown in gaol. A very nice Spanish gentleman, must have been in his mid 1930s, turned round to us and said: “Please keep your voices down. Spain is getting better all the time, but it is still unwise to speak out about the regime.”

And so to Morocco – or rather to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast and no doubt as irritating to the Moroccans as Gibraltar is to the Spanish. Here we fell in with some conscripts in the Spanish Army, and just the way you can do when you are 20, we discovered they were paid the equivalent of one shilling a day. A month.

My Moroccan adventures don’t matter too much here – but I found myself once again on the ferry going back to Spain  with some very foolish companions – a couple of very young American up and coming tennis players, who had stuffed the barrels of their rackets with cannabis. The journey was rough and the bows of the ferry caused many a passenger to vomit like there was no tomorrow and go green. I was OK – I don’t mind turbulent seas. What was really fantastic was passing through a vast shoal of tuna fish.

The customs house in Malaga was staffed with hundreds of  officials and I did fear for them. But they somehow got through customs and we had to say goodbye to each other. I was going to fly for the first time from Malaga Airport. I had a ticket, but no money at all, only enough to buy a lemon in the old town. My flight wasn’t going to happen for a day, and I hadn’t realised there was something called airport tax you had to pay.  There was a member of the Guardia Civil in the airport, and for one brief moment I contemplated nicking his pistol and shooting myself in the head. But a kindly English girl took pity on my and paid my airport tax so I could fly back to Blighty.

In Terminal Five you feel half alive

FLEW OUT yesterday to Bengalaru and I was a Terminal Five virgin, because BA has finally switched practically all of its frights to the new big place at Heathrow.

I was lucky enough to be in one of the lounges and they’re certainly massive enough – you have clear views of what look like carefully cultivated acres of dull grey stones, and above you are girders, girders and more girders.

But there’s something about the place that makes you feel like you’re in a Jean-Paul Satre novel – I felt either half alive or half dead, and most of the other passengers looked that way too. And most of the staff for that matter. There’s something very very soulless about T5.

That feeling is even more pronounced in the vast shopping mall that is T5. Endless rows of glossy shops less than half full, and such a feeling of space above that you’re reduced to what you are – an insignificant little bit of data being shoved at vast expense into silvery tubes and shipped out to points on the moral compass.

And so after nine hours or so, we arrived at BIAL – you’ll recall that we were one of the first to fly out from the new Bangalore airport. Lobbed in at 4AM in the morning, we found immigration and everything else to be painless – despite large queues of people, we were all “processed” politely and swiftly so before a twitch of a lamb’s tail, we were facing the Louis Vuitton sculpture once again.

And at 4:45AM, the drive into Indiranagar from the BIAL airport was hitch free and swift – we made it back to the Centre of Laundry Excellence in only an hour and five minutes.

BA tells me “no Terminal Five for you”

YEAH, I AM HEADED out to Bangalore soon enough, and have booked my fright with the “World’s Finest Airline” – Virgin, BA.


They tell me I can’t go through Terminal Five – hooray! I will have to go through Terminal Four – booh!


“Although we have seen a steady improvement at Terminal 5, we want to be sure that our customers can be confident of high service standards when the terminal is handling larger numbers of passengers. Therefore, the majority of our long haul intercontinental flights will continue to operate from Terminal 4 for the time being.”




They’ve put the change back until June. Booh! I was hoping to sample Gordon Ramsey’s “Plain Effing Food” which has had far from rave reviews.


Instead, it will be TGI Fridays and Pizza Hat in Bangalore, as usual.  Hooray!