Because Lisa’s family lives in Sweden, and my family in Scotland, we came up with the obivous solution regarding Christmas holidays: we alternate.
So back in the summer, Lisa petitioned her work for time off over Christmas, and we organised long stay parking for the car, and then checked with our neighbours that they would be okay to look after our chickens for us. Then we booked some nice, reasonably-priced flights with SAS.
Flying from Heathrow.
So over the past week, our chances of actually getting out of the country were getting slimmer, and slimmer. I had planned to go up to Scotland to see my parents over a weekend, but they phoned on the Friday to say “the roads are really bad, don’t risk the travel”. By Sunday, Heathrow was a mess and the slimmest glimmer of hope hinged upon the statement that they would be operating a “normal” service by Wednesday – the day of our flight.
And thus, we got ready to go. As Dantes says, the two greatest words are “wait” and “hope” – although he had fourteen years in a dungeon so maybe that’s not quite the standard I should be trying to parallel. Lisa went off on Tuesday to her work for a half day while I phoned the airline to check and the hotel and the parking and everything else that needed to be in place and all the time I was told, “yes, it’s going to be fine.”
By one in the afternoon, the flight was cancelled.
I passed on the bad news when I picked up Lisa. On the way over I had been mentally listing in my head our options for a UK Christmas. Brave the drive north to my parents. Drop in and see my brother. Stay in with the chickens. What food to buy.
I slightly underestimated Lisa’s indomitability. In the car, she was checking alternate flight options on her phone. I got on the phone to SAS (10 mins on hold, no answer) while she checked flights from other carriers. Other airports. Eventually, we struck gold – a flight from Manchester to Stockholm that night, with a return date on the 29th. The only issue was the price. Because of the time of year, because of the conditions, it was never going to be a cheap flight.
The only question was – could we afford it?
It took tipping the contents of one old mattress stuffed with cash into the middle of the floor and smashing a piggy bank full of 2p coins over the top of it, but somehow we managed to come up with the money.
Then there was another question – were we going to make the flight?
With a following wind and some really, really good traffic, Hull to Manchester airport is a 2 hour drive. With online check in, we needed to be through baggage check 40 mins in advance of the flight time. It would take 20-30 mins to get the car parked at a long stay place (which we hadn’t organised yet).
The flight was in 3 and a half hour’s time.
What followed was perhaps the most stressful, tight-lipped drive of my life to date. Of course, I stayed well under the speed limit, did not swear once*, and the roads were clear all the way.
If you believe that, of course, I have some real estate you might be interested in.
So we got parked with maybe ten minutes to spare before the time we needed to be at the gate.
“Oh you can’t park there,” friendly parking attendant pointed out.
“What? It’s a parking space.”
“No, that’s *staff* parking. You’ll have to move it to one of the lanes.”
“Those ones.” He points to some markings, nigh indistinguishable from the markings on the ground I’ve just parked between except for the fact that they are nine feet to the left of where I’ve parked.
“Seriously? You want me to move my car nine feet to the left.”
So I move the car, and we go sign our keys in, and then get on the bus.
And nothing happens. The driver gets off the bus and goes inside. I can see him through the window, having a little chat. Eventually another car arrives and the driver goes through the same parking space rigmarole that I went through, before slowly making his way onto the bus. The driver comes with him. Finally, we are on our way.
“Eh, just going to pop to the toilet before we go,” says the driver, before disappearing back into the building.
Couldn’t he have pissed while he was waiting before? Or just on the side of the bus? I wouldn’t have looked! I promise!
I call the airport and doggedly hang on to a ringing line until someone answers it and puts me through to the SAS desk. I give them my flight number, name and tell them I an on my way. The gguy on the desk tells me that I *need* to be there by five past.
With two minutes to spare, the bus pulls off the roundabout towards terminal one…and then ploughs past terminal 1 to drop the other two passengers off at terminal 3. The driver hobbles out of his seat to help them with their bags, then stops at the door for a chat and to swap Christmas wishes. By this point I am pacing the floor of the bus and Lisa is, ironically considering the circumstances of our afternoon, to calm down.
We then belt it to the terminal, up to the baggage check and get checked in and then belt it to security where the guard assures us that although our flight leaves in 20 minutes we aren’t allowed to use the fast track. Instead, we spend 20 minutes queueing to get checked through normal security. Common sense wins the day at this juncture, and I stay very, very calm, because being menaced by airport security for being stressed out and grumpy is not high on my wish list.
We get through and really belt it to the gate, my ears straining to hear the tannoys for a passenger call…and then have to wait a half hour before we can board because our flight is delayed.
*several thousand times is not “once”.