Into the unknown 

 As I had guessed the standard class ticket for tomorrow’s travel would not be valid for today in First class, Bill was a hot wire, two cans of Carlsberg and he was Jack the lad, “leave it to me” he blabbed flashing the cash to the ticket inspector, he had a wad of notes, and one of the company credit cards, spouting all kinds of rubbish he paid up and told us, that the “big man” had given it to him to treat us on our return home, to stop off in Miami for a few days, as we apparantly would have earnt our bonus, Bills train of thought, was fuck that, lets splash out up the “west end” tonight, we wouldn’t be fit enough to enjoy anything at the end of the project, as and when it might finish, be it on time, or more as likely probably not.

Now was not the time to start doubting the trust we had put in each other, we had to watch, cover and keep ourselves safe, our lives were in each other’s hands, even at terminal speeds of a GWR 125, one of us had to be responsible.  I had no intention of marching into the abyss up west especially with three piss heads, I made comment that we should head straight towards Heathrow and not Bayswater as originally planned by my now rather embarrassing boss.

Standing firm, on the platform at Paddington Station with my suitcases, I protested, I stood my ground, my suggestion was that we find a hotel on airport campus and settle in, before we return to the metropolis later in the evening, an idea which was eventually heeded. Forty five minutes later after the express hurtled us into Heathrow we find ourselves settled in our rooms at the quirky hotel (this was to be a significant place visited often a few years later) which ran parallel to the north runway, perfect for watching takeoff, a late lunch sobered us up, I had a plan, if it came off, we would all be saved from a disaster likely to happen. Suggestion was we would rest this afternoon and meet in the hotel lounge at 8pm then head up toward the smoke, true to plan, it was the following morning before anyone made contact, proving old men can’t take their drink during the day.

Breakfast was rather subdued, probably due to their thick heads and upset stomachs, Pete and I were grinning, even more so when instructed to keep quiet and stop fucking about, us, the two girls were on form yet again. I had promoted myself to travel leader, my man bag now contained four passports and four sets of travel documentation, three chickens now followed mother hen across the departure hall, I came into my own, shouting “yo, and this way, and keep the fuck up” we approached the checkin desk. Four suitcases, four tool cases complete with tools, four hand luggage, and of course, the Louis Vuitton vanity case.

“Four seats to Miami please, four seats together, any chance of upgrades please?, we are on business”

“I can only upgrade two, which two is it to be”? The British Airways representative attempted to smile, her makeup too thick to make any underlying moves, she obviously was having a bad day and thought putting on her sadistic head would throw us.                                                           “For your information Miss, we are a team, if four of us can’t upgrade together, then we’l suffer in economy”.                                                                                                                                      So, economy it was, four seats in four different locations!

Reassuring my fellow travellers that I would get us moved once we were on board, upon the condition that we all stuck to the plan I had given them. Security through to airside was taking ages, people causing problems, many travellers were unhappy about allocation of seats, we were going to have to act fast once on board, this Boeing 747 was not travelling light.

Our gate was called and boarding commenced, disgruntled and angry I headed toward my allocated seat, once I saw where it was, I made my mind up that there was no way I was going to sit facing the bulkhead with no window, Pete was upstairs in business and our two bosses were sat an aisle apart near the rear of plane. I refused to sit down, catching eye of my two other mates we continued to stand, the stewardess got really nasty, simply because I wouldn’t sit down, I told her of my problem and dilemma, she promised me if I sat down, once we were airborne she could relocate us, I know for a fact that that was not ever likely to happen, one of the few camp male stewards approached, this was to be my Oscar winning performance, with lost puppy dog eyes I informed him of my distress and that my “best friend” and business acquaintances were all sat separate, as I produced my boarding pass, I let my book slip out of my bag, “Spartacus Gay Guide”, it did its magic and “Dorothy” quickly summoned the two at the rear, we were all together, we followed him quickly up the spiral staircase to upper level, sixteen seats made business class, here we were, four pretty maids now in a row, each pair separated by the aisle. Dorothy couldn’t have worked her magic any better, talk about being treated like royalty, Bill leaned forward and whispered quite loudly, “do you know her then”?

We were in stitches, glasses of champagne were thrust in our hands, securing our seat belts, we realised that take off was imminent, the “City of Birmingham” was revving her four massive Rolls Royce RB2-11’s off, the handbrake was released and we were catapulted down the south runway at a ridiculous speed and up into the atmosphere, the jet climbed steeply, passing over Windsor, following the M4 corridor and down toward the West Country, Speedbird embellished In her finest Landour livery dropped into a lower gear, the engines were set to 85% and we accelerated to a higher cruising level above 29,000ft and later onwards to 41,000ft.

Captain and his crew were now communicating with control tower ….. Concentrating on aiming this tin can with precious cargo aboard toward the USA at a breakneck speed.

“More champagne Gentlemen”? Dorothy asked, winking, and touching at my shoulder, ” if you need anything, anything at all, just ask”

Adjusting my virtual *official* travel Marshall badge, I grinned at Pete, he muttered the immortal words “Fuck me, Ken Dodds dogs dead”

Raising our glasses to each other we headed towards the edge of space …..

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