Thursday, 4 July 2019

Boston bound

It’s been a few years since a spoke at the NHC, the big home brewing conference in the US. Back in 2014.

I don’t want to go into why it’s taken me five years to return.

A short but crazy trip, as Dolores would describe it. Especially due to a lack of revenue generation.

“It’s just costing us money.”

“But it’s good exposure for me.”

“It’s still costing us money. When will you finally make a profit out of this beer shit?”

I’ve no answer to that one.

I’m in no rush. My flight is quite late, not until 5 PM. Giving me loads of time to doss around, watch Homes under the Hammer and finally pack my bags.

Not too much to pack this time. No books and no beer. And only clothes for five days. My trolley bag is alarmingly light. I worry that I must have forgotten something. Something dead important. I haven’t. I’m sure of that after checking for the third time.

Just as I’m about to leave, I notice that the flight has been delayed by an hour. Due to “technical difficulties”. Slightly worrying on a couple of counts. A bit of the plane is broken. And who knows how long it will take to fix. Glad I spotted that. Time for another cup of tea.

I’ve encountered delays before that were like a creeping barrage, but less fun. Starting off as an hour, but advancing another hour every hour. Finishing up as a 5 or 6 hour delay. I’ve no connecting flight or appointments but I can do without multiple extra hours being added to my journey time.

Bit of a panic at Haarlemmermeerstation when I realise that the 397 has been diverted again and isn’t stopping there. I get the 62 one stop to Olympic stadium and pick up the 397 there instead.

There’s just one dodgy taxi driver hanging around the bus platforms. His heart doesn’t look fully in it. The cries of “Taxi!” are quite subdued. It is a bit hot. I think the heat is getting to him. And the minimal interest from potential punters.

I panic a little at the landside Albert Heijn when I can’t find an omelette and bacon baguette. Luckily, there’s one left. I’m a creature of habit. It reassures me in places of uncertainty. As airports always are. Whisky helps, too.

I love having pushing in boarding. Even though it’s fairly quiet today. Midweek, I guess. And not quite school holidays. Checking in my bag and security only take a few minutes.

Dolores had a €5 discount coupon for Schiphol duty free. Meaning I can get a litre of 10 year-old Bowmore for €35. Result. I only get three Famous Grouse miniatures this time. More cost-consciousness. And liver preservation.

They must expect people to be drinking miniatures in the airport. You aren’t supposed to take them on a plane. What else could you do with them? Pour them down the bog? I’m not complaining, mind. Way cheaper than a bar.

This time the flight is from Pier E. Freeing me of the temptation of the Murphy’s pub, which is on Pier D. With the warnings from Dolores on spending still firmly lodged in my skull, I would have passed, anyway. That’s easy to tell myself, knowing temptation to be out of reach.

A father, holding two small boys, explains what a baggage train is. “It’s OK honey, he’s just getting heavy.” He explains to his wife. The joys of fatherhood.

It’s fucking hot here for an airport. Maybe I should just drink my last miniature. That should cool me down, shouldn’t it?

I’m struggling to open it. Reminds me of that time in Ebermannstadt. Waiting for the Schoolkid Express and frantically trying to unscrew the top of my impulse Schnapps. All the time sweating profusely. So many happy memories of crafty spirit drinking.

A Belgian woman has the seat next to me on the plane. At least that’s what I guess, based on her accent. Not one of the really crazy ones so it’s possible she’s from just this side of the border.

I watch a couple of films, but the selection isn’t great. That’s the downside of KLM-operated flights. Far worse entertainment options than on Delta flights. I flip out my laptop and watch some episodes of Taskmaster instead.

As well as my flight being delayed an hour, we wait 45 minutes on the tarmac for a gate. At least immigration isn't too bad. Probably because it isn’t that busy.

I feel that anxiety again when my bag doesn't appear immediately. Am I at the right carousel? Yes, I can see AMS on the bags gliding past. Has my bag been lost? No. Eventually my rather tatty grey trolley bag pops out. Phew.

I grab a taxi and we're soon weaving our way through Boston's motorway labyrinth. Where the fuck are we going? We seem to have gone much further west than my hotel. Why the hell are we heading out to Boston College along the River Charles?

The cheating bastard hasn't taken the shortest route. I hate Boston taxis. Some of the least reliable in the US. I’m too tired to make a fuss. Instead, I silently fume in a very English way.

It's 10 PM by the time I've checked into my room. I had planned on going out for a beer and something to eat, but I'm too knacked. Instead I go to a nearby 7 11 and get a sarnie and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps.  What a glamourous life I lead.

The hotel isn’t the most fancy. Pretty basic, really. But the prices for this night were totally ridiculous. This was the only vaguely affordable option anywhere central. On the way back I’ll be staying in a far nicer hotel for less than half the price. And in a much better location.

I don't stay up late. I need to be up fairly early tomorrow to catch a train. Wouldn’t want to be late for my own lecture.

Given my level of knackeredness, stumbling into sleep isn’t a problem.

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