Arcticterntalk.org

The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the category “Countries and Cities”

Alcohol Intake at Edinburgh Airport and Scotland Generally


Before anyone gets the wrong idea I enjoy alcohol and drink probably my 14 units most weeks. But I was shocked to arrive at Edinburgh airport at 9.30 am on a normal friday to find all the bars full and people of all ages consuming huge volumes of alcohol. The bars were packed. The best sight was a man eating a fairly large Scottish Cooked breakfast and sipping an equally large brandy. Is this normal and is this healthy? Should anyone care?

The Scottish government certainly do. On their own website they make the stark observation that “It is becoming increasingly evident that as a nation our relationship with alcohol has become unbalanced”.  Further observations are that a fifth more alcohol per adult is drunk in Scotland compared with England and Wales, that 40% of prisoners were drunk at the time of their offence, and that although alcohol consumption may have declined since 2009, it had previously increased hugely over the previous 30 years. Alcohol related deaths had increased by a factor of 1.5 times since 1980. Sales in 2015 were 20% higher in Scotland than they were in England and Wales, with each adult consuming the equivalent of 477 pints of beer. Currently although there had been some reduction in drinking, sales of alcohol have now increased for the second year in succession. In 2015 total sales were the equivalent to 41 bottles of vodka or 116 bottles of wine for each adult. There was some evidence this morning that most of that quantity might be consumed in Edinburgh airport.

Should this be a matter of concern to anyone? People are free to do what they like mostly, however the societal cost is massive in terms of poor health and alcohol related criminal damage. There are probably a hundred views and opinions on that observation. The point of this article is simply to point out the huge amount of early morning drinking going on before flights. The statistics about cost to society and the person also make salient reading. There were 35,059 alcohol-related hospital stays in 2014/15, 91% resulted from an emergency admission and  71% of alcohol-related stays were men. Alcohol harm costs Scotland £3.6 billion a year in health, social care, crime, productive capacity and wider costs. 

The government of course will take a view, do an enquiry and probably little else but in July 2016 the way alcohol is sold in airports is to be examined after a number of recent incidents involving drunk passengers, the new aviation minister has said.
Lord Ahmad said he did not want to “kill merriment”, but that he would “look at” the times alcohol was on sale, and passenger screening. This seems a measured response but an unsurprising one. Aside from the health issues and general societal ones there are other reasons to be concerned over airport drinking. The number of passenger disturbances on UK flights has tripled over the past three years.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says the “majority” of cases were down to alcohol.
There were 114 incidents in 2014 compared to 39 in 2011. Little surprise here when one looks at the disinhibitive properties of alcohol and the potential amount consumed in a relatively short period of time.

What should airports do? Frankly they should do something instead of encouraging for their own purposes passengers to spend huge amounts of money in the duty-free areas ( that are now obligatory to walk through after security) and the bars that widely decorate airports. I would not especially single out Edinburgh airport of course but this is where I am writing this missive, but bars are often appearing at an exponential rate. I see no equivalent rise in quiet spaces to sit not in fact anywhere to sit. An All-Bar-One has opened here since I last visited. But they should do something, or at least discuss the situation and their relevance to the problem.

The chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, Nathan Stower, said “airlines set tough rules around the consumption of alcohol. Pubs, bars and restaurants in airports in the UK and overseas must play their part”.
In November a flight to Cuba from Manchester had to divert to Bermuda after Mohammed Khelya drank a bottle of vodka and threatened to kill everyone onboard. An isolated event of course but an increasingly seen one.

Edinburgh Tram System


In June 2014 Trams  returned to Edinburgh’s streets for the first time in almost 50 years, however, in the decade since the first money was allocated to the project, the price  doubled, the network halved and it took twice as long to build as was first thought.

img_2288Edinburgh’s tram “network” is now just part of one of the original lines, stretching from the airport to the city centre. It had been intended to reach the waterfront at Leith and Newhaven, and there were to be other lines too, but they disappeared as the troubled project rumbled on. This was the originally planned route.

edinburgh_tramway_map

After many years of delays and procrastination the tram was finally completed and is now fully operational. Having a spare hour in Edinburgh I decided to explore the tram and see literally where it might lead me too along its 8.7 mile route that has cost at least 976 million pounds to contruct.

