Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster
jiggery_pokery

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100 Not Out

daweaver has been organising InMoSiQue, a sort of "Daily December One" analogue to the Friday Five. Today's question, celebrating the obvious centenary of Wilbur and Orville's achievement, is to my taste: can you recall your first flight?

No.

I wouldn't use a lj-cut just for that (lie) so I'll tell you what I can clearly remember. I can recall sitting in an airport terminal, watching the clock, waiting for the numbers to turn over. It may well have been the first time I had stayed up extremely late; I distinctly recall looking forward to the first digit of the clock flipping over from the 2 of 2359 to the 0 of 0000. (I have a suspicion that at the time I felt it had to go through to 2459 before going to 0000, but this makes no sense.)

I also distinctly recall that the clock used what is technically known as a Solari board to display the numbers; these are the big flippy boards where all the possible values that can be shown on the board are on a sequence of panels, and to change the display from one panel to another, the board must rattle-flip through all the panels in between, offering you a tantalising glimpse of what else is on offer. This pic is worth a thousand words, featuring a nice mix of letter-per-panel, digit-per-panel and destination-per-panel options.

(Digressing further, people who are numbers geeks - specifically, number display geeks rather than mathematics geeks - may enjoy learning the term "nixie tube" as much as I recently did; the pictures immediately summoned memories of a parituclarly friendly sort of greengrocer's electronic weighing scale from my youth. Not nearly as reliable or practical as seven-segment display LEDs, let alone LCDs, but somehow glorious, elegant and nostalgic. The younger, more American half of my Friends list will likely not have a clue why granddad is babbling on here, but it takes me back to my childhood. Ahem.)

For further details, I have had to use a lifeline and ask the parents, but if InMoSiQue has inspired a friendly discussion that I otherwise might not have had then it has done a good thing. This flight would have been in Easter of 1979, when I was about 3½ years old. Some friends owned a holiday home in Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean off the East Coast of Spain. While living in the North-East of England, we flew from "an airport near Coventry" (which I guess is probable to translate to what we now know as Birmingham International) to the island for a week or two. It was extremely windy. I can remember being bought an extremely large dummy, which I hated; I can remember a Spanish supermarket (playing Abba's "Money, Money, Money") where the milk bottle tops were unfamiliar colours; I can remember an extremely good cloth bag of glass marbles. Most strongly of all I can remember the Solari board in the Spanish airport lounge, though.

The next time I flew would have been in the summer of '86 or '87 on the family holiday to stay with relatives in the USA - specifically, near Winchester, VA. We flew with TWA, as was, to IAD Washington Dulles; the airline meal was atrocious, though I have acquired rather a taste for them since. The in-flight entertainment was similarly many times weaker than what we know now. I can recall that the passengers whooped and cheered as the aeroplane landed smoothly and that the air crew were generously tipped by most as we left. These happened in both directions and neither has ever happened again to me since then. I am not sorry to see TWA's demise.

Over the hundred years, the cost of intercontinental flight has come down from the order of a annual salaries to the cost of a good lawyer for an hour. Since then, it's come down further still; I haven't talked about this in the past because it may well not come to fruition, but by the family collecting sufficient coupons from a particularly obnoxious newspaper, I have the opportunity to fly to the USA and back for free.

Of course, there are lots of catches, for TANSTAAF intercontinental flight, let alone a lunch. I will still have to pay taxes, landing fees, airport charges and the like; £60. Furthermore, there's not much choice by way of destination (ATL, BOS, one of the NYCs or IAD) and you don't get to choose when to fly. Instead, you select three destinations and three sets of dates; hopefully you might get lucky, but they will probably offer alternatives instead on a take/leave basis. There's nothing to say that they haven't sent out 20,000 vouchers and will only actually be offering 200 free seats, so my hopes are not too high.

The conditions are that I must fly out between 3rd January and (effectively) 31st March, I must stay for a Saturday and I must return by 30th April. I'm also invited to add other passengers, fly further in the USA, fly from somewhere non-London in the UK and to buy their insurance, all of which are distinctly non-free.

Nevertheless, the chance to save some hundreds of pounds on a short intercontinental break is one that has got to be worth at least trying for. If LiveJournal has brought me anything it has brought lots of lovely friends in the US who it would be great to get to see again. Bearing in mind that I don't drive and I would be looking for "somebody's floor"-style accommodation, I brazenly ask the obvious question. Should I get lucky in the dates-and-places lottery, are any of you lovely folk in a position to kindly offer me crash space?

First geographic choice would be to travel to Boston where I know several gamers and a fair number of _witchinghour_ people. Super-optimistic first temporal choice would include the weekend of Friday January 16th to Monday January 19th (say, Tuesday 13th to Tuesday 20th?) in order to cross off ambition #35 by going to MIT for their Mystery Hunt. This is probably one of the coldest time-and-place combinations available and so likely to be relatively unpopular, but the offer is very clear about just how little promise it makes; even buying the spare capacity that nobody else will take must cost them close to a hundred pounds per seat, so I'll take whatever they can offer.

It's also convenient that the US dollar is right now as inexpensive to purchase with British pounds sterling as it has been since September '92; the last time you could get $1¾ for £1 was at about the time of Black Wednesday, with British interest rates at 10% (peaking at 15%) compared to today's 3¾%. (Source: FXHistory, an amazing, underappreciated historical currency exchange rate data site.) Hopefully the company will be buying the flights from the airlines in cheap US$. Good news for Europeans travelling to the USA; poor news for the other way around.

Other cheap flight news: Thomsonfly.com are a new low-cost UK airline based at Coventry Airport serving traditional sun'n'fun destinations from Spring 2004; the (Glasgow) Evening Times report Air Omega UK will serve flights from Prestwick and possibly some other London-Scotland routes. There's apparently the suggestion that my local Teesside might see some service along the way, but I find it tricky to imagine the Middlesbrough-to-Ayr route being a crowd-pleaser. I suppose there's always the possibility of using Prestwick as a no-frills hub, but relying on two no-frills airlines to work properly is rolling dice for the fun of it. There was also suggestion on August 21 that Air Omega UK was previously considered and rejected, but hopefully the Evening Times news is more accurate as well as more up-to-date.

I have a related question about which I'd like to poll only those living in Europe but not living in the UK. As well as those on the continent, if you live in the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or Iceland - the latter picked as a non-EU example - then you're in; it's only those in the UK and those who aren't in Europe who are out of this one.

Poll #221859 For non-UK Europeans only, please

For non-UK Europeans only, please: for which of these places can you think of a reason to visit?

Newcastle
0(0.0%)
Teesside
0(0.0%)
Durham
0(0.0%)
Middlesbrough
0(0.0%)
Tees Valley
0(0.0%)
London
0(0.0%)
A hundred years ago, a miracle. Today, international travel for less than the cost of a restaurant meal. Whatever would Wilbur and Orville have said?
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