As regular readers of this blog will know we have spent the past eight days in Singapore and what an amazing place, where East meets West and where standards are high, very high. It reminded me of the England of old, you know, the one that older generations, grandparents and those who fought bravely for this country in the war, describe misty eyed and which we cannot barely comprehend as being the same place as today’s UK….. harsh words? I don’t think so.
Here’s the thing, Changi airport, Singapore….. spotlessly clean, very orderly and pristine wherever you venture, be it restrooms, restaurants or concourses. No queues, a peaceful and very efficient place to pass through on arrival and departure- in fact a pleasure to be there… yes in an airport! It rightly merits it’s title as one of the best airports in the world, as it is truly impressive. Cut to arrival back in the UK last night…..a very long walk from airplane to immigration. Enormously long queues to pass through passport control, no staff prepared to smile, pass the time of day or even make eye contact, dirty toilets, shabby terminal building (Arrivals- Terminal 3- a nightmare) and noise, hustle and chaos with people charging everywhere with no thought for their fellow passengers – outside a long wait for the transfer bus and when we boarded it, the driver didn’t even look up from his crossword to mutter a word….. Great Britain…. Really, where’s the Great bit gone?
We had to drive into central London, as Gerard was receiving an award (IWC Personality of the Year). This now makes it a triple whammy and I cannot tell you how proud we all are of him- 2010 is certainly turning out to be “his year”…. However I digress. Having flown for 12 hours plus from Singapore to London, we were met with a nose to tail traffic jam on the M4, in fact it was closed a junction further on, but no one bothered to mention it when everyone was getting onto the M4 at the airport junction….. instead much better to wait until 1000’s of cars are in a queue, going nowhere and all experiencing shortening tempers and road rage. There was also a tube strike, so when we did eventually get nearer to Central London (3 hours later) the traffic was still busy, even at 10.45pm. Gerard made the awards ceremony with 5 minutes to spare and then on our way home, the M3 was shut and then the A31 which was one of the alternative roads to travel on to get back onto the M3… is it me or is something going drastically wrong with our infrastructure, organizational skills and general pride in the country that we all live in?
Thus having touched down at 7.10pm, spent 15 minutes on stage in London collecting an award, we eventually arrived home at 3am…….. dinner time in Singapore- oh how I wish I was there.
Friendly faces, service with a smile, nothing too much trouble, great weather, fantastic history, diverse cultures all rubbing along together very nicely thank you… no sadly I am not describing “Great” Britain- though I so wish I were, as in my profession as a hotelier, I am keen to support this country’s tourism and promote the place to overseas visitors, but recently, can I honestly say I am proud to be British… in Singapore yes, here in the UK, sadly no- I have arrived home with a sense of despondency for our once great and proud country and frankly it’s not till you are away and then return that you notice how it is all unraveling and at a frightening break neck speed. What puzzles me is how so many other countries can get it right, or at least so much better and yet we manage to fail almost at every turn…. I am horrified to think what all the Singaporeans and other nationalities on the airplane with us last night must have thought when they touched down at Heathrow, it certainly was a sad moment for tourism and our country’s future.
This morning after a grey start, the sun is shining and I am home in Hampshire, away from the crowds, the filth and the unfriendliness of Heathrow and the beautiful New Forest has healed my disappointment at returning to such a stark contrast. A new day has brought with it hope and inspiration….. we did much market research in Singapore- cocktails were tasted aplenty, pool sides were enjoyed to compare with our’s here at TerraVina and delicious food was enjoyed so that we can describe flavours and textures to our own home team- it is nice to come home to TerraVina, and I’ll promote tourism in the New Forest any day, but I can’t help it, I’m looking forward to further adventures very soon!