Candy floss is almost, but not quite, 100% sugar. There is a minute amount of colouring and flavourings, and if you go for our alcoholic range there is actual vodka, tequila and such like, but its mainly sugar.
Now a typical candy floss machine, has a cylindrical drum, with space in the centre to pour this sugar mixture into. This drum performs two important functions. It rotates at high speed, forcing the sugar outwards against a wire mesh. Secondly, this wire mesh heats up to 186 degrees centigrade. This just happens to be the melting point of sugar.
At this temperature, the heat breaks the bonds of the sugar molecules Causing the hydrogen and oxygen atoms to rearrange and form water molecules. The water evaporates leaving carbon behind, which begins to burn and caramelises the sugar.
As the drum is still rotating at high speed, this liquid is flung outwards at high speed. It solidifies as it streams out, but it happens so quickly and the strands are only 50 microns thick that you only really see it as it hits the inside of the bowl.
This is collected by the operator using a stick, or as they often do in the states a paper cones. The result is the classic fluffy candy floss we all know and love.
The Real Way Fairy Floss Is Made
Of course you try telling this explanation to an average excited kid and just watch their eyes glaze over. So just for them we have a real explanation.
Inside the bottom of our candy floss machines, live a band of Irish Faerie Folk, the Sidhe. These happy little folk sit there merrily knitting away to turn the mixture from sugar into fairy floss. Once they have knitted it they push it out through the little holes in the centre drum. Whereupon it is collected by the operator.
Operating nationwide over the years we have provided attractions and services at a multitude of different events and venues. Some we visit once then never see again. Others we seem to turn up at regularly. Some we find to be awkward venues that we would rather not be at. Others like Bert’s Barrow quickly become favourites. Usually it’s down to the people in charge. They can make a venue welcoming, easy for us to operate at and make us want to return.
Bert’s is a family run farm, that has been turned into an events venue. Usable for smaller events such as weddings. Or equally lending itself to larger corporate events, with full funfair rides etc.
We have provided attractions for family fun days at a few events there and found Charlotte, Jason and the team to be accomodating and made the events just so easy for us. Definitely worth a look if you want to run a corporate function in the West Yorkshire area.
They also offer a great time around Halloween when you can go picking your own pumpkins. Pet dogs? No probs, take them with you. With funfair rides and other attractions it makes a great day out for the family.
When it comes to setting up a funfair there are a lot of misconceptions. People often go to bed, then when they get up the next morning there is a fully fledged fair spread through their high street. So how does this happen?
Well, the first thing to explain, is that we do have permission to be there. We once had a newcomer to a town ring the council to report the town being invaded by ‘fair people’, only for the council to inform him that the fair had been held in the town for some 300 odd years!
Large events like that take months of planning, along with a host of health and safety paperwork and permissions such as road closures, so its ludicrous for someone to expect that we have just ‘rolled’ into town and set up a fair because we feel like it.
Sequence Of Events
Most major events have been running for decades, and in some cases hundreds of years. So these tend to be firm fixtures in our calendar. Months before the actual event, requisite licences and permissions are applied for. Permissions for road closures etc are applied for. A comprehensive event plan, with insurance documents and ADIPS safety testing documents for all the attractions are submitted for approval.
Once these have been signed off. The showmen actually attending the event are informed of the ‘sites’ they have been allocated. These are all listed on a master build plan, to enable everything to be set up with the necessary safety spacing and such.
Whilst to the outside eye, the fair might look like a random collection of rides, games and catering units. It is actually a carefully choreographed set up with specific sections of the event allocated to individual attractions. Many of the rides are high speed, and need positioning super accurately in high street to ensure they don’t knock the lampposts down or similar.
On the day of the set up, the attractions pull into position. This is usually in a specific ordes some of the rides need a large clear space around them for the initial set up. Once everything is in and erected. Designated safety officers will check that the necessary build requirements are being adhered to. For example emergency exits are not impeded, or heavy rides aren’t obstructing the public pavement.
Only when all the boxes have been ticked will the event be signed off as good to go.
We are often asked what are the best funfair stalls for a wedding. There is a huge range of games available for weddings, parties and events. Having provided them for thousands of events over the years, we have a good idea of what does and doesn’t work. Unfortunately many clients have different ideas.
