Are We There Yet?

Observatory

No. And we’re not going to be, either.

Sometimes don’t you catch yourself thinking ‘If only I could suffer all the pain of airports without having to go through the boring holiday bit in between’? Well, I just did.

Yesterday morning I set off for Marseilles from London. Eight hours later I was still in the departure lounge. Storms were turning the destination boards into roulette wheels, and suddenly I was Steve Martin in ‘Trains, Planes & Automobiles’. For the first time ever I had decided to travel without my laptop. ‘Why would you need it?’ I told myself. ‘Prove you can go without it for three days.’

I had a book on me (one of Peter Lovesey’s ‘Sergeant Cribb’ books). That lasted an hour. I had my Kindle and iPad and phone. They soon all needed charging. I eventually paid forty quid to go into the lounge, only to have the flight cancelled. Of course there were no more seats on any other airline available for days. I had friends waiting for me in a rented apartment in Marseilles. I had clocked up flights, trains, lunch, duty free, dinner and lounge costs without leaving the country.

I’m now back at home almost feeling like I had the break, just without actually having had it.

I don’t get upset because there’s no point, but I’m always staggered by how rude some people can be to the ground staff, forgetting that they’re usually the only person qualified to get them back in the air. And this isn’t as bad as the journey I once had between Thailand and Malaysia, when I changed planes at five past midnight on New Year’s Eve only for the travel company to discover that their flight permit had expired with the old year.

Worst travel stories welcome!

17 comments on “Are We There Yet?”

  1. Bruce Rockwood says:

    Next time take the train!

  2. Rob C says:

    Yup, Eurostar will get you there in 6 hrs!

  3. Denise Treadwell says:

    Can’t be helped but its a pity they couldn’t have let you know the flight was canceled, it must feel like it was a waste of time and energy. Did you get a refund?

  4. SteveB says:

    Mad Hatter’s Holiday is one of my favourite ‘comfort reading’ books… seems like an appropriate title…

  5. Denise Treadwell says:

    Hardly a tea party, I’d have needed a stiff drink!

  6. admin says:

    Easyjet were efficient about refunds. Every airline was hit, the worst affected being British Airways. We’re all going to try again next week!

  7. Brooke says:

    Poor you…and thanks for being sensitive to the ground staff. Why are people so rude and mean to them…they’re not in charge of the weather or airline traffic control.

    And thanks for the twitter shout out for WM Kelley, one of the great woke writers, along with Ralph Ellison. Albert Murray et al. Perhaps we need to revisit the definition of “forgotten” a euphemism for not on mainstream radar?

  8. Peter Tromans says:

    At least you were stranded at home. It’s particularly horrible when it happens at a stopover.

    The problem is exacerbated by our insistence in the UK of not increasing the capacity of our systems, such as Heathrow airport, until they are loaded to the point that they keep up with normal traffic only because it stops overnight. Once something goes wrong anywhere in the world, turmoil follows.

    Better luck next week!

  9. Wayne Mook says:

    I’m flying off soon, hope it goes well.

    Sorry to hear about the cancelation, but with the book, did it take an hour to read it, or did you have to put it down?

    Hope it works out next week too.

    Wayne.

  10. David Ronaldson says:

    I was once at a small railway station in Germany waiting for a connecting train to Hamburg. It was just before midnight and the train was due at 00:30. Suddenly a small team of railway workers appeared with posters and buckets; they posted up new timetables which began at midnight and informed me that my connecting train was now scheduled to leave at 05.30. It was a long night.

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Just a drive up the Fraser Canyon after the Christmas break. My husband was returning to his high school teaching job and I was looking forward to preparing for the birth of a baby in April. It had snowed and was forecast to snow again but we had chains and our Morris Oxford Traveler was a game little beast. What we didn’t know was that the Morris Company had never dealt with cold and snowy roads and had placed the fuel pump behind the rear wheels. Snow built up and froze the pump causing the car to just suddenly stop. I’m not sure why the electrical system packed it in at the same time leaving us dark in the traffic lane. The snow was piled high on either side and it was already dark, with a heavy snow driven by strong wind. It’s a long story, involving three engine freezeups, two young men driving overnight to Fort St. John for work in the morning, an RCMP officer ordering a reluctant towtruck driver out to pull a stranded vehicle (not ours), a kindly coach driver, a garageman who allowed me to sit on the(frozen) chains piled where the passenger seat had once been in his Land Rover, and a teacher friend who loaned me her husband’s jeans so we could walk through all the snow to our home on the hill.
    When I described the way the snow drove against our windshield so that we couldn’t even see to the the car’s nose she agreed that we had been dealing with a ground blizzard. I was knitting a sweater for Ken through all this, when I wasn’t standing in the blizzard thumbing a lift.

  12. Peter Tromans says:

    Helen, before I read your piece, I’d thought of suggesting travelling to the South of France by car.

  13. Denise Treadwell says:

    I like Peter Lovesey ‘s Peter Diamond series not interested in the Victorian series. I read one ; thought it was boring! So I see why it only lasted one hour!

  14. Denise Treadwell says:

    Please keep an eye on the weather forecast for Marseille for the weekend, I saw that they had flash flooding , I wouldn’t have turned up to the airport! Airports aren’t my idea of fun! We have our own problems California is on fire! Sadly, bad management of the our Forrests and with fire breaks not maintained dead trees not removed. Think if they had limited logging only to dead trees , we wouldn’t be worried about a tree now in peril that is over 2,000 years old!

  15. Martin Tolley says:

    As a student in Dundee, trying to get home to the south coast of England – a journey then of some 14 hours by the slowest of slow trains (the only ones my student railcard would allow) I got stuck at Edinburgh Waverley station (only an hour and a bit into the journey) for 6 and half hours. It was COLD. Cold enough to make the train diesel engine go to jelly, so we were going nowhere. The waiting rooms were locked, and the wind blasting through the station rasped and blistered exposed skin. Some poor station employee showed himself at 2 in the morning. He got the full force of much anger. At one point a rather hefty Glaswegian raised him by the collar of his greatcoat and was swinging him off his feet. Yelling (excluding an expletive or ten) “What’s the point of having a timetable if all the trains are late?”. To which he received the wonderfully polite response – “Well you see sir, if we didn’t have a timetable, we wouldn’t know how late the trains are running now would we?”

  16. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, Martin! I have to tell that story to my husband. That is priceless and I understand the Glaswegian’s fury since the wind in Edinburgh is enough to blow the horns off a goat, as my Mother would say.

  17. Barbara Allan says:

    I was travelling around Egypt by myself in the 1980s. At Luxor I wanted to buy a train ticket to get to Aswan. Each time I went to the station there was a different reason why I couldn’t buy a ticket. After three days, I realised that it was because I was a woman travelling alone. I asked an American guy to buy me a ticket and was on the next train!

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