Snowbound to Heathrow
The meteorological anxiety confessed at the end of my last post proved more than well founded. It was indeed a very good idea not to have relied on getting back to Cambridge to teach at 11.00 am this morning. The snow would have put paid to that.
The fact is that my flight took off from Washington on time, and all seemed to be going to plan. Even as I woke up this morning, the captain was only to talking about delays getting into Heathrow. But around 8.25 (the flight being due in at 9.25), he told us that we were instead going to be landing at CARDIFF (in UK terms, that's a bit like going to Chicago, when you think you're going to Boston). Even if we could have landed at Heathrow, he explained, we wouldn’t have wanted to. The poor blighters who had touched down several hours ago were still on the tarmac waiting to get into the terminal.
In retrospect there seems something odd here, and about this whole Great British Snow ‘Crisis’. As the husband pointed out, it’s all very well (and true enough) to say that it really isn’t cost effective to invest in the latest snow clearing facilities. But that shouldn’t mean that you have no contingency plans at all. The Romans, after all, substituted human labour for technological innovation. It’s hard not to believe that 1000 guys on call with salt and shovels couldn’t actually have kept Heathrow open and functioning.
But anyway, every cloud . . . And today was obviously Cardiff International Airport’s big day. More British Airways jumbos were lined up, each of them having diverted from their London destination, than it could have seen in years.
I have to say, though, that the ‘Welcome to Wales’ signs and the best wishes for a good Welsh holiday were, from the passenger point of view, a bit hard to stomach.
What I didn’t confess yesterday was my further plans for the day – which were to go back and pick up stuff (including tickets) in Cambridge and then go on to Brussels on Eurostar, for a European Research Council meeting starting on Tuesday, to short list for their "Starting Grant" scheme.. Beginning the journey from Cardiff wasn’t going to help, and progress was dangerously slow.
We landed at about 9.30, but there were plenty of other planes in the queue ahead of us to get into the Cardiff terminal. So we waited on the tarmac for another two hours. Actually this wasn’t too dreadful, as – yes, OK . . . . – I was flying in Business, and we had loads more coffee, croissants and sympathy provided, and I just got on, fatalistically, with my book -- while my Cambridge assistant, even on her day off, found out all the relevant info (like, could you get a train from Cardiff to London: answer No; or fly from Cardiff to Brussels: No, too).
At about 11.30 we were hurried into buses to the terminal, went through immigration – with more sympathy from the border officials who were kind of enjoying their busy day. Outside there were a fleet of coaches waiting to take us to Heathrow (not glamorous, but a lot better than what you get on First Capital Connect when they decide not to run a train to Cambridge).
So I got there in about two and a half hours, by 2.45, and took the tube to St Pancras, where the heroic husband had brought me my tickets.
All went fine from that point on, until we reached the tunnel. Delays never come singly. It turned out that there was a defective train stuck 'sous le Manche', and we sat for an hour waiting for it to be fixed. Now, as I write, we’re almost coming into Lille… late again.
Sorry readers, I know that some of you have had quite enough of Beard’s travel disaster stories. But this IS a blog, and that WAS my day.