Working on the ‘customer is always right’ principle, maybe we should just say nothing and let them have what they want. However that usually leads to dissatisfaction, and that isn’t our measure of a good event.
So lets have a look at what you should have, and some of what you shouldn’t have at your big day.
Hook A Duck
This is one that crops up regularly, and is firmly in the don’t recommend camp. The game is simplicity itself, you are armed with a stick, at the end of which dangles a hook. A tank containing little rubber ducks floats about and all you have to do is hook one. Then you get a prize and everyone is happy.
The trouble is, on a traditional fairground, you pay to play, so people have a single go and the prize giving can be controlled. At a wedding or typical corporate event, the guests play for free. So unless you have paid extra for massive amounts of prizes, the kids will play continuously to the prizes are exhausted. Then the game is left unplayed for the rest of the day, skill games like coconut shie will still see use after the prizes are gone because the guests like to prove they can win.
It is possible to slow the prize giving by marking some ducks as winners and most as losers, but the kids are then disappointed as they expect to win.
The usual argument raised in favour is that it lets the little ones win, but we can operate any game in a manner to ‘help’ the kids win.
This is firmly in the recommended camp. Possibly one of the most classic of funfair games, the principle is easy peasy. Throw a wooden ball and knock a coconut off.
Now, I’ll let you into a secret. On a traditional fairground, some of the coconuts were replaced with ‘duds’. These were fake coconuts, made from a really heavy wood. Theoretically you could knock them off. But you would probably need to use an exocet missile.
We don’t need to do that, prizes are part of the hire price so losing them is already factored into the charges.
For the younger players we can move them closer to the targets, and for the really little ones we let them toa coconut rather than knock it off.
Test Your Strength
Another of the old tyme classics. Swing the hammer, hit the peg ring the bell to win. Again we can adjust the force required to make it easier for smaller guests. Or instead of ringing the bell we can set a number on the 1 to 10 scale for them to win.
It is a common misconception that its pure strength that wins, but in fact its an equal part of strength and accuracy. You need to hit the peg perfectly flatly. Sometimes its fin when a smaller lady is just the right height to hit the peg properly and win, leaving the big musclebound guys hitting it with all their might and walking away failures.
Cans Off The Shelf
This is one of our harder to play games. Knock the cans off the shelf using the three soft balls. Sounds simple, but the cans are heavy and they have to be completely off the shelf to win. This does require a fair bit of strength, along with accuracy. We help the smaller guests by reducing the can count, knocking some off for them, in fact we can guarantee a win when we need do.
This makes a great second game, being a bit harder it gets the competitive juices flowing, testosterone kicks in and the guys need to prove who can do it.
Another of those, dead easy to play, really hard to win. Well not so hard really, cos our rings are larger than normal. What happens on the fairground, (another of those secret things we are letting you in on here), is that usually the square blocks with the good prizes on are only fractionally smaller than the rings. It is possible to win, only just. Some of the blocks with the boxes of sweets on are smaller so it appears that a stream of people do take prizes.
Traditionally we used air rifles and pellets. Sadly with the Health and Safety Gestapo, sorry executive, its too much hassle. A little known fact is that as members of the Showmen’s Guild, we actually have a firearms exemption certificate which allows us to buy actual live guns that fire real bullets without needing a licence, although we are restricted to 0.22 calibre. I would love to see the local HSE guys face when we turned up with that one.
Anyway the easiest solution now is cork firing guns. Totally safe and still fun we have a range of targets of differing levels of difficulty so can tailor a game to suit any requirements.
Corks also add a random element to the game as they tend to fly in random directions. Probably why the British Army use bullet shaped bullets rather than corked shaped ones.
What I love is when someone who has never fired a gun picks one up and is transformed into a long range sniper. Well in his own head at least.
So what would we recommend as the best funfair stalls for a wedding? Our most popular package is coconut shie, hoopla and cans off the shelf. These provide a selection that suit all ages and abilities. As well as being different enough from each other to make it fun. If you want to add to them, shooting gallery would probably be our recommendation.
Whatever your requirements, if you are looking to hire funfair games, get in touch and we can tailor a package for you.
