I know I mentioned we'd be in Spain this week...well we're not. Thanks to an extremely nasty virus that reduced Mrs H to a wheezing, overheating, delerious zombie, our plans for a week of warm temperatures, Mediterranean sun, tapas and Rioja with our chums from Nova Scotia went totally tits-up last Thursday, at least for the Hogday's it did.
Mrs H was feeling dodgy last Tuesday and by the next morning, 24 hours before our flight, it was clear she would not be fit to fly. Plan `A` was to re-schedule her flight to Saturday in the hope that 2 extra days rest would see her ok. Jet2.com's customer service person, in a call centre somewhere on the Indian sub-continent, was very polite as she told me that because I had already done an online check-in there was nothing she could do. Had I not used the online check-in the previous day, Mrs H's flight would have been moved, at a `small administration charge`. Being as we're `never say die` types we decided to book her a fresh, one-way, flight for Saturday and for me to travel out alone on the original booking. She would then join me on Saturday and would at least enjoy 5 days break and travel back with me on our original return flight. That was until we woke up Thursday morning and realised that this virus was here to stay for a lot longer. Despite Mrs H's noble pleas for me to go alone and leave her to die a slow, painful and spluttering death, I would have none of it and stayed put, turning into chief nurse, cook and bottle-washer in the blink of an eye. Of course the one-way seat I'd booked her as a back up was just more money down the tubes. Shit.
But never mind, we have travel insurance! Gloomily I telephoned the airline help desk at 50p per minute, to be told after they'd run up a nice bill of £3.50 without me actually getting through to a human, that everything I need is downloadable from their website. So download I did. It was then I discovered that in order for me to receive the necessary form that certifies we did not fly, they would charge a £15 administration fee. Still, we would be able to get our airport tax back! Ah, but to process that, the `admin` fee levied would be £40, which practically cancels out the tax that I would get back. "But you can claim this fee back from your insurers", said the cheerful voice from Mumbai. "No I can't", said I. The insurance company have just told me that they do not refund these fees. "Actually", said I, "my policy came from the insurers you promote and provide, via your website and which I purchased at the time of booking". There came nought but a long, silent pause from the land of the Bengal Lancers. Then she asked if there was anything else she could help me with. There wasn't, so she said goodbye and wished me a great day. What a lovely voice and telephone manner she had. I'd write in to pay her a compliment but I'm scared they'll hit me with another 20 quid admin charge for opening my letter, so her great work must remain unacknowledged.
Mrs H saw the Doctor on Friday and handed him the form we needed him to complete to prove she had seen him and was indeed ill. There is a small admin charge of £26 for this, although it is filled out by an admin clerk at the surgery. I calculated that this would take about 5 minutes to complete, including licking the envelope and fixing a stamp to it, so at £300 an hour that's one hell of an admin clerk. Anyways, I rode into town and went to the currency exchange desk in Marks and Spencers to change £150's worth of those useless Euro's back into Sterling, knowing that they won't charge commission. I got back £135. `The copulating C-bombs`, I thought.
But then came a sort of Road to Damascus moment. As I left the store and walked into the chilly wind howling down the shopping precinct, a woman came up to me and asked if I would like to make a donation towards a childrens charity of some description. I immediately stuck my hand in my pocket, pulled out a handful of coins and pressed £3 into her hand. She thanked me and gave me a ticket which I just stuffed into my pocket. I told her that over the last 48 hours I had watched money being sucked out of my bank account like a turbo-dredger on methanol, but that her's was the most honest and justified request for cash amongst all the other acts of Highway Robbery I'd suffered and I felt relieved to be able to give to her cause. I went home and took our dog for a long walk.
As the pooch and I strolled along a footpath that was formerly a railway track through open countryside, we came across a family of four plus a huge Alsation. The dogs greeted each other like old pals and I chatted to the humans. They had a daughter in a rather heavy, special wheelchair. She was clearly severely disabled, with her head canted to one side. She had Cerebral Palsy. She couldn't speak, but she could see our little Jack Rascal Terrorist. Her father picked him up and sat him on her lap and she beamed at him has he licked her face. After a chat about this and that we all went our separate ways. As they wheeled her away in the opposite direction her mother said that our pooch had really made her day. As I strolled back home I remembered the charity ticket I'd been given and pulled it from my jacket pocket. It was for children suffering from Cerebral Palsy and Dyspraxia. I figured that £3 had bought me quite a lot of sunshine - and there was no small admin charge either.
and thanks to Conan the Librarian for this clip: