Well, I am back from my four-day holiday to Birmingham, England. A trip I felt both negative and positive about making, but finally settled on going on. I booked the trip with Expedia.se, after watching their commercial, telling the audience that one would have money left over for fun purchases on site. And weeks after I had bought my weekend ticket to Miniatura, the reason for me going at all. I had had a bed & breakfast up in one tab on my iPad, all summer, but that was fully booked by the time I decided to go. So, Expedia seemed to be my solution. I booked basically the cheapest hotel I could find, as close to Birmingham International/the NEC as I could get. The Hotel’s name being the Arden Hotel & Leisure Club. But two weeks before departure, I did the mistake of looking on Trip Advisor for the hotel, and read the reviews. They scared the living daylight out of me, many talking about the showers only dripping and not being able to get soap suds off, and the rooms either smelling strongly of mold or nicotine/smoke. If there is one thing I must have when travelling, it is a shower and loo which work, or I will be in a foul temper and feel the entire trip a fiasco. And thanks to allergies, I can not be in rooms full of dust, mold or nicotine smell. Dust and mold will have me all congested in both nose and throat and nicotine remains, will also mean a migraine within minutes. So, I was worried sick all week, before going, not wanting to go, but not being able to cancel since the money was non-refundable. I did not really sleep at all the night before going, worrying, and I had to be up at 05:00.
My plans for my trip were these. Day 1, I would fly in to Birmingham, go to the Arden and drop my luggage, get the box for D. out of the suitcase, head off to New Street Station in the centre of the city, walk to the post office at Pinfold Street and post his package, then phone the Back-to-Back Museum to find out if there was room for me, at any of their guided tours, that day. Depending on the time, I might squeeze in a second museum as well or try to find the bakery Maison Macey, which competed on Britain’s Best Bakery, a couple of years ago. Day 2 & 3 would be spent at Miniatura of course and day 4, shopping in and around New Street Station. Those were my plans. But things never become the way we have planned, do they?
In my case, it started finding out about the hotel having bad reviews. And then that luggage was not included in the price of my ticket. My son, serving an LDS mission in the Birmingham, England Mission, of course had to receive a care package, now when I was going to be so close to him. He is having a tough time of things and his Birthday a couple of weeks ago, was spent without as much as a piece of cake, so I decided to put together a fun package with all sorts of foods he might be missing. Since shipping in England is cheaper than sending things from Sweden, I decided that the package would also hold, his Christmas presents, all bought and wrapped by now. The box became big and heavy, 2,6 kilos. My plan to put it in the carry-on, did not work out. The package was too big. So, the box had to go in a suitcase, and the carry-on could not fit in the suitcase as planned, with the box in there. In other words, I would have to balance two bags on my way to the hotel, as well as my shoulder bag. And of course, I would have to pay for taking my suitcase with me. Which if I had shown up at the airport in Copenhagen with it, would have cost me over 1200 kronor (£110, €125, $140). Now we paid for it, over the internet, and got the cost down to a little over 500 kronor (£46, €52, $58).
I took as little clothes with me as possible, so I could shop for things in England. I put D.’s package in there which filled half the suitcase and then also the toilet articles, since not all bottles filled the regulations of less than 50 mls. I also resent walking around with a see through plastic bag, containing my private things, the way terrorism has forced us all to do. In my carry-on, I put the neck pillow I wanted to use on the flight, to sleep, my charging cords, and my iPad with keypad. That was all. At 05:00, I silently climbed out of bed not to wake “Gubby” and “Boo”, who sleeps with their mummy. Took a shower, got dressed and at 05:45, my husband got out the door with the suitcase, while I tried to silently walk around kissing my boys on the forehead, trying not to wake anyone, and whispering to E., if she could get them ready for school, in case their dad did not make it back until it was time to drive them there. We got to the airport without any hassle but I asked him if he could please help me at the self-service machines. We had picked a seat for me already, we had checked me in already and printed out a boarding pass, BUT I needed a tag for my suitcase. So he parked the car and we walked to get the tag and while I went to the loo, he had someone help him put it on, because we were in the wrong terminal. We walked to the right one, and stood in queue to drop the bag off, till I asked this young man, why I had to stand there, when the bag was ready to go. He told me, he had not realized and pointed where for us to go instead, and we took the bag to this un-manned place and put the bag on the conveyor belt. My words were “Can I really trust this now?”. Famous last words right?!
