IT is not often I give advice – I’m not qualified – but I’m going to make this an exception.
If anyone ever asks you to go to Nigeria, tell them you’ve just left a leper colony, feign a fit, tell them you’re related to Osama Bin Laden, but make sure you say NO.
Should you be insane enough to have said YES just make sure you travel with Fly-By-Night, Airfix or Air We Go, but whatever you do don’t go with British Airways.
BA has never been the same since they abandoned the stripes for those gaudy, grotesque squiggles – but that’s another story.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Once upon a time there was a lovely company called FIFA who kept asking me to travel the globe talking about football.
Two weeks ago in Paris, at a sociable little soiree, a lady called Raphaelle said: “You're going to Nigeria next week.”
Smashing, thought I, never been there. Wrong! Silly Boy!
A dash in the dark on Eurostar, a walk in the pouring rain, stopped by police on terrorist alert because I was pulling a suitcase through a tube station – and all in pursuit of a visa at the Nigerian Embassy.
Ah! No problem. FIFA had paid $177 online, four forms filled in, four mugshots as requested, and two letters of invitation from High Chiefs no less.
No problem – until my number D63 was called and, climbing over prostrate bodies, dogs and squealing children, I was greeted at the grill with: “We don't accept payments online and those forms are no good. Show me your money!”
So having signed off £231, another fiver for an envelope in which to return the passport, and aged visibly, I was assured the visa would be mine after five working days – precisely 24 hours before the flight to Abuja.
It arrived exactly two minutes after leaving home, courtesy of flagging down a Post Office van which incredibly had my passport and visa on board!
Brilliant. Let’s get some African sunshine! Wrong again.
BA proudly announced a “short delay of up to 30mins” on the flight from Manchester to Heathrow.
Two and a half hours later the grovelling captain had given up all pretence of apology.
“I have to be honest (that’s novel) the ground crew didn’t react as they should have done, we’ve missed the slot, we’ve still got to de-ice the wings, and I’ve relented on what I said earlier, you can have a drink from the bar service – I think you deserve it.”
Unfortunately my can of tonic water exploded, drenching the Indian lady lawyer in seat 8B and saturating the Scottish Third Division results in the Sunday Times Sports Supplement. I’ve no idea how Stenhousemuir v Elgin City finished.
As we touched down at Heathrow, some joker on the tannoy thanked us for choosing British Airways and wished us a good day. He’s missing his way. He'd be a wow at the Glasgow Empire.
Thirty minutes later, the by-now babbling captain was frantically telling us they couldn’t find anyone to bring out the steps in the snow to get us off the plane, and admitting even he was putting in a vigorous protest for the appalling lack of service.
Needless to say I missed my connection to Abuja. I wouldn't have done, but another uniformed fool informed me the flight was closed and directed me to a queue of Old Trafford proportions at the transfer desk.
Apparently I would have made the flight, but my suitcase wouldn’t, so someone decided I’d prefer a night in that renowned establishment the Ibis Hotel Heathrow, unsurprisingly not twinned with the Waldorf.
The TV didn’t work – not that I wanted to watch the Swedish porn channel anyway – but at least I had a bath, though it was designed to house up to two goldfish.
BA were good enough to give me a free toiletry bag which contained shampoo, conditioner, body lotion etc.
Even a razor – presumably to cut one’s own throat or slash out at the next flight attendant who says “have a nice day”.
I still have to check out of Alcatraz at 12.00pm even though there’s more chance of catching a flight to the moon that one to Abuja with Heathrow in the clutches of a blizzard.
If next week’s column doesn’t appear it will be because I’ve got out of this Third World country and settled happily in Somalia or Papua New Guinea.
It’s been nice knowing you, Victor Meldrew.