I can't believe this trip has spawned five travel posts - I miscounted first time, but have renumbered them now! - and all without any perfume-related happenings to speak of, apart from the fact that I wore the stuff every day, and had a very disagreeable experience with YSL La Safarienne. It bore such an eerie resemblance to grapefruit floor cleaner that I speculated on Facebook that it might not even be safe to apply on skin.
But this post isn't about that. No, I decided to conclude the series with an account of my misadventures, excluding the broken tooth episode, which is documented elsewhere.
As a seasoned business traveller of 25 years' standing (well, in practice mostly sitting behind the wheel, but you get my drift), I thought I had made every mistake in the book, from spilling vinaigrette on my suit just before a presentation, splitting skirts, laddering tights, cutting fingers as I was about to shake the hand of the person I was meeting, to sitting on benches covered in pigeon droppings, getting red grape skins stuck in my teeth, Tippex dandruff in my hair, and ink all over my hands. Yes, let's not forget the exploding fountain pen routine, which can happen anywhere, but is especially indicated in pressurised atmospheres such as an aeroplane. I also thought that I was too sensible to repeat any of my past gaffes. I was wrong on both counts...
Here then is a round up of the silly mishaps which befell me on this trip - both old and new! Interestingly, they mostly involve food and drink this time round.
Transporting chocolate in warm weather
Okay, now I know this sounds obvious, but I am an eternal optimist where chocolate preservation is concerned. As some readers may remember from the accounts of my Californian trip last December, I like to keep a little chocolate in the car for emergencies, and when it is quite cool in the morning as you set off, it seems hard to imagine that the boot of the car might turn into a raging furnace by noon, and the chocolate bar a slick of cocoa-y magma. But that's just what it will be: floppy, molten, and if you are very unlucky, oozing over your fresh questionnaires.
Drinking water whilst driving over speed bumps
I say speed bumps, but it could be any kind of rough terrain, like the boneshaking judderfests you find in Poland, masquerading as main arterial roads. The incident in question occurred in Belgium, as I attempted to drive over some very pronounced speed bumps whilst swigging from a bottle of water. Short story short, as the car jolted over the humps, the arm which was holding the bottle gave an involuntary jerk, and I poured half a litre of water (uncorborated!) over my head.
Buying water from the first shop you see
Ah yes, in my eagerness to dodge exorbitant minibar prices, I often explore the immediate surroundings of my hotel, looking for a cheaper deal on water. In a town in East Germany, I headed over to the railway station opposite (the only place nearby with any sign of life on this public holiday), and immediately turned into a small mini-mart just inside the entrance. Water cost about a quid fifty for a small bottle, yet only a few yards beyond was a branch of the drugstore Rossmann, offering bottles of twice the size for a third the price. I should know that really: if you don't have access to a large supermarket, always buy water in a drugstore, counter-intuitive as that may sound. And while you are there, stock up on their very cheap mini bottles of Sekt if, like me, you use alcohol as a bit of a crutch when under stress. Which of course I was after being diddled on the water.
Being foxed by flat screen TVs
Any regular readers out there may spot that I have previous for being foxed by flat screen TVs (last September in an Ibis hotel in Berlin), and you could be forgiven for thinking I might have retained the information the barman gave me on that occasion as to where the sylishly flush on and off button was located. Not a chance. On aggregate over the course of this trip I must have spent the best part of 20 minutes fumbling with the edges of a selection of flat screen TVs in my accommodation. I probably had a success rate of something like 1 in 3. I mean there's flush, there's recessed, there's inverted, and there's just plain blinkin' invisible. If you don't know what you are looking for, never mind where, it can be utterly baffling, and I was reluctant to push any given bit of plastic too hard, on the remote offchance that it might be an invisible control. Come to think of it, you should have been able to turn the thing on using the remote, but this didn't always seem to be the case.
Being late for eggs
I am not a morning person. If I don't have a meeting that catapults me out the hotel door at a preternaturally early hour, I will invariably cut it very fine in terms of catching breakfast. Some days I will skip it altogether, but I will never ever get down to the buffet when it is in its first flush (that word again!) of freshness. This is neither here or there when you are talking about those diddy little boxes of Coco Pops, or twinpacks of Ryvita, or the heap of granny smith apples that passes for a fruit selection, but when it comes to the hot part of the buffet, or the basket of boiled eggs, you could be in for a shock. Yes, by the time I normally get down there, invariably the scrambled egg will be stone cold, slumped under its steel dome and leeching a colourless fluid - I suddenly remember the term "albumen" from Third Form biology and wish I hadn't. And the boiled eggs will also be cold, but crucially they will also be soft boiled. This is not a good combination. But my distaste at such eggy nasties has up to now not been sufficient incentive to propel me out of my pit early enough to catch the egg options in an optimum state.
Going hungry on Ruhetage
Speaking of missing meals, I was bedevilled on this trip by my recurrent mistiming of hotel stays, and often coincided with their Ruhetag ("day of rest"). The hotels would still be open to check you in, but the restaurant would be shut. Now I didn't have time before I left the UK to check the Ruhetag schedule of all the hotels I would be staying at before booking them. Location, availability and price were the main drivers, followed by Internet access in at least some nook or cranny of the premises, if not my room necessarily. As the trip unfolded, I realised I had targeted three hotels in succession on their Ruhetag (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday respectively!). I didn't get a square meal till Wednesday. You understand the need for chocolate now. And a temperature controlled storage receptacle in my boot. An ordinary cool bag would be no good of course, because the cool blocks thaw and get warm eventually - I probably need one of those insulated boxes they transport vital organs in for life-saving operations. Especially if in future, as seems likely, I persistently fail to check the restaurant opening times in advance.
Putting things in wardrobes
Why, you may ask, should I urge people not to hang things in wardrobes, an item of furniture specifically designed for that purpose? Well, quite simply because, having put garments in the wardrobe, there is a very real risk that you will omit to take them out again in the morning. I had to drive cross-country some 20 miles out of the way back to my hotel to retrieve a raincoat and a top that I had put in the wardrobe and promptly forgotten. It was then or never, as I was not passing that way again. Despite this impromptu detour, amazingly I was not late for my second meeting of the day, though I did drive like the proverbial bat out of hell, terrifying a few flat capped old boys at the wheel of clapped out Mazdas along the way. And the moral of this tale - hang things on the handles of the wardrobe, or on hooks on the walls or the backs of doors - or even on the shower rail - but always, always in plain sight...
Pulling a pilot
Okay, so this last item is not a mishap as such, though it easily could have been, if I had taken him up on his offer. Yes, I was hit on by a Dutch pilot in Belgium on the last night of my trip, just as I was getting some stuff out of the boot of the car before turning in. He clocked my English plate and said he loved England, having lived there for 20 years until 2000. He was a dead ringer for the actor Paul Bettany, but was 65 if he was a day - should he still be at the controls of planes?, I couldn't help wondering. Anyway, he invited me for a nightcap but I declined, pleading fear of flying. Well, work actually. So it would appear that I can still pull the odd silver fox, but am not sure whether this quite counts as a feather in my cap.
That's it! Perfume-related posts will be along shortly - until I go off again, which is quite soon...!
Photo of stained businessman from ehow.com, photo of speed bumps from lacarrera2007.blogspot.com, photos of Rossmann and park bench from flickr.com, photos of TV and wardrobe from tripadvisor.co.uk, photo of German breakfast from thefoodchapter.blogspot.com, photo of Ruhetage sign from de.wikipedia.org, photo of Paul Bettany from comicbookmovie.com, chocolate photo my own