T. gave me a quick, non-passionate kiss, like good riddance. It was a year since I got a kiss I think, or was it two? Anyway, contemplating the sadness of my friendship marriage, I walked off to security while he left for Sweden and his own troubles. He had shown his passport at the border crossing and the custom’s police asked him what his business was in Sweden. Instead of saying “I live here since 1992/I am going home to take my children to school/I just took my SWEDISH wife to the airport/I live in … and work in Helsingborg” or showing his Swedish driver’s license, he just sat there and took the verbal abuse, having to show his green card and was given the time of his life, being treated like an illegal migrant. Why???? I was glad I did not know, since I had my own troubles with security. I was chosen to do the dance! I had to stand with my hands in the air and turn around, not once but twice, because I look so very much like a muslim terrorist, being a blonde light-skinned woman who unfortunately has passed age 50. I will never ever agree to telling anyone, this piece of information again! So enjoy! I am 25 from now on, alright!??
But this was not the only humiliation. This man rudely asked me if the carry-on was mine. “Yes!” -Do you have a computer in there? “I have an iPad!” He now started yelling at me, that I was supposed to have taken that out of the bag. “Excuse me then, I will do it right now! But this is the very first time I fly with an iPad and how was I suppose to know?” He could not have cared less, just angrily walked off with the carry on in one hand and the iPad in another. They could have put up signs about this, you know! Instead all I saw were signs about liquids having to go in plastic bags and that one must remove one’s jacket and belt. IDIOTS! Idiot Danes! They have a sign problem, both at Legoland and at the airport. Not to speak about their road signs, which do not appear until the moment that you are supposed to turn, when it is too late for the sign to show up!
Rattled, I could not enjoy looking at tax-free at all. I did walk over to make up to see if I could find a better eye-liner than the one I currently use, which breaks when used and which breaks when sharpened. I had no idea which brand to look at so I ended up at Smashbox, which had an eye-liner which self-sharpens itself. While I was looking, this woman came up to the brand name next to Smashbox and put on her entire make up. I did not leave because I was totally fascinated at the gall but also, because I was curious to see what she would look like in the end. Next time I fly, I will not bother putting make up on before the airport and walk up to the MAC people and have them put on the make up for me. They stood there doing nothing. I did not feel like looking in any other shop really, feeling depressed over how everyone always scream at me and treats me like a dog turd.
This was not a big flight at all, which I realized when I got to my gate, where there were only a couple of chairs, already occupied of course. The shabbiest part of the airport for sure. Most of my fellow passengers at that point were muslim men and women which had me feel uneasy, especially after this air stewardess called out this male Muslim name, resembling the one’s who was in charge of the Paris murders. The man was present and I could see the panic in her face and anger, when she told him that his flight was cancelled, that he was not allowed to fly with us. So there we all stood ready to walk on board the plane, and all they cared about was removing this man from us and have him go and identify his luggage, so that it could be taken off the airplane. As far as I can tell, they suspected the man of terrorism, the way they treated him. But when I sat on the plane, which was delayed because of this incident, he came on board after everyone else, his hands full of papers. I have no idea what went on there, but it left me feeling uneasier than ever. Before his re-entrance, a bunch of middle-aged Danish men had come on board as well, stinking of alcohol, being loud and they were seated surrounding me on all sides. Right beside me though, sat a Polish woman, who did not say boo or bah to me.