Have you ever wondered about when the fair comes town. It suddenly appear on your doorstep, almost overnight in many cases?
The funfair owner just gets up one day and decides to come and set up in the park across from your house right?
Erm, no, not exactly. Most events are planned months in advance. Indeed many fairs follow a regular date, in some cases stretching back hundreds of years. They tend to be the culmination of much planning, regular meetings, inspections and so on.
We were responsible for a few years for the fairground supplied in conjunction with the summer festival at Gainsborough. I had happened across the event whilst passing through the town one summer day. I contacted the organisers about attending with some attractions at the following years event. This was politely declined, and I tried again the following year with a similar result. Out of the blue I received an email asking if I would like to supply a couple of candy floss and Popcorn stalls. So cue a meeting with the relevant people, a deal was agreed and I was asked to supply all of my safety documentation.
A few weeks later, again out of the blue, the organisers asked if I would be interested in supplying a full range of attractions. This meant another meeting and plans being discussed. This proceeded quite well, until it was pointed out that the council couldn’t agree this with us directly, it had to be put out to tender to a minimum of 3 operators.
All 3 of us submitted tenders, and eventually we were notified that we had been successful.
After receiving the green light, we submitted details of the actual line up we proposed along with safety documentation. Then the council Health & Safety team contacted us asking for an onsite meeting. Cue another trip to Gainsborough to talk through their concerns.
Full steam ahead now, or so we thought. Until we were informed that part of the car park could not be occupied. It turns out that a local solicitors needed 24hr access to their building. So this meant a rewrite of the plan, and some modification to the line up we were bringing.
The day before the event, we had to be in Gainsborough to oversee the setting up and siting of rides. We were obviously there for the day of the event. Also the day after to ensure we had cleaned the site up and caused no damage. Oh, and the organisers wanted a debriefing meeting to discuss any issues that had come up.
So you can see, far from just rolling up, we had not only to deal with numerous organisations and individuals at the planning stage. We also had to travel to Gainsborough a number of times, for in the end what was a 1 day event.
When the fair comes to town, its the result of a lot of hard work, before the rides even turn up.
Another of our quick look at major fairs, a little different this time as it is in the Netherlands. Dating back to 1570, the Tilburg Kermis is the largest fair in the Benelux region, attracting over a million visitors annually which makes it big by any standard.
Playing host to upto 250 attractions spread over a 4.5km city centre site Tilburg is held around the third week in July. Like many fairs in the UK, it started as a market, being held to honour Tilburg’s patron saint. Unlike many UK based events though, the local community and businesses play an active part in the event. With local pubs and restaurants staging music events, large scale DJ sets and themed evenings. A stark contrast to the UK based scene, where many local businesses close for the duration of the fair.
One of the most popular days of the fair, is Pink monday (Rose Maandag). Celebrating lgbt values, it brings gays and lesbians from across Europe, with many of the attractions sporting pink decor for the day. Attracting over 350,000 visitors this is a definite boost for the event. The slogan for the day is “Be Gay For A Day”
The event even has it’s own radio station. Kermis FM, offering a mix of information about the event, traffic data and kermis style music.
The final day of the Tilburg Kermis sees a massive procession towards the pius harbour. Culminating in a 15 minute firework display.
Another of our looks at some of the major funfair events throughout the UK. One of three fairs to carry the name ‘Goose Fair’. nottingham is the largest. The others being in Tavistock and Colyford East Devon.
History dates the event back to a royal charter in 1284 granted by King Edward I. Though fairs in Nottingham were thought to predate this. Originally taking place in September, it was moved to an October date in 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted.
It has taken place every year since then, save for 1646 when an outbreak of the bubonic plague stopped it, the two World wars, and obviously 2020 when the covid pandemic struck.
The creation of fairs by royal charter was a common occurrence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. King Henry II had granted a charter for an annual Martinmas fair in Lenton Priory in November. This gave prominence to that event and prevented other fairs from competing with it. The 1284 charter giving Nottingham it’s own fair saw the event grow in size and prestige.
