There are many laws that govern the universe, oversee the etiquette at high table and one’s personal hygiene routine. Some are useful in the right places if applied in the right order. It is a good thing we have laws against bribing politicians, driving recklessly while inebriated and against public masturbation…even if the monkey did agree to it. Other laws are at times nonsensical such as those governing what types of food are declared ‘unclean’ for no other reason than it was once a bit of pig. Personally, anything is fair game for the dinner table barring any animal tissue that would be described as an ‘orifice’ in a veterinary surgeon’s text book. Then there are the arbitrary laws that apply for no known reason. This category includes the laws of Sod and of Murphy.
Who Murphy was has been lost in the telling of the tales of yore. Sod similarly has an obscure origin. Whatever the genesis of both, they provide life with its rich seam of unexpected imaginings that either strike fear or the loosening of morals in the midst of blind panic. Or both. It is often advisable therefore to have tissues at hand should one feel an uncontrollable surge of lachrymosity or peristalsis. Some find having a faith in God of whatever animal form, desert prophet or sexual persuasion one is fond of, useful in such circumstances. I prefer binary logic and Newtonian physics to see me through. A little Greek philosophy, such as that of the stoics, may also provide necessary emotional equilibrium should Sod or Murphy turn up.
I’m on my way back to Jeddah, via Bahrain due to Covid regulations meaning the U.K. is on Saudi Arabia’s ‘shit list’ of countries they’d rather not have direct contact with. Therefore a two week stay in the island kingdom is necessary before I can fly into Jeddah. Saudi Arabia introduced new laws just a few days ago meaning that even coming from Bahrain I’ll still have to quarantine in a hotel in Jeddah for 7 days. Covid rules in the Middle East change with the rapidity and capricious nature of a half starved Bengal Tiger coming across a dawdling wildebeest with a sign around its neck which simply says ‘dinner’. One minute you are gently grazing the sweet green grass of the Savannah, with the warm sun on your back, thinking of what Aunt Brenda wants for her wildebeest birthday, and the next your jugular has been released from the confines of your neck and is swinging in the afternoon breeze like a high pressure garden hose.
Thankfully there are no tigers in West Cornwall.
The Night Riviera sleeper leaves Penzance 10 minutes late because the train at the next platform was not ready to leave on time. For some reason, the adjacent train had to leave first. Bear in mind that the railway at Longrock (just a mile or so from Penzance) becomes a single track, there is competition for right of way. Ann had to stand at the platform for an extra 10 minutes prolonging the already long goodbye. New rules also means that train windows have to be locked before departure thus preventing the age old tradition of hanging out and waving goodbye, or even the last kiss as one leans out. Instead, the last few minutes have to be endured through a thick pane of carriage door glass. Normally, I would wind the window down and hang out while mumbling the tearful adieus. This new rule also meant that I’d not be able to do similar hanging out of train window waving like a a lunatic as we passed over the viaduct at Hayle where I knew Grant and Kirsten would be waving back. As it happened, just as our train passed over, another on its way to Penzance swept passed and blocked the view! Sod’s law had struck.
The rest of the rail journey overnight to London passed without anything interesting happening. This is a good thing. I think it was Mao who remarked on living in interesting times meaning presiding over the deaths of millions of the Chinese middle class during the cultural revolution. ‘Interesting times’ is a gold medal winning understatement and the downplaying of a monumental occasion which ranks alongside ‘is it in yet?’ asked coyly by the bride on her wedding night of her beau whose passion and effort is in woeful inverse proportion to the anatomical equipment he is actually endowed with. Imagine being sent to face the enemy trenches armed only with a carrot.
The sleeper arrives at about 0530 at platform 2, and disembarkation has to be completed by 0645. Murphy knows I’m coming, and so ensures that the First class lounge showers are not in service. This forces a rethink and an earlier train to Heathrow. The sleeper berths at least have a sink and hot water and so an ablution of a pitiful nature can at least be attempted. Refreshed, to a degree, I set off for the ‘Heathrow Express’ which actually lives up to its name. Bits of early morning grey damp West London flash by the window at high speed. The only thing I can note is the hitachi engine sheds where they service the new trains. It’s logo emblazoned in big letters on the shed is ‘Prepare to Impress’ or some other corporate bollocks dreamt up by a spotty marketing graduate who might actually believe this shite, especially as their hands have seen no more work as that undertaken by a sweating Royal Prince in a cocaine fuelled doggy fashion coupling in a girls school. Let’s face it, coal mining and doggy fashion both make you sweat, but which one is really ‘working’?