When we landed, we all got off, that woman first of all, since she just pushed herself off. But she did not get very far, since passport control took forever and then she had to stand waiting for her suitcase with the rest of us, forever. Because four suitcases came on to the conveyor belt and went around it for the next two hours. I stood beside this German man, some years younger than me, and his two elderly travelling companions. We all felt bewildered. Where were our bags? After an hour, this Danish man went and fetched someone from luggage and asked where our bags were. She walked up to the bags passing our view over and over again and said that our bags had been sent elsewhere, but not to Birmingham. The poor German man only understood a fraction and his companions nothing at all. But I understood, that it was time to follow the lady and report one’s bag missing. So the entire flight’s passengers entered two queues. I ended up at the very end of the slowest moving of the two, and only had three young Russian girls behind me, complaining that they had nothing now, except toothbrushes. I turned around and told them that I did not even have a toothbrush. The lady, had handed out papers for everyone to fill in before one got up to the counter, but the four of us did not get any. Nice, so I had to stand and worry about that. Because soon, other passengers from other flights were added to our queues. The Polish lady, was not in the queue from the start, but then she just pushed herself in front of me. I was too tired and too upset to say anything. But finally she spoke to me and told me that she could not work all day now, since all her charger cords were in her luggage. Too bad lady, she at least lived in Birmingham. I was visiting for four days, had a package to post that day, which I did not know where it was at that moment, and all my toilet articles, underwear, jacket and clothes, were in the suitcase. I had nothing! And for how long?
This vision of Lasse Åberg’s film from the 1980s called “Sällskapsresan” came to mind. His bag is lost on his flight to Gran Canaria and all week he has to borrow clothes from a new-found friend. Not until the last day, does his bag show up. If my bag did not show up in Birmingham, I would not be able to send that care package to D. after all. It costing too much from Sweden. And worse, I would have to spend the entire first day, shopping for what I would need during my stay. The Danish men, who were all part of a big group of about 20 people, received a little overnight bag each, but the oldest was concerned about going to a formal dinner that evening, dressed in a cheerful striped tennis shirt. None of them were dressed for a formal dinner. The Polish lady really wanted to know what had happened to her bag and when it was finally our turn at the counter, I could hear the answer. The entire flight’s bags were still in Copenhagen and would maybe come with the evening flight. Perhaps! What to do? Trust that information or??
When I finally had my bag reported missing, I headed with my almost empty carry-on towards the exit and found the free air-link leading to Birmingham International train station. I sat down inside it, feeling sad and exhausted, since all my plans had been ruined. This really fat Indian man sat down beside me. I recognised him from the missing bag queue and he asked me if I had lost my bag as well. He lived in Birmingham, so he was not too upset but he understood how upset I must be. But he hoped my day would turn out better from then on. We both got off at the train station and he headed for the car park while I headed out to start my walk to the hotel, having printed out a map from their site, at home, which showed how to walk to them. The following photos were taken as I was leaving the hotel later on, not going to it, so they are turned the wrong way, but I was pleasantly surprised actually. The walk took no more than ten minutes, I was constantly in lit areas, and I never felt unsafe. Arriving, I of course did so in daylight and when there were people about, working in all office buildings surrounding the hotel, but there was no difference really in the evening. No weirdos out. Except me of course!
From there, you walked uphill a little bit, or over the grass when tired, and followed the edge of the hotel till you finally ended up in front of the hotel, at the grand entrance:
I was concerned when I arrived at the reception desk. But there was no need. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I explained that my bag had gone missing and that the airport had promised that it might arrive in the evening. They made a note of it and what the bag looked like, since they do not dare to accept a bag without an owner, unless forewarned. I could not check in at noon, which I had not expected either, but they took my carry-on, so I did not have to drag that around all day. Happy having met nice people without a patronizing manner or the arrogance one meets with all London hotel staffs, I walked back the way I had come, to the train station and bought myself lunch. Because I was feeling faint. I was upset, so my lunch consisted of the best there is:
I was shocked at the train ticket price: £4.80 (53:-, €5.46, $6.12) but decided that it had to be. But it is strange to pay that much for travelling inside the same city, and only travelling one stop. Rather much for only a ten minute ride when you in most likelihood have to stand up, since all seats are already taken by the time the train arrives at Birmingham International. I had to stand all the way, of course, but that was alright. When I got off, I felt upset, since I had no package with me to go and post. My plan to do that and go to the back-to-back museum had been wrecked, so what now? I decided to do the shopping that day instead and save the other stuff for the Monday. My first stop of course had to be Cath Kidston, located in the New Street Station Shopping Centre. But there were way too many nice things. I walked out, with only a skinny pencil-case! Of course thinking about the beautiful bags I had seen. I just LOVE that shop!
