Ticket to Ride (Purple is the colour)

Published: June 26th 2017
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Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

Manchester to London Heathrow

This blog starts the way every blog seems to start…with the weather.

"It's raining again ma!"

“Oh bugger! The Hodgsons must be on another bloody cruise! I wish they'd stop it just for a few months so we can get a bit of sunshine around the place!!”

09:15am. Our first leg of the journey was a short half mile to Hough Green station. A simple task in itself but with the rain and the luggage and it seems a shame to take a taxi for such a short distance, I came up with a plan. I would drive down to the station with said luggage and Mrs H but I couldn't leave the car in the station car park for 3 weeks so would have to drive back. I couldn't leave Roisin to struggle in the rain with all luggage plus hand baggage while I took the car back. Before I knew it I was in the situation of the well-known conundrum where the farmer had to get a fox, a chicken and a bag of corn across the river on a raft but could only take two at a time and could leave the fox with the chicken or the chicken with the seed. You get the picture?! I couldn't figure this one out so, sod it. I left Roisin in the rain to struggle with the luggage while I took the car back. Being a considerate sort of guy, I also took my back pack with me to lighten the load!!

The platform was empty except for an elderly lady and a young lad who we assume was her grandson.

”What date is it?” asked the sweet old lady

“Tuesday!” replied the youth

“DATE not day!” exclaimed the lady


”Oh, we have the wrong date on the tickets!” said the lady thumbing through some papers.

We noticed that the lady wasn't referring to a train ticket. It seemed to be some event or other.

“I'm going back to bed”, the young lad proclaimed as he stormed off.

Wait”, shouted the lady after him. ”Don't you still want to come? I'll buy you a t-shirt!!” The enticement, however was to no avail as the teenager disappeared up the steps.

In these days of austerity I'm sure £20 would have done the job. It works for me.

Roisin: “Make us a cup of tea Chris”

Me: “What did your last slave die of?”

Roisin: “I'll give you 27p”

Me: “One lump or two??!”

The train took us to Manchester airport after changing at Deansgate. The short flight to Heathrow airport was uneventful, flying with 'Little Red', Virgin's domestic and short haul arm of the company.

Although we were flying to Heathrow for an onward flight to Dubai, we did not check in all the way through to our final destination. There was a simple explanation for this. Roisin didn't want a paper boarding ticket for the medium haul flight from London to the UAE…she wanted a PURPLE boarding card. All would become clear shortly.

We landed in Heathrow airport at Terminal 1. Collected our luggage and proceeded to Terminal 3, the home of Virgin Atlantic.

As we crossed the concourse and headed into the terminal, the words VIRGIN ATLANTIC blazoned in 20 foot high letters greeted us. We were still 30 yards from the entrance when we saw it through the all glass façade. PURPLE! Neon Purple with the letters Upper Class. Drawing us like a magnet ever closer. Enticing us. This was the first time I squealed with excitement. Now those of you who know me know I don't do excitement and I certainly don't have a tendency to squeal. At least not in a ‘Deliverance, like a pig' sort of way. Due to our recent long haul flights, we had amassed enough frequent flyer miles to treat our self to an upper class ticket for £300 plus taxes instead of the reputed £3399 (approx.) it would have cost (each) had we been rich and famous or even rich OR famous. Upper Class is Virgin's equivalent of First Class. This was a once in a lifetime experience. We were so curious to see how the other half live! We would finally gain entrance to their first class lounge otherwise referred to as the Club House..

The lady at the check in was very polite. Everything was done with a minimum of fuss and as she finished and handed our PURPLE boarding cards she said, “You know where you're going, right??”

I felt like saying that we're Upper Class Virgins but that could also be construed the wrong way. Immediately as this thought crossed my mind Roisin said, “No, we haven't been to THIS clubhouse before.” It was the emphasis on the ‘this' that made me smile. What other Clubhouses had we been to? Nevertheless, it seemed like no trouble to the check-in clerk. She proceeded to explain the way to the club house pointing fist to the lift that said: ‘By invitation only' above it. As we exited the elevator we scanned our PURPLE boarding card in a reader adjacent to the lift and ‘Open Sesame'. The wall opened up to reveal a whole new world away from the hustle and bustle of the mere mortals that we used to be (and will be again very soon). We followed the corridor around to find our own private security detail. Again, the staff on duty were very friendly and several minutes later we were heading for Lounge H to chill out for 4 ½ hours before our flight is called. OK, perhaps that is arriving a little too soon before a departure but I'm sure we could find enough to keep us entertained before the 7 hour flight to Dubai.

The concierge, recorded our ticket details then personally took us around the Club House showing us where everything was. We weren't too sure what to expect. Upper Class? Were we about to walk in to a scene from Downton Abbey? Would my Primark jacket hold up to scrutiny? We were about to find out. The Club House was relatively empty. No Lord Granthams. No fashion police. Was this the calm before the storm?

Roisin had done her research and identified that the Club House had a spa area known as the Cowshed. This is a place set aside for treatments: Hair, manicures, massages, nails and many more I can't even pronounce let alone spell! Moreover, the first treatment is complimentary. Without further ado, we headed over to the reception where I booked in for a trim while Roisin also booked in for a hair ‘do' as well as shellac nails for which there was a small nominal charge. With that taken care of we headed off to explore.

The bar area was a fair size. I didn't think there would be a problem with ordering drinks at the bar although there seemed to be a constant steam of waiters and waitresses ready to take your order. Passing the pool area (That's American pool and not Olympic size) we climbed the stairs to the loft. White decor and a vodka bar. Mental note to self: Vodka bar in loft!! A further flight of stairs took us to a private observation deck. No Vodka up here, methinks. Let's head back down!

