Saturday, September 3, 2011

Branson: Best Dick In The World 9/3/11

Everyone recommended melatonin to conquer jet-lag.

Unfortunately, I was so jet-lagged, I told everyone I had taken methadone, which isn’t the same thing at all, and I then had to make a lot of frantic phone-calls to explain that I was not coming off heroin, nor, indeed, had ever been on it.

Anyway, back to the melatonin. I read up a bit about it and gleaned that the only negative was that it made you dream. As my dreams are very vivid anyway, especially in relation to a couple of people in LA (weapons of mass personal destruction feature strongly in those), I couldn’t see the harm, and so downed one before my long haul flight back to the UK.

It wasn’t good. I dreamed I had killed someone and was heading for Death Row quicker than you could say “Last meal curry and chips”.

I also dreamed that a policeman found a gun just as Prince Charles was about to do a walkabout, and threw the weapon into a bush shortly before HRH’s arrival. I wasn’t happy about this lapse in security but luckily woke up before taking the officer to task.

I was flying Air New Zealand but have decided to transfer my allegiance back to Virgin Atlantic; I just can’t take the stress of the ANZ points. With Virgin, you accumulate points and then use them for a guaranteed upgrade. On ANZ, with the “complimentary upgrade” you acquire with points, you often don’t know until the minute before boarding whether you have it or not.

It can be all the difference between sitting for ten hours next to that fat bloke with BO standing next to you in the queue or having your own pod and hibernating for the entire flight.

There’s also the Virgin lounge at Heathrow, which is like a holiday in itself, even though it’s not quite as good as it used to be. To avoid the possibility of the masseurs’ getting repetitive strain injury, they now pummel you with a wheat bag, which, quite frankly, is like being hit with a bag of Tesco shopping, although probably not as effective. The wine isn’t as good, either, although given that they change it often, that hardly matters.

On board, Virgin Business has a bar, which serves as a terrific networking venue; and the in-flight entertainment surpasses ANZ, whose content is not only much older, but comes to you via sets of headphones that enable you to hear everything that people in adjoining seats are listening to.

At least ANZ allows you to watch stuff until the last minute, though; the last hour of the Virgin flight is hell – the Branson clan advertising various charitable endeavours (I admire their altruism, but not when I’m knackered; please change it to the beginning of the flight), followed by the worst music ever composed, which is what you really don’t need after ten hours in the air.

Neither airline comes up to scratch on the food: a Virgin dining plate is so small, it could pass for an eye patch; and although ANZ boasts three great chefs, whose menus are fine, the food is ruined by being laden with way too much butter and so much salt you can’t help wondering if Lot’s wife has jumped into the pan along with the meat.

I was informed that salt is a good preservative, which I know of course; but when dehydration is one of the key discomforts about flying, surely the last thing you need is something that is going to exacerbate the problem.

So I remain very loyal to Mr Branson, who, all things considered, delivers the better product. He also has amazingly loyal and efficient staff, who respond to complaints and enquiries with efficiency and kindness. He also provides me with a credit card that enables me to acquire so many points, I am fast on the way to owning one of the aircraft.

I was really upset that his home burned down on Necker Island and wondered whether I could give him some points to help the rebuild, but figured I need them more than he does. In terms of flying, he pretty much gets it right, and ANZ’s new super dooper planes with white leather still don’t make up for the fact that the reception staff at the Star Alliance lounge used by ANZ at Heathrow are about as friendly as the Gestapo with a hangover.

They really need to learn from the ever fantastic Thierry at the ANZ lounge in LA. Great man, shame about the meagre offerings at the buffet, including a butternut squash soup that I mistook for the contents of the lavatory.

I still can’t quite believe that after ten years of refusing to fly anywhere, I am spending so much time in the air. It’s rather a good metaphor for where my life has been, but finally, this week, I finished my book – writing, not reading, that is. It’s been a long time in the making – over 20 years, to be precise, owing to the many incarnations it has endured along the way.

I didn’t feel any sense of achievement, which I suppose comes only if somebody agrees to publish the damned thing; but at least it’s done.

Maybe Mr Branson would like to buy it for people to read on his planes.

Trust me: it’s a lot better than the racket you’ll hear coming in to land.

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