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Only one thing to do when I get on board - take flight

Published 22 January 2006
News Review
653rd article

Michael with members of the BA crew before the flight to Barbados (Geraldine Lynton-Edwards)

In 1953 it took me 16 hours 30 minutes, including a refuelling stop in Iceland, on a British Overseas Airways Corporation propeller plane from London to New York.

Concorde reduced that to 4 hours 45 minutes!

Barbados by Concorde took 4 hours 15 minutes. Often less. You travelled from Heathrow with a pleasing class of celebrity. Now Concorde's gone, so I trek to Gatwick. The flying time to Barbados is increased to 8 hours 40 minutes. Over twice that of Concorde!

Gatwick is made particularly pleasant by the diligence of British Airways special services personnel. Marty McGie and Rob Hunt drove me out to the plane first, wisely not wishing to frighten other passengers by placing them in an airport bus with me.

When we stopped Marty said: "Wait, I'll check the steps."

"What for?" I asked nervously.

"Last week I found a teaspoon. I don't want you to trip," advised Marty. I'm sure she was thinking of health and safety rather than the substantial claim for damages if I took a tumble.

"Find anything?" I asked when she returned.

"Only a bottle top," explained Marty. Thus reassured, Geraldine and I entered the plane.

"Let us be aware," I said to Jose Linan, the cabin service director, "the most important thing on the flight is that my suitcase be at the exit door when we stop in Barbados."

Marty was about to take my case away to a lock-up.

"Isn't this a wardrobe?" I asked, indicating a cupboard door near the exit.

"Yes," said Jose.

"Put my case there," I suggested. "It won't have to travel far to reach the door." I only have carry-on luggage. No waiting by the carousel searching for my bags that were in the hold. Not for me news that they've gone on to Caracas, Bogota, Montevideo and all points south.

Captain Peter Brown and his first officer, Shaun Knight, popped out to say hello. BA staff are extremely consoling. I had complete faith Peter and Shaun, working together as an experienced and united team, would get the plane to Grantley Adams International airport, Barbados.

So I turned to the menu. It said: "These renowned chefs rose to the challenge of creating the ultimate in-flight dining experience. Despite the constraints with aircraft the Culinary Council has developed superior quality menus without compromising individual culinary styles." What a load of twaddle!

The "Council" included Michel Roux of the Waterside Inn, Bray (can't stand what he produces on dry land let alone in the air); Richard Corrigan of Soho's Lindsay House (like him!) and "Vineet Bhatia of Rasoi, Sloane Square".

In fact his restaurant is Rasoi Vineet Bhatia and it's on Lincoln Street. I know because I'm a fan.

I chose duck and foie gras terrine with ruby orange compote and toasted brioche, followed by Vineet Bhatia's spicy chicken korma with truffle oil and morels. Geraldine called her starter salad "delicious". My pate was a little too sweet. I dropped some of Vineet's chicken korma on my very light blue jeans. They were born dark blue but my assistant Dinah bleached them in my bath!

Antonio Delion III, the purser, produced a stain remover. "Is it working?" he inquired, adding:

"It definitely looks lighter. I can get you some more."

I acquired a major audience for my attempt at stain removal. Jose joined in to show interest and concern. "What did you have?" he asked.

"You'll notice I had the chicken," I replied, "because half of it's on my trousers."

After considerable effort the stain was 96.5% gone! So I tried Michel Roux's chocolate and banana delice - not bad for a man whose cooking I hate!

Dan Clarke, the chef, came out to see how I'd liked the food. That was very hospitable of him. "It's fine," I said. Later I had a very cold scone, hot tea, some excellent cream and jam and what I think was meant to be a bakewell tart with icing sugar on top. That was rather good.

I also congratulated Jose for placing a plastic cover over my Huntsman linen jacket in the wardrobe. This because I told him I'd had two jackets destroyed on BA planes through other travellers putting their filthy hands in the closet between their jacket and mine and thus dirtying my exquisite clothing.

On the return BA night flight I took the sleeping pill Rohypnol, banned in Britain because it's apparently used for date rapes. Except I didn't! I only thought I did. I later realised I'd mistakenly taken Frumil, a pill that makes you pee endlessly. Thus I spent a great deal of the return journey in the toilet. Oh well, you win some, you lose some! Life goes on.

Winner's letters

I saw you shaded by four umbrellas on the Sandy Lane beach. The place resembled an upmarket version of the Costa del Sol. You were all squashed together like sardines. Unlike me on the north beach at Port St Charles, which I had virtually all to myself.
Yvonne Paddy, Barbados.

Your comment last week suggesting Sunday Times readers could only afford Sandy Lane in the low season when prices are cheap is the height of pretentious arrogance coupled with extreme pomposity. Unless you had your voluminous tongue in your cheek!
Stanley Silver, Hertfordshire

Regarding last week's photo: surely you're wealthy enough not have to wear shorts made from curtains and a shirt made from old ones sewn together? Did you do it for a bet? Does Sandy Lane not have a dress code to protect guests from such sights? You complained the hotel's chief executive failed to greet you. Dressed like that I'm not surprised! I think I'll abandon plans to re-mortgage my house in order to spend Christmas at Sandy Lane. Please return to your usual understated scruffiness.
Alan Greaves, Nottingham

It wasn't until I read the contents of last week's Winner's Dinners that I realised the "Bizarre Combinations" headline was not referring to your holiday attire.
Charlie Dobson, Bristol

Our Michael may be a beach ball from the hips up, but he's got a gorgeous pair of legs.
Heather Scott, Reading

What a toad you are for saying Helen McBride, the Bajan Blue manager, wore clothes which looked like they came from Oxfam on a bad day. Having spent three weeks observing what you wore at the Sandy Lane buffet, you should be reminded of the proverb about people in glass houses. Helen's dog has better manners than you.
Jeremy Taylor, London

Your experiences at Maze (Winner's Dinners, January 8) were similar to ours at Claridges. Our risotto was lukewarm, the grilled brill on a leek base tepid. My wife sent hers back but it was no hotter when it returned. Both places are Gordon Ramsay's. He who wrote in The Sunday Times that risotto should be served piping hot!
MP Quick, Devon.

Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST or e-mail michael.winner@sunday-times.co.uk