Records first mention the Goose Fair name in 1541, where it is referred to in borough records as ‘goosey fair day.’ The name comes from the thousands of geese driven from Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to be sold in Nottingham. Like many fairs it started as a trade fair, for the sale of livestock, geese and most famously its high quality cheese. At this time it was based in the Old Market Square.
In common with other events of the nature, side shows and other entertainment was added to the event, gradually diminishing the trade element. As shops evolved and transport links increased, annual events like this were no longer a necessity to stock up the larder. The dawn of steam and mechanisation saw rides being added to the event. The traditional carousels, switchbacks, gondola rides and animal manageries gradually increasing in mumber.
As the event spread out it overwhelmed the market square and began to cause problems with congestion, not helped by the increase in traffic through the town centre. The decision as taken to move the event in 1928 to the Forest Recreation ground. A move resisted by the showmen, but in the event proving ideal, being twice the size of the market square.
Held annually on the recreation ground for five days, it boasts over five hundred attractions. Everything from traditional carousels to the latest white knuckle thrill attractions.
The roundabout on the approach to the fair is notable for its giant fibreglass goose called ‘Goosey’ which appears in the run up to the fair taking place. The Lord Mayor opens the event with the ringing of a pair of silver bells. Still a massively popular event attracting over 500,000 visitors annually the fair has an excellent record as regards safety and trouble happening.
The golden years of fairgrounds in the UK, pretty much the Victorian era really. Saw numerous home grown companies providing the ever expanding scene with rides and shows that were works of art. Sadly like much of British industry, few ride manufacturers still remain. The legendary names of old seem to limp along in various forms until about the last third of the 20th century before finally fading away. Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd was one such name, responsible for some of the most ornate switchbacks, arks and shows ever to appear on the fairground, they ended as equipment handling manufacturers before ceasing to trade around 1977.
Originally they were two separate companies. The first being the Lion Carriage Works. Set up by George Orton who manufactured gypsy wagons as well as drays and carriages for other industries. Based in Burton upon Trent, he received his first commision for a Showman’s wagon around 1883. At that period in history, showmen not only lived in their wagons, but they tended to be highly carved and ornate and formed the front part of a travelling show.
A young man named Charles Spooner, owner of the ‘Swan Works’, in Burton was one of Orton’s suppliers. A wood carver who had been apprenticed to Walter Gifford Hilton he supplied drays and carts to the thriving brewing industry in Burton.
Orton contracted him to provide carvings for his showfronts and wagons. This symbiotic relationship flourished to the point that the two companies were amalgamated in 1925 as Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd.
They soon expanded their range into the full scale building of rides and showfronts and came to dominate the market. Their highly ornate, exquisitely decorated constructions were far in advance of the plainer, less impressive offerings from competitors, indeed the breathtaking scale of their offerings haven’t been matched since.
The picture above is a typical example taken from one of their scenic railways. Superbly detailed and robustly constructed, these cars were said to weigh around 1500kg’s each, with a complete ride in the 35-40 tonne bracket.
They built their first scenic for Holland Brothers in 1912, some 57 feet in diameter and powered by no fewer than eight electric motors. Over the next twenty years they completed over 30 of these rides.
World War I
The first World War, saw the company requisitioned to produce aircraft hangers, but successfully re launched into the fairground market in 1919 with another scenic railway.
Their final scenic was delivered in 1925, with the type coming to the end of its popularity. Smaller and lighter attractions now ruled the roost, with Noah’s Arks, Waltzers and Speedways being in demand. They also turned out an estimated 50 dodgem tracks, along with ghost trains, shows and side stalls. They built the first skid ride for the famous Midlands showman Pat Collins in 1928.
Sadly George Orton passed away at the age of 81 in 1924. The company now being in the hands of his sons, and Charles Spooner, who had married his daughter Anne.
From the onset the business employed only the best artisans and artists. The father and son teaming of Albert and Sid Howell being responsible for some of the stunning art gracing the fronts and rounding boards of these rides.
The Ben Hur front for Edwards ark was considered to be Sid Howells greatest work. The image above doesn’t do justice to the sheer size and scale of the work which was around 15ft high and over 40ft long.
