For once, this post has absolutely nothing to do with cancer 🙂 I figured the bucket needed a little lightening, so this one’s just a typical night flying by the seat of my pants…
So after another lovely weekend in Oxfordshire, on Monday night I was booked onto the 19:05 out of Heathrow to fly back to Amsterdam.
It started well. After a Monday morning lie-in, I pack my case, make some fresh soup for lunch, then spend the afternoon