No other shop in that shopping area, really held my interest at this point, so I headed out to the high street to find Waterstones, the book shop. The last couple of times in London, I have not had time to step in to a bookshop, so I had decided that this time, I must. Only problem was that I came in and hit the history table as the first thing, and right beside it were four different book cases holding history books in hardback. To a book lover like myself, this was going to heaven, and yet I quickly realized that no way could I buy all the books I wanted. So I got my mobile phone up and started to take pictures of all books I wanted to get, but could not because you are only allowed to take 23 kilos in your suitcase. There was one book I refused to leave without though, one from my Amazon wish list and which I felt I deserved after everything which had happened to me, the last week. So I grabbed that 827 page long book, called “Britain’s War Into Battle 1937-1941” by Daniel Todman, and decided right away that it would have to go in the carry-on and if that weighed too much, in my shoulder bag, as reading material for the flight home! THAT is how much it weighs! But I moved on up to the floor which had history on it and started drooling over books up there, next. I have never checked this out before, but they have an entire section called Winston Churchill and of course I had to buy at least one Winston book! I took a lot of photos in that section and in English History WWII. And then I moved on to the floor which had colouring books for adults, where I finally settled for secret London, since I love that city as much as Venice. Alright, I love Venice an inch more, but still… The bag ended up REALLY heavy and I started to feel sorry for myself as soon as my hand started to hurt and turn in to strange colours. But onwards I went, in search of Primark.
Now, I have visited Primark twice before. The first time was in London on Oxford Street and I only went in, saw the chaos and all the people and then walked out again. The second time was in Canterbury, summer 2015, when E. really wanted to go in there. It was close to closing time, we had a timed ticket for the tunnel, so we just rushed in there and I went to the children’s section right off to find fun things for the boys, while the girls were left to their own devices in the women’s section. Now, I was going to look properly, to see if I could find pretty things there, like E. did in Berlin. But with aching shoulders and fingers hurting… I hate the amount of people, clothes laying on the floor, or in a disorder, on a table. You can’t really find anything! But I had to be in there since what if my suitcase did not show up? I forced myself to try on a cute top and a pair of pyjamas. And I did walk through the boys’ section three times, desperately trying to find something fun for my boys. I ended up getting a pair of too big pyjamas, since I have a long crotch, the top, socks, a sweatshirt (in case the hotel was as cold as reviews on trip advisor said), and a bum/tum/thigh shaper for myself. For the boys I bought T-shirts, same for E., and for F., a pair of footlets. Standing in the enormous queue to pay, was a real turn off though, and really makes one not wanting to go there again!
When I was done in Primark, I noticed a shop called “the Works” and curious to what it had to sell, I walked over to it. Everything was half price in there or even more. And of course I could not resist this one book, which I had photographed at Waterstones, since it was less than a third of the price. So, another weight added to my already heavy book bag. And on to the next shop. I decided to go and look what High Street had in comparison to New Street. On High Street I found WHSmith, another favourite shop of mine. I went to the art section to see what sort of things they had over there, like if they had some plastic box to carry little miniatures in, after the fair. I was not disappointed. They had two different kinds of what looked like tool boxes. The only problem was that I had one big bag full of heavy books in one hand, one big bag full of clothes from Primark and a heavy shoulder bag on my shoulder. I decided to come back another day. But I did walk over to the pen section and lo and behold, they had singles of Derwent artist and coloursoft pencils. And they were three for the price of two. So I stood there and tested greens and browns and ended up with nine, or was it twelve, new pencils.