Charles Spooner gained a reputation as being amongst the finest wood carvers in the business. Creating examples of pretty much everything required on rides at that time. The company was quick to respond to current affairs. Producing animals carved as Generals during the Boer war, and armoured cars and tanks during WWI.
They successfully transitioned from their early Rococo style creations, as the country moved into the Art Deco period. They produced modern, for the time, decor with curves and swooping forms. Decorated with modern airplanes and train engines, mixed in with bright colours and influences of the exotic from the far east and Egypt.
In common with much of industry, they gradually moved away from the one off hand crafted work. To a more standardised production line using stencils and patterned parts. To keep up with increased demand and competition this was a necessary evil. It did mean though that we would never again see the wonderful fronts and carvings for which they had become famous.
World War II
Charles Spooner died at the beginning of WWII. The bulk of the companies efforts being the manufacturing of military vehicles during the war.
They recommenced work in the fairground industry after the war. But it was a changed world, demand from the showmen was dropping off, and they began to diversify into other engineering work. 1954 marked the final break with fairground manufacture, and the company soldiered on until finally falling into receivership in 1977.
Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd will be remembered as one of the greats of the last century.
Nottingham…yes that’s right I said Nottingham is home to an Insta worthy coffee shop…with a twist. The twist being the fairground theme oh and the hidden tattoo parlor too!. Neon Wolf opened in January.
An Insta worthy coffee shop at Darby Road
The coffee shop that can be found on Derby Road, is home to fluorescent pink lights creating a candy floss like haze and both dodgem and waltzer cars for tables and seats. Don’t worry though the custom made cars have been fitted to the flooring meaning that you won’t be spun round whilst enjoying your coffee. You also don’t have to dodge other people in your dodgem car whilst trying not to spill your tea!.
The fun theme to this coffee shop has caught the eye of many Instagram users who have deemed the cafe as an Instagram worthy coffee shop. In today’s society that is among one of the best compliments to receive. There are now 4.20 billion social media uses around the world. This figure has shown a growth of over 490 million people in the last 12 months. With more than 37% of the population using Instagram it’s important that businesses utilize social media. Due to the coffee shop being Insta worthy it means that visitors will be more likely to take photos and share it to their Instagram site. This meaning all their ‘followers’ will see the post. This is basically free advertising as once people see the photo they may wish to visit the coffee shop too
The waltzer car has been manufactured especially for the cafe rather than being a second hand piece from a waltzer. Being custom made ensued that then cafe could put their own touch to the center piece. They had them fitted out with velvet seating and labelled with the phrase ‘sorry mum’ and ‘cry wolf’ in reference to the hidden tattoo parlor under the cafe. The dodgem cars have been restored as they was in very bad condition. With the outside framework being reconditioned and the interior being fitted with the same velvet seating as the waltzer cars.
Goose Fair Vibes
Many visitors have said that the cafe gives them major goose fair vibes. Nottingham goose fair is one of the biggest events on both the showmen and public’s social calendar’s. The goose fair turns up to Nottingham the first week of October and can be traced back more than 700 years. Originally a trade fair selling geese among other things it has now evolved into one of the largest fairs in the country. Nottingham Goose fair is now home to more than 500 attractions.
So for 51 weeks of the year if your missing your goose fair fix then you need to visit Neon wolf.The Instagram worthy coffee shop and take a seat in the waltzer car and imagine your being spun round till your dizzy!
Another selection of misadventures from our past history.
Keep Them Wheels Turning 2010
When we first started and was operating on a limited budget, we frequently had problems with equipment failures and vehicle breakdowns. As we grew and ended up in a position to buy better equipment, and also put back up systems in place we found that things seemed to run a lot more smoothly.
However the law of averages caught up with us the other day, we had quite a busy schedule, calling at a small village in Surrey to apply 125 chair covers and sashes and set up a chocolate fountain, then on to Sevenoaks to set a number of stalls and a couple of catering carts up, back to the first venue to drop two members of staff off, then I continued on to Walton on Thames to operate a candy floss and popcorn cart. As soon as I finished I derigged everything and shot back to the first venue with the intention of picking my staff up to travel home to Yorkshire, grab a couple of hours sleep, load the van up with the rest of the equipment for the Sevenoaks job and set back off down South.
