Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Silverlight in Johannesburg

Here we go again. In December I ran the first in a series of courses under the Microsoft Metro programme dealing with Silverlight 2.0 for Developers. The whole experience was a delight including the journey - and I don't travel well.

So here I am in Johannesburg for another event and thought it might be interesting to compare the journey to Sydney with the one to Johannesburg.

It was to be an evening flight so I got to spend the morning with the family. Sunday lunch was a fry up, a little going away treat.

Out the door by 1.30 pm.

Check in at Manchester Airport at 2.30 pm and discover that whoever booked my flight didn't request a through ticket so I was going to have to retrieve my bags at Heathrow and check in again.


Had time for a coffee and an hour of admin in the terminal.

Boarded the shuttle to London Heathrow. I was one of the last aboard and struggled to find space in the overhead for my carry ons. I was seated in row 2 but the nearest overhead with space was row 23!

Several passengers were concerned about the location of their bags and the inevitable crush to retrieve them when we arrived. The purser (let's call her Debra Hogan) had a real attitude problem towards the passengers at this time. She shared her opinion of us with one of the stewardesses in such hushed tones that whilst working my way back to row 23 I heard her clearly at row 5. What a sourpuss!

As soon as the seat belt sign went off at Heathrow, I was on my feet heading towards the rear of the aircraft. Several of the passengers had reached their feet before I made it to my bags. By the time I had retrieved them, I now had a lot of people between me and the door I wanted to leave by.

Once off the aircraft, I had to head for the baggage hall to await my case rather than simply step onto the transfer bus. This took around 10-15 minutes. Once I had my case I had to leave Terminal 5 and catch the Heathrow 'express' to Terminal 3. I needn't have rushed.

When I reached the carriage 10 minutes later I still had another 10 minutes before it departed.

The trip to Terminal 3 only took 5 minutes but then it took a further 10 minutes of corridors, escalators more corridors etc. to exit the station outside Terminal 3.

Into Terminal 3 I staggered and headed for check-in. Thank heavens that was over! I reached check-in and thought I would try for one of those fabled free upgrades everyone keeps telling me about.

"I'll check for you sir. Just one minute!".

Things are beginning to look up.


"I'm sorry sir, check in is closed for that flight. We have a one hour limit and it is 55 minutes to take off".

Now rather than "do an irate business traveller", I opted for the bemused, polite, apologetic traveller. Many thanks to a nice guy named Andrew for letting me through.

I guess the other guys near me at check in must have gone for option (a) as they didn't get onto the plane.

By the time I got through the x-rays and to the gate, they were just about to take my case off the plane.

"Mr Stripe?" enquired the irked attendant.

I squeezed into my Economy seat for take-off but luckily there were plenty of free seats available once we were airborne.

I grabbed three over the wing.

I ate a Beef 'ready meal' Stroganoff over France. I'm sure it's supposed to be strips of beef rather than cubes but never mind.

I watched a film (Burn after reading) over the Mediterranean and Algeria then popped a pill as we entered Niger airspace.

Fitful sleep over Nigeria, a little piece of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Angola, a sliver of Namibia and then finally gave up over Botswana feeling pretty sick. It was either the pill or the Beef.

Flew over Botswana sitting in the toilet (excuse me - WC) just to be on the safe side. Emerged in time for some scrambled eggs and tea before landing in Johannesburg.

Can I just say at this point that the crew (Virgin Atlantic) were wonderful. Really pleasant and friendly. Especially with a guy who left his brain at home in Burnley and struggled to remember if he drank tea or coffee. Furthermore, did he take sugar?

Can I also say that the Qantas crew in December gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling too. I am still waiting to enjoy a British Airways flight (long or short haul). Come on BA!

Now perhaps I was tired but the walk from the plane to baggage reclaim felt an awfully long way. One bonus was that my bag was the first through the chute. Now there's a surprise!

All I needed now was to find the car that had been arranged to collect me and take me to my guest house so that I didn't have to submit myself to Johannesburg Airport taxi touts.

I came out the door looking at all these faces looking back at me holding those bits of A4 with a name on it.

I looked around for Mr Stirpe. I even checked again for Mr Stripe.

My car wasn't there.

I found out later that the document that I sent last week with my flight details was 'unreadable' but no one thought to get back to me to resend.

So anyway. I submitted myself to the Johannesburg Airport taxi touts.

Didn't take too long. My main concern as I got into the car was how much am I going to get taken for?

What I should have considered was that not all taxi drivers have 'the knowledge' of their particular patch.

When I told my driver where I wanted to go he dug out his Johannesburg road map and tried to find it. After a few minutes, he turned to me and said. "Here, you find it!", and set off.

And so the guy from 9337 km away took a look at the book and determined that the Little Tuscany Guest House could be located on page 15, grid DC-97. Better make that 9449 km. Burnley is 80 km from Manchester airport and the Little Tuscany Guest House is 32 km from Johannesburg airport.

All things considered, I prefer Business class!

I initially wrote this post during the one hour taxi journey.

Crikey, traffic is bad on a Monday morning!

Can't wait to see the guest house.

I had been cautioned about staying in a guest house rather than a proper hotel.

When the list of potential accommodation was sent through by Microsoft, the Little Tuscany Guest House was top of the proximity list.

Rather than spend time visiting every venue's web site to check it out, only to find out that it exceeded budget, I simply asked our resourcing team to start at the top of the list and work down until they found something that suited them. They booked the first venue.

I had my concerns. Budget and my comfort aren't always compatible.

And so we arrive at the Little Tuscany Guest House.

What a wonderful place. It is a series of lovely chalets in pretty surroundings. The room is brilliant! I am ground floor with a patio door that lets out onto a terrace that opens onto the lawn. Perhaps the only thing that this room is lacking is a mini bar. Then again, the bar is just a short stroll past the pool.

Have spent the afternoon at IT Intellect getting the room ready for the course tomorrow. There were plenty of helpful people on hand to help with setup.

We are just about set for the morning.

So a quick spell chek (only kidding), get this posted and then an early night.

Oh yes. One more thing. I had been hoping to spend quality African time with my kids using Microsoft Messenger and my new Microsoft Web cam. However, Messenger is unable to connect any longer on my Vista laptop (it used to). I am getting an error (80072f0d).

Now I have spent the afternoon with five 'techies' and they all came up with firewall. It wasn't the firewall.

So if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I would be most grateful!

Thank goodness, life isn't dull.

I couldn't cope with dull.

I worked for General Electric Company - GEC and then British Telecom - BT many years ago.

That was dull !

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

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