I was getting a little bit tired by this time, having slept poorly and having been up since 05:00, so I went to have a meal at McDonald’s. Seemed the easiest. Noone stares at you there for not being in a company. While there, I got telephone calls from my family, who had gone to the shopping mall at home, to find jackets for “Boo” and “Kitty”. I was asked for advice and also to set down my foot at what sort of clothes F. would be allowed to receive. Like a too tight dress? I was just so happy to be so far away from them at that moment, at the same time, I could not understand why T. did let F. come with. She has started taking to going in to a shop and gathering up an arm full of clothes and if you say no to all of them, she starts screaming and crying like the worse spoiled brat. The kid is turning 16 in 25 days! I walk out of the shop every time she does this now! I am not going to be made a fool of nor will I put up with such manners.
When I had swallowed the food in a haste, thanks to those bad news, I walked back to New Street Station. I just had to go and look at the handbags again at Cath Kidston and finally settled on the one I had had my heart set on, when looking at the website. A good, small bag, with individuality and an excellent choice for going to a fair with the next day, instead of my heavy big shoulder bag, killing my shoulder, since the strap is too narrow. I also walked in to this French shop, since I saw the following:
I just had to enter this funny shop, which also exists in Le Touquet, France. But this one was more fun, since it did not have as many or any kitchen things, but things which are funnier to shop for. I ended up getting eye-glass cleaners for both my eye-glass cases and one for T. He always speaks so fondly of our visit to Amsterdam, when we first ended up at a hotel in the red light district, and when we refused to stay there, getting a very nice hotel on the outskirts of the city instead. So, he received the Amsterdam one:
By now, it was high time to return to the hotel, I thought. I was hurting so much, including my feet which were wearing Doc Marten’s, and should not have been in trouble. But they were in trouble alright. I could feel at least one water blister, which forced me to visit Boots, to buy the best things Britain can offer: Padded plasters! Compeede (?) eat your heart out. Your plasters are useless since they just melt (I’m serious, they do when your foot gets warm!) and then you are in as much pain as before. These budget plasters from Boots, are the best. They keep your blistered feet totally padded so you can go on with all your activities without problem. Until you get a new blister of course and do not have any plasters to put on, in your bag.
Hurting badly, I took the train back to Birmingham International, and started my walk towards the hotel, in the dark. But I felt perfectly fine with that. When I arrived, it was time to check in and to my delight, my suitcase had arrived. I had stood at Boots, wondering if I ought to buy a tooth-brush just in case, deodorant and soap, but I decided to hope for the best. I am glad that I did! Happily, I grabbed hold of my now broken suitcase, the pull up handle part being totally wrecked, and walked up to my room. I had stacked my carry-on, on top of it, so I could handle all shopping bags, shoulder bag and so forth, but it did not work. This man saw my dilemma and offered his help, which was nice. But when I arrived to the door, it took ten tries before the green light finally came on. So embarassing! I really do hate these cards. An old-fashioned key never fails to open a door, like those cards do! Getting inside felt like a dream. Shoes were ripped off my feet, and the socks, to inspect the damage. Then I looked at my room. No smell of nicotine nor of mold, like reviewers on Trip Advisor, said there would be. Actually, I am going to have to leave a review on my blog, because Expedia’s site crashed four times when I tried to leave one on their site, and Trip Advisor’s site crashed when I tried to leave one there. Two hours wasted this morning.
That evening, in room 154, I was tired, hurting, but relieved that D.’s package had arrived safely, as well as all my things. And I was happy at least about the gifts I had bought for people and my Cath Kidston shoulder bag. Now I had to try to open up a water blister, without having anything sharp with me, to do so.