Bang Goes The Tyre
Everything was going great guns when a bang, signalled that I had a tyre blown out, ‘great, just what I wanted on a lane in the middle of nowhere, a tyre change.’ In time I ended up wishing I was changing a tyre, because when I crawled under the back of the van I discovered the spare wheel missing (it was a hire van). I rang the owner and ot him out of bed, “ring the AA he said, the van is covered”, trouble is when I explained the problem they informed me that under their terms of service, not having a spare wheel meant that I wasn’t covered. Rang John again, “Ring a tyre firm he said and bill me”. An hour later after ringing every number I could find on the internet I rang John again. After an exchange of ideas, he informed me that he was setting off with a spare wheel, wonderful, the three of us only had to sit and wait in the van whilst John covered the 216 miles to us.
Now before John set off he had to nip up to our place and pick up the items I needed for the next day, this included a striker (test your strength machine). On our striker the base unit is made from 20mm steel plate to give it the weight needed to remain stationary whilst being hammered. The base unit is kept on a small set of wheel which allow it to be moved about the yard. When John and my other half lifted it into the van, John had not realised that the wheels were not part of the structure and left his fingers underneath when they dropped it into the back of the van. My wife rang me to tell me that John was running around the yard squealing about his fingers. She wasn’t in the mood for sympathy and told him that if he went to the hospital they would only tape his fingers up, and she offered to lend him a roll of tape to ensure he got on his way quicker.
When he arrived at our end the first thing he did was show me his fingers, which by then were black and blue and quite swollen. Bloody well serves him right for removing the spare wheel.
Mobile Bar Buzz 2010
We recently installed a bar at an event for a major motor industry manufacturer and a games console company. This was a pre paid job with us supplying a fixed package of drinks, including cocktails and one of our Jagermeister tap machines.
The event went stormingly with everyone in fancy dress and the room buzzing. Sabine Schmitz (the German female racing driver who raced Jeremy Clarkson around the Nurburgring race track, with Jeremy in a Jaguar S type, and Sabine in a Transit Van, she lost by only 9 seconds. Ms Schmitz and a cohort of German friends managed to consume our stocks of Jagermeister, before moving onto frozen Margarita cocktails with an added shot of Vodka, something our cocktail mixologist insisted you couldn’t do, but the Schmitz party proving you obviously could!
De Computer Sez So 2010
Quite often nowadays I don’t have time to keep this blog updated. Odd occasions I do have time I sometimes struggle for something newsworthy to write. Occasionally however something drops in my lap that I just have to put on here. I recently added a new van to our line up, and insured it with the company that insurers our other CItroen dispatch. In common with our other insurances we pay in a lump sum at the start of the insurance term. A couple of days ago the postman knocked on the door to deliver a registered letter from said company, upon opening it I read a formal notice that as I had not settled an outstanding amount they would be cancelling my insurance unless it was paid in the next 7 days. Now this puzzled me as I know I paid in full at the start of the policy term.
Upon reading further down the page, the amount outstanding was in large bold type to make it more noticable. It read that I owed them £0.00 that’s right Zero pounds and zero pence. I sent them a very nice email admitting that I owed this amount and asking if they would like a cheque for £0.00 or would they like it in cash in which case I would send them an empty envelope.
February, which is usually our quietest month (although this year turned out to be a busy one), saw us managing to fit a 3 day break to Amsterdam in. I have been there in the past both when I was single, and also spent part of my honeymoon there whilst touring Europe.
As is normal nowadays, everything was booked online a few weeks before, with the booking system informing me that actual airline tickets are no longer issued, we instead have E tickets. Anyway a couple of days before we were due to fly I discovered that my other half’s E ticket had been issued in her maiden name, and knowing that airlines are particularly picky about names since 9/11 I rang our carriers, KLM straight up. “No problem Mr Moody, said a pleasant Dutch voice, we can change names quite easily.” was followed by “Oh, sorry we can’t change your ticket”. Upon inquiring as to why, I was told that since I had booked them through a travel agent, the agent would have to make the name change request. I duly rang the agents to do this. (No problem Mr Moody, that’s quite easy, please hold the line”, was again followed by “Oh, we can’t do it”. The reason this time turned out to be the fact that it was Saturday, and the KLM office which deals with name changes doesn’t work weekends.
