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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gyppy tummy

A friend of a friend tells an interesting story about his daughter's romantic trip to Egypt with her husband of a few months. They had, apparently, seen a last minute "winter warmer" break in Egypt advertised somewhere and decided to leave the grey misery of northern England for a week of sun, sea and sand.

Their problems started when they arrived at the airport in Egypt. A couple of gentlemen approached them and demanded to see their passports. The gentlemen looked through the passports and told the couple that they did not have a valid visa. The intrepid travellers didn't know anything about this, so when the two gentlemen charged them seventy quid each for a sticker to put on the back of the passport, they ate into their meagre holiday funds and paid up. It was all a scam, of course, as they found out when they got to the tour operator bus and compared notes with fellow, more seasoned holidaymakers. By that time, they'd already had to pay a fiver for each of their suitcases to be returned from the intimidating chaps who had snatched them from the baggage carousel before our heroes could get hold of them.

When they arrived at their "all inclusive" hotel, they were told that "all inclusive" applied only to regular meal times and that since they had missed dinner, they would have to order from room service. They had no idea how expensive this was until they got the bill when they checked out, naturally.

After an apparently relaxing day at the beach and a less-than-idyllic day relaxing by the pool (where they were pestered incessantly by the legions of hawkers around the hotel), they woke up on their third day with decidedly gyppy tummies. Unable to venture far from the bathroom, they resolved to write off the day and stay in bed. But by the afternoon, they were feeling really, really sick. So they called down to the desk and asked for medical help. Some time later a smartly-dressed local with limited English language skills arrived and examined them. He told them that they would need a least day to recover and came back and set up drips for them, which he told them there contained water and "antibodies" (which my friend's daughter took to mean "antibiotics"). So they stayed in bed on drips until the next morning when they were feeling a little better. The drips were removed and although their digestive systems remained fragile, they were able to enjoy another day of their holiday.

When they got back, they claimed on their travel insurance for the medical bill. The claim has been refused because the person who treated them wasn't a doctor. So, just a warning to newbie travellers: if you get gyppy tummy, don't just let some guy from the hotel who has seen one to many episodes of Holby examine you and put you on a drip of god-knows-what for a couple of days, not least because your insurance might not pay up...

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.

[posted with ecto]

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How I avoided tax

I have a lot of air miles because I've been flying a lot for business. Air miles are supposed to be a compensation for your family, and reward to you, for being away from home so much. So I was excited when my family expressed an interest in a trip to visit relatives in the US, more so because I've been using my BA Amex card enough to earn a free companion flight, hurrah!

However… A round trip to the US city we wanted to go to on BA in economy class was £584. The "free" flight with BA Miles costs 50,000 miles plus £375. In other words, since Gordon Brown started jacking up the Air Passenger Duty (APD), this plus other overhead costs means that it will cost well over a grand to go an visit some relatives with our "free" flights. Hence we're not going.

Who does this benefit? The revenue raised from Gordon Brown's jacked up APD was, in this instance, £0. So the government wasn't better off. Nor was BA, because it makes their "Avios" even less attractive than they were before (I've just booked a flight on Air Austria, which illustrates that point - if Avios were more attractive then I'd have taken a slightly less convenient BA flight). Nor was Heathrow, since I won't be going there and spending any money.

I can understand why it might have been New Labour policy to reserve air travel for celebrities and oligarchs, but why are the coalition propagating this anti-striver levy? You can complain to your MP online here (I just did).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.

[posted with ecto]