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Fifty-two ticket inspectors were recruited to prevent fare dodging. Edinburgh Council is aiming for a 3% fare evasion rate, lower than any other tramway in Britain. Thirty-two drivers were employed, after passing psychological tests designed to eliminate risk-takers

Tram lines are making a re-appearance in UK and for good reasons. They tend to be more reliable in timing than buses and can often be built right into the city centre. For a long time there has been a lack of direct transportation from Edinburgh airport into the city which when combined with the relatively narrow roads often meant delays in getting to the main city centre. The tram line starts at the airport and ends at York place past the end of Princes Street. There are many possibilities of ticket types that range from simple single and return fares through to day tickets. The day tickets, equivalent of the London travel card , are more expensive when travelling to or from the airport, than the city and its environs. There is also a conundrum in that outside of the airport zone there is a family ticket that carries 2 adults and 3 children, but for airport travel  tickets need to be bought individually. This might explain why the trams seem relatively unused at the airport, my tram was almost empty, as by the time that more than one ticket is bought you are into the realms of little less cost than a taxi. fullsizerenderfullsizerender-1img_2290

The line itself runs through a variety of shopping centres, a train depot ( only for staff), and joins with a number of other stations en-route. It also stops at the Ingliston park and ride. So the line is practical and within reason quite cheap. They employ cohorts of scary looking ticket inspectors who check each and every customer, and who really do remember who they have previously checked, like they have photographic memories.

During only its second year of operation 5.38 million passengers used the system. And for anyone arriving at Edinburgh airport on their travels this is a good option for the city centre.

 

The Cabaret of shopping at Zurich Airport


On a recent short trip to Zurich my two main reflections were that so many people still smoked in Switzerland and how expensive airport shopping is at Zurich Airport.

Lets start with the airport. The shops are fairly good except if you want to buy anything at normal prices. Let me suggest a few items that one could have bought there. A nice side of salmon for £132. A nice bottle of champagne £192. A nice selection of cheese £35. And  I will not begin to tell you about the cost of Mont Blanc watches and pens. My main grouse is not that these were for sale, clearly people can and will afford to buy these, but that there were no normal priced items available. Bottle of wine for a mere £197. If you want Mont Blanc, Lindtt, Porsche, etc and so on, you are fine. Try looking for the Swiss equivalent of Poundland, and goodness that will take a while!

Switzerland reeks not only of cigarette smoke but also money. Nothing looks average and no-one I saw looked poor. The streets were clean and the bars looked nice. But one has to have the money to compete in living there. The streets looked however also relatively empty and certainly no evidence of traffic problems nor traffic jams.

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Switzerland Pedestrian Crossing

But normality is seen also in Switzerland with the type of graffiti normally seen in most European countries. Especially on the sides of trains or as here wagons. But a kind of functional graffiti and not in my top ten graffiti images for 2016.

Stockholm


SnowAlthough I have been to Stockholm a few times I have never truly appreciated what a pleasant city it is. This time snowbound, everything looked cute but everything worked. Trains and planes and cars were all on time, taxi drivers spoke eloquently and engaged passengers in meaningful conversation. The people all looked young. Maybe the old ones get locked away in some sinister plot. As one arrives at Arlanda Airport, they really do play ABBA music to welcome you and photos of famous people like ABBA and Roxette adorn the walls of the luggage reclaim area. T

There is a price to pay and that is literally true. This city is expensive and is best visited when someone is paying the bill. A Croque Monseiour would cost you over 12£. Coffee usually is around 4-5£. Hotels are pleasant places where receptionists are helpful and smile. They are also warm. One of main complaints this last winter has been arriving at Marriott hotels to find that the room heating has been switched off for seemingly the last millennium. On my arrival it happily gets turned on but then takes the length of my stay to warm the room up.

The characters in Stockholm also are straight from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I could have cast that film many times just by sitting in a cafe and looking around. Lastly the food. It is good. The restaurants have a kind of laid back attitude where service is good but not to the point of being obsequious. Tables have gingham cloth covers and serve you pretty much what you want. I had Meatballs. I could have had massive Steaks. This is a place to come back to, but please someone invite me and pay my bills while I am there. The street names are right out of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo like Sodermalm.

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