SO we ended up being told that we should get to the airport early, and the ticket desk there should change the name for us. On the morning we were flying we arrived bright and early only to be met with a queue of about 80 people! We informed an airport attendant of our predicament and asked if there was anyway of getting the ticket sorted sooner, upon asking to see our ticket, his reply was “I wouldn’t worry about your ticket mate, that flight was canceled last night”, turned out that the plane we were supposed to be on didn’t land because of fog.
Five bloody hours were in that queue for. Mid way through it the rumour seemed to be that the next available flight was the day after.Not wanting to lose a day of a short break, I got my laptop out, connected to KLM’s site and booked three seats on a later flight, reasoning that I would worry about refunds later. After booking the seats I was informed that I would have to pay for them at the ticket desk, so I would still have to stand in the bloody queue.
Anyway as we reached nearly to the front of the queue I discovered that the ticket agent was in fact booking people on the same plane I had just reserved 3 seats on, great it looked like I would have 6 seats on the flight, but at least one of the 6 would be in my wife’s current name. I duly reached the front of the queue to meet the ticket agent, a short stern faced lady who looked like she would make a good concentration camp guard in the movie industry.
I was just about to launch into a tirade about waiting 5 bloody hours and not being informed of cancelled flights when a young man dropped a bundle of papers on her desk and exclaimed innocently “These need taking care of when you get a minute”, the look she gave him would have welded steel from 40 paces, and her reply of “You know what you can do with those Stephen, shove them up your bloody arse!” seemed to modify my temper somewhat.
As she turned that steely gaze upon me I gave her my best smile, what I hoped was a slightly pleading look in my eyes, and informed her that not only did we need our flights sorting out, but my wife’s ticket was in the wrong name. Her eyes narrowed, her shoulders tightened and a visible shudder ran through her, taking a hold or herself she sighed loudly, stared towards the heavens, closed her eyes for a long moment then sorted everything out for us.
Amsterdam turned out much as I remember it, the Dutch must be the most laid back and pleasant race in Europe, and we spent a pleasant 3 days strolling around the city, with a short trip to the seaside town of Vollendam thrown in. THe first tram we boarded into the city centre, I asked the conductor for the price of the ticket (most locals use pre paid cards much like the oyster system in London), he just smiled and told me not to worry and get of when we were ready.
The next day having some experience of the tram system, we boarded the tram outside our hotel and I asked for 3 day passes. The lady conductor smiled sweetly and apologised for having run out of them. “It is not a problem”, she said, “Just buy them from a ticket machine when you get off”. Can you imagine that, over here it would go like this, “3 Day passes please”, “Can’t do that mate I’ve run out” “Oh, well can I buy them when I get off at the other end” “No sorry can’t do that you need a ticket to travel” “Oh well give me 3 tickets please” “Sorry, just told you I’ve run out!”
Mid way through I had a headache coming on so thought I would nip into a chemist for some pain relief. What greeted me must have been one of the barest shelves of painkillers I have ever seen, about the size of a television set, it contained pretty much only what you could buy from a late night garage in this country. Upon inquiring about something a bit stronger I was informed that I would need a doctors prescription. “So let me get this straight,” I said, “I can walk into anyone of a million coffee shops and buy cannabis or marijuana, without any problems, but if I want something stronger than 400mg of Ibuprofen I need a prescription?”. “That’s pretty much it”, replied the chemist. “Strange country”, “Yep” came the retort, along with that pleasant Dutch laid back smile.
Ready to come home, we reached Schipol airport, and found that they have a fully automated system to book in and be issued with your boarding card. I entered our E ticket number, only to learn that I was booked on the flight along with our daughter, but not my wife. It made me think of a recent case where an immigration official had waved his wife off at the airport in London, went back to work and added her to the known terrorist list of people banned from entering the UK, and then proceeded to live the single life until he was found out 4 years later, in the meantime his wife had spent 4 years stuck in Pakistan unable to find out why she wasn’t allowed to board a flight back to England!
As it turned out, because of the name change we had made at Bradford, my wife had received a separate reservation, which no one had bothered to inform me of.