Sorry about the lack of posting: I’ve been busy.
Last week I was on a short business trip to Pori in the west of Finland to visit a testing facility and kick off a project I’m managing. Three of us went, flying into Helsinki and then boarding a 30-seater twin prop between Helsinki and Pori operated by Budapest Air Service. Yeah, I couldn’t work that one out. Apparently the flight is subsidised by the Pori municipality, who might worry nobody would come and visit otherwise. When we went to the desk to check in twenty minutes before our flight we found it deserted. We asked someone from the
Luftwaffe Lufthansa desk next door and she said it was a bit early. Sure enough, 10 mins before departure a lady showed up, asked us our names, and ticked us off a list. There were only about 6 or 7 people on the flight including us. We were aboard and airborne on time. When we landed they dropped the stairs and we just sort of got off and wandered across the apron towards what we guessed must be the terminal building. This is how flying should be done.
We got a taxi from Pori airport to our destination, about a 10 minute drive. The driver grunted at me once when I gave him the address, again when I paid him, and once more when I thanked him. I initially thought he didn’t like me for some reason, but then I remembered in Finland this is what passes for a warm welcome. Our hosts were rather more chatty, and we spent a day wandering through laboratories and industrial units, stopping for lunch to eat salmon, lamb, and a dessert made with sea buckthorn. Last time I was in Finland I found the food so bad I started missing even German food. This time was a lot better. It’s amazing what effect not being a tourist has. That evening we went for a short walk along the river. Some early snow had fallen leaving a dusting over everything, and there were an awful lot of birch trees. It brought back a lot of memories of Russia, a country I’ve not been to since 2012, and made me miss the cold and snow. It beat the miserable wet of Cambridge hands down. Afterwards our hosts took us to a very nice restaurant and we drank lingonberry vodka and ate reindeer steak, which I ordered rare so it was red as Rudolph’s nose. It was excellent.
We were dropped off at Pori airport at 8pm and we were the only ones in the entire building except one other passenger. About 20 minutes before takeoff a bloke showed up who checked us in without even giving us boarding passes, a couple of pilots who looked as though they ought to be tucked up in bed somewhere, and two security personnel who didn’t yell at us. I rather enjoyed my trip to Finland – they’re nice, competent people – and I’ll be going back on monthly visits either to Helsinki or Pori between now and March or April. So if anyone is around up there, let me know.
When I got back from Finland I quit my serviced apartment in Cambridge and moved to London, lodging with my Dad for a few days while I look for a temporary apartment. I found myself rather isolated up there: I didn’t know anyone, the traffic on the drive to work was awful in one direction and abominable in the other, and the weather was miserable. One of the things which has changed since I left the UK in 2003 is the introduction of flexible working in offices. I arrived in my new job to find I didn’t have a desk assigned to me. Instead I had to hot desk, and carry all my stuff home at the end of each day like a sherpa. It seems nobody is provided with desk phones any more, instead you get given a Skype number which routes straight to your laptop. Most people work 3-4 days in the office and the rest either from home or somewhere else. Attending meetings over Skype is the norm, and I realised that the oil industry is still operating somewhere in the early 1990s. The expense system, travel booking system and HR benefits and admin system are all third-party and online. In my last place of work they were, respectively: 1) paper-based requiring multiple signatures, 2) a confusing chain of emails to umpteen managers and departmental secretaries who often appeared to have brain damage, and 3) non-existent. In short, I don’t really need to be physically in the office as much as I thought. I then discovered I can get a the Brighton to Cambridge train from London Bridge pretty easily, what with it being empty going north once it’s passed St. Pancras and most empty coming south until you reach Farringdon. So I can get a good 40 minutes work done on the train each way.
My intention was to find an AirBnB in London for a month while I sorted myself out. So I found one near London Bridge and booked it, and my credit card was charged accordingly. Next thing I know I get this message:
However looking again at the price it seems to be incorrect I can’t accommodate next to tower bridge in effect a 4 star hotel 2ned suite with lots of storage at £100 a night . Hotels next door are £200 a night tiny double room or £1500 plus for a 2bed suit .
The price should be £175 a night I can do for a compromised £149 a night .
Still very reasonable for that price .
If I can send you a price amendment pls can you accept failing that can u please ask you politely to cancel the reservation.
This was rather odd: I thought we’d agreed the price and I’d paid, and now he wanted more – 50% more, to be precise. So I told him to sod off. Then I got this:
I hope your okay . I’m new to airbb (my property is on One Fine Stay at £250 a night).
I’ve called airbb to rectify the pricing if it was just a couple of nights stay I wouldn’t mind . But for a months stay I simply can’t make commercial sense flats in the area rent out on normal market at £3000 plus a month .
So if you can’t pay the extra can I pls ask you to cancel I hope your decide to stay as I can’t imagine your find better in this locality .
This chap makes Theresa May look like a master of negotiation. Anyway, I told him to sod off again. Which resulted in this:
I hope your well.
I’ve just been on the phone to airbb customer service they have advised me to increase the to a commercial viable amount I do hope we can compromise and meet half way. Once you see the apartment it’s great home and you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for your empathy and storage is no problem .
Assuring you of my personal attention at ALL Times .
The next thing I know I have someone who sounded Filipina calling me from AirBnB trying to persuade me to pay the extra money, adopting the role of negotiator with his interests at heart. I explained to her as far as I was concerned the deal was done and I’d paid an she said “Yes, you make a good point, I’ll go back and tell him that.” Whether she did or not I don’t know, but within 5 minutes my booking had been cancelled and I received this message from my would-be host:
Best of luck best price £135 a night very responsible to be opposite Tower Bridge in Luxury apartment same as a five star hotel suite .
I fired off a complaint to AirBnB and they said “they were sorry I had to cancel my booking” but I’ve been refunded, although the money could take up to 15 days to reappear in my account. I told them I didn’t cancel it and they went quiet until I started having some fun telling the story on Twitter while tagging in @Airbnb. Eventually someone emailed me and said they’d investigated but due to privacy reasons they couldn’t tell me what the outcome was. The email, like all their correspondence on this case, was littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. I’m wondering how long AirBnB are going to be in business before someone is killed in an unsafe property and they respond by sending the grieving relatives a list of alternative properties and wishing them a pleasant stay. In the end I got 10% off my next booking, but I’d have preferred my would-be host’s head mounted on a spike at the Tower of London.
Anyway, the good news is I’ve met someone in London who is neither Russian nor a lunatic and therefore is unlikely to be providing much blogging fodder as others have done. I’ve checked and she’s not into polyamory, which must be a disappointment to my readers. In fact, she’s rather wonderful. And that’s the main reason behind my move to London and, if I’m being honest, my lack of blogging.