Passing the Vodka bar, we descended through the loft and passed the TV lounge area. I say TV. This was a 20ft plasma. It was practically a mini cinema. 2 other smaller screens were next to the ‘big' screen. They were all showing different channels. Headphones were provided from a console next to each armchair that gave the viewer the choice of channels to tune in to.

As most of our time in the Club House would be taken up by one of us in the Cowshed, we decided to have a proper meal in the restaurant.

We both plumped for the minted pea and spinach soup then Roisin ordered the clubhouse burger while I ordered the cod. All the wine was complimentary but as I had to pace myself, I declined the offer and stuck to still water for the time being! Roisin's burger was so tall it must have been held together by scaffolding! It seemed to be defying gravity! Her chips came in their own mini deep fat fryer, all served on a wooden platter. My cod was pan fried and worthy of any Masterchef finalist. I finished my meal with a lemon torte and sweet cream. Roisin abstained from a pudding in favour of afternoon tea.

We took afternoon tea (or in my case coffee) in a comfy area behind the bar. Our drinks arrived but no finger sandwiches or cream scones. Roisin queried this only to be advised that it was on its way.

Time for my 5:30 appointment. One wash and haircut later I returned to a less than happy Roisin.

“40 minutes!! 40 minutes the scones and sandwiches took”, Roisin said in a manner that was less than calm.

“I wouldn't mind but the sandwiches aren't even nice”, she continued as I was stuffing the second ham and cream cheese sandwich in to my mouth!! “She didn't even offer me another brew. Mr Richard Branson is going to get a nasty letter about this shoddy service. Look at her! Over there! She's more interested in chatting to her mates.”

All I could think of saying to lighten the moment was: “I think you'll find that they refer to it as ‘tea', down here!!”

I reminded Roisin it was almost time for her treatments so off she popped leaving me with a slight dilemma; Merlot or Absolut? By the time I had just started my 3rd glass, Roisin reappeared. We had now been in the Club House for 3 ½ hours and the place was buzzing. Still no Lord Granthams just a load of ordinary looking people pushing for the best spot to watch Manchesters United versus City on the mega screen TV. When it comes to soccer, it doesn't matter from which walk of life you originate. It becomes brother in arms. Unless you support opposing sides and then its more like brother bearing arms!!

Our flight was paged at 20:25 but what was the rush. Time for one more glass!

20:30: “This is the last call for Virgin Atlantic flight VS400 to Dubai as the gate will be shortly closing.”

What happened to all the repeat calls? Previous calls to JFK and Cape Town had about 3 or 4 called before the final one. We had to dash. I thought the gate would be directly adjacent to the Club House and it would be as simple as walking straight on the plane. The gate was gate number 22. There are 22 gates in the terminal and we were sipping wine near gate number 1!!! Gate number 22 must have been at least ¾ of a mile down several long corridors. We had not yet become those passengers everyone loves to hate. The ‘Last call for Mr and Mrs Hodgson' had not yet been announced but surely it was only a matter of time. We relaxed however when after passing gate 21, there were still about a dozen people making their way to gate 22. Several minutes later we were shown to our seat by a very pleasant cabin steward.

The seats in upper class are at a 35 degree angle to the porthole with high screens either side for maximum security. We were welcomed aboard with a glass of champagne before one of the cabin crew took orders for dinner. She had a note pad and pencil. Proper a la carte!! A bar complete with bar stools stood at the rear of the cabin. I'll leave that to the frequent flyers, I thought. I'm happy to continue the party in my own little bubble.

As we were preparing for take-off, Roisin pointed out a familiar face sitting 2 seats away. Dame Kelly Holmes, British record holder for the 800m and 1500m and a Gold medallist in those distances at the 2004 Athens summer Olympics was sat less that 3 metres away. Had another scout around to see if I could trump that but she was the only celeb on board.

There were many buttons spread round the ‘pod' This was only a 7 hour flight so not much time to learn the basics but not to worry. The cabin crew were always not far away to give you a helping hand. The dinner for example arrived. The steward pressed a button and ‘bing', a table appears that could adjust depending on the recline of your seat. Not only that, a ‘real' table cloth was placed over the table before the meal was served.

My claim to fame is that I followed Dame Kelly in to the toilet. Not in a perverted stalker kind of way but next in the queue, you understand!!

Time for bed. It's been a long day. Too tired to read the manual on how to convert the seat in to a horizontal bed. I need not have worried, our super steward was nearby to do this for me. Although Virgin Atlantic provide you with PJ's, I opted to sleep fully clothed. I slept for about 3 hours, as did Roisin. At one point I thought I was in my own bed because I was hot and was thinking that I must have left the central heating on. I stuck my leg over the side of the bed to cool down and remember kicking someone in the shin as they passed by. Serves them right for creeping about at stupid o'clock in the morning. The UAE is 4 hours ahead of the UK so I had no idea what time it was.

Today was long but very eventful and even more enjoyable than expected. The 12 months of anticipation is now over. Like everything from preparing Christmas dinner to organising a surprise party. A long time in the making and over in what only seems like seconds. So breakfast in bed, a few more hours flying and then, this being the Overture, the holiday can really begin.


26th March 2014

Great start to the blog! Can't wait to see what you get up to next!
26th March 2014

Suits u sir. ;) xx
26th March 2014

Right were you belong ;) xx
27th March 2014

It's no good Chris - Roisin will never go back to prisoner-of-war class after flying First Class. PS Nice haircut Chris.
27th March 2014

Nice to read about people who travel well. Have a great holiday in the sun.
29th March 2014

At least there was one famous person to stalk Chris!

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