So it is I find myself at terminal 5 with 5 hours before take off. I have a ticket for ‘Club World’ meaning faster…everything. And access to the lounge in which the airline supplies free food, drink and philosophy lessons. The gin is served by bald dwarves and the caviar sits in scallop shells adorned with samphire and gold leaf. The bread is hand kneaded by Romanian gypsies and baked by corpulent bakers made fat on a diet of pork and cider, and the wine is direct from Apollo’s cellar. As is often the case the room is dominated by a particular accent from across the Atlantic. I learn, because I have no choice, that one of them is a radiologist from New York and the other is something in Oregon. I hear no other accents. Nothing. There is a faint murmur as a middle aged English group of three couples discuss their golf handicaps, and by the look of them and their anatomical frailties extra shots at the hole are not the only handicaps they face, but other than that the colonials claim the sound space. As usual. They mean well, but they have a defective volume switch the sort you find on an antique radio which has a button saying ‘on and off’ and one big knob jammed permanently at level 11. They then start into making commentary upon subjects of which they have at best a tangential knowledge (they saw it on Fox News) which then entitles them, in their world at least, to pronounce to anyone unfortunate enough to be in earshot with a high degree of confidence not matched by their understanding. They are the very antithesis of caution, humility and uncertainty other mortals might possess when discussing topics about which they have as much experience and grounding as a dog has in Hegelian Dialectics.
With about two hours to go, I get a message from a colleague in Jeddah. They have forwarded a message from Gulf Air advising its passengers of new travel restrictions coming into force at midnight tonight. Basically, Bahrain is now saying that unless you are a citizen of Bahrain and can prove you know the difference between a Bedouin and a banana, you can ‘sod off’. Your name is not on the list. And so you are not coming in. Not even to poke around in the souk or a donkey’s bottom. Non citizens will have the status of ‘persona non grata’ which is Arabic for dirty infected scumbag. No visas will be issued upon arrival, and no amount by greasing of palms with dollars is going to get you through the border.
Sod and Murphy have joined forces.
Does British Airways know anything about this, seeing as they will be flying hapless non Bahraini visitors (me) into the airport? I enquire at customer services only to be met with “buggered if I knows me dear”. A phone call is made ‘upstairs’ to enquire if any messages have been received regarding entry rights. Silence. I could have rubbed Aladdin’s lamp to better effect. With an hour to go, the boarding gate is announced. It looks like we are still going, and no one is mentioning the new regulations. Occasionally a message comes across advising passengers to check individual country Covid regs for entry. Our own gov.uk website says nothing about new Bahrain regulations. I contact my company in Dubai. They know nothing, but offer a phone contact to ring should I find myself hanging upside down in chains in a dark rat infested dungeon in the bowels of Manama city with only a policeman and a growing sense of doom for company. I should arrive at 2110 tonight which gives me a few hours before the gate closes. I will still need a PCR upon arrival and a Visa, and to facilitate this the cabin crew hand out a health declaration and an immigration form to be handed in at the border.
The cabin announcement tells us what I already know about entry and nothing about rule changes at midnight. This is either the triumph of hope over experience or demonstrates a confidence born of ignorance.
The only compensation is that as soon as I get on the ground I can start invoicing the company for my time. They don’t care if I single handedly solve the Saudi Health crisis or if I get stoned smoking hashish in a Bahraini market cafe while being fed dates from between the delightedly bouncing cleavage of robustly dusky dancing girls.
Sod’s law says I’ll be sleeping on the airport floor tonight.*
*Sod’s law dictates that should I invoke it, it will do the opposite. And so it transpires as I’m safely tucked up in the Hotel.
2 thoughts on “Sod’s Law”
Great to have you on your travels again Ben, not sure Ann would agree though. Are you sure Bengal Tigers, Savanah and Wildebeast exist on the same continent ? Asking for a friend. 🙂
Haha great to read about your travels. Only you could say like it is.
Take Care xx