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Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Taste of Indian in Canada: Part 1 - The Trip

Agent Triple P did not like flying Air Canada. He wasn’t sure if it was the shabby aircraft, the seats with no padding, the grumpy, unattractive flight staff or a combination of all three which completely reflected it’s general “we are about to go bust any day so don’t care about anything” attitude. Nevertheless, his timetable to Ottawa this particular Sunday evening did not allow for anything else so he found himself pitched into the unfamiliar environs of Heathrow Airport’s dreary Terminal 3. He would have checked in at the completely deserted Air Canada Executive/First desk in record time if the two middle aged ladies at the desk hadn’t been so chatty and so intrigued by the fact that he had been born at Hampton Court, for some bizarre reason known only to themselves. It was probably something to do with them coming from Stanwell. Years ago Agent Triple P had worked at the airport and had met a girl who from that sad town who, despite being in her mid-twenties, had never seen the sea.

He passed through Fast Track security with, again, no-one in front of him, waited approximately 45 seconds at passport control and lost a whole minute at the new shoe scanning station. As a result he found himself in the rather claustrophobic confines of the sadly retro looking terminal exactly two hours before take-off. He got £500 of Canadian Dollars and went off in search of the lounge.

This turned out be a large, two floor joint effort between Air Canada and SAS, remarkable for the undistinguished nature of the décor. He found a quiet corner and went to find some food: a few cherry tomatoes some cheese (which actually wasn’t in plastic packaging), some tortilla chips and what turned out be a rather good fresh salsa. He picked up a bottle of rose wine intending to pour himself a glass, looked at the label and saw that it was from Thailand, of all places, so put it back and took a glass of Californian chardonnay instead. This was as oleaginously unpleasant as most Californian chardonnays so when he went back for another glass he decided to risk the Thai rose, Monsoon Valley, after all. It turned out be not bad at all, bone dry but with some exotic fruit taste and a nice salmon pink in colour. He checked his e-mails, got a helpful note from Agent DVD about upgrading his computer and e-mailed the lovely C his Canadian-Indian lawyer friend in Toronto. Most of his usual contacts were out of town during his visit but he always enjoyed the company of the willowy C, who was always up for a meal out at a nice restaurant and sometimes rather more, depending on where her complex love life had her at that particular time.

At 18.30 his flight was called and he sat in the departure area of gate 28 for only about five minutes, which was not quite enough time to properly get to know the nice girl sitting next to him, before boarding. The plane was a Boeing 767-300 which from Triple P’s point of view had two engines less than it should have. First class had 25 seats but only 9 were occupied. The one thing that could be said for the seats was that there was plenty of legroom; even stretching his legs right out he could not touch the seat in front and there was a useful locker built into the arm of his seat that held his book, pen, glasses and iPod.

Air Canada’s only attractive stewardess offered him a glass of Champagne and hung up his jacket. She had short but thick black hair and wore those heavy-framed black glasses that he thought were rather fetching. She could have been of Greek extraction, he thought. The plane took off and he examined the cabin in more detail. It was the fundamentals that let Air Canada down. No individual seat TV sets, nasty white plastic cutlery, no salt and pepper, only four wines on the wine list; pretty poor for the airline’s top class.

However, things improved when the dark haired lovely brought him his diabetic meal. His starter was a light and tasty salad of feta, rocket, chick peas and cucumber with a clever dressing. The main course was salmon with hand made orechietti in a tomato and spinach sauce. The orechietti were particularly good but the salmon was just fish.

Agent Triple P had never really liked fish. He believed that back in the Stone Age people who ate fish only did so because they were two namby-pamby to hunt mammoth, woolly rhino and giant elk. Fish, in short, was a girl’s food. Either bland and tasteless or rank and putrid. Apart from swordfish and tuna it also had a nasty mushy texture. Agent Triple P would very rarely voluntarily eat fish.

After his main course he had some acceptable cheese, a glass of Dow’s 2000 late bottled vintage Port and three glasses of Courvoisier VSOP so he slept quite soundly and only woke up as the plane began its descent to Toronto.

He had a horrible transfer at Toronto. The flight from London was late and he only had forty minutes to make his connection. He walked rapidly down the length of the new terminal, under the strange dancing figures, through immigration and then headed for the domestic terminal looking for his 23.55 flight to Ottawa. However, by now, it was already 23.30 and the details of the gate had been removed from the boards. He started to dash to each gate in turn to see if the flight was up and soon noticed a Canadian soldier doing the same.

Kirsty, according to her name badge, was in camouflaged fatigues, army boots and a fetching green beret. She had a large duffel bag, a fresh young face with an interesting nose and her blonde hair was tied in a neat plait. She was also looking for the Ottawa flight and fortunately had a much better idea of where it was likely to be than he did. The two of them got to the gate just as the last few people were filing on. As luck would have it the two of them were sat next to each other for the 50 minute flight. She was coming from her Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery base in Edmonton to stay at home in Ottawa on leave. It sounded as if her day of travelling had been as long as Triple P’s. She asked Triple P for help in changing the time zone of her watch which he was totally unable to do. He thought that someone in the artillery should be rather better with gadgets. All in all he found her delightful company and when they parted at the airport, sadly, he realised that it was the first time that he had been kissed by a soldier.

He arrived at his hotel in Ottawa at 1.30am so had been on the go for fourteen hours. It would have been much worse if he had missed the plane at Toronto however as he would have had to stay overnight. He gave thanks to Private Kirsty and tried not to think about her taking her uniform off somewhere across town, given that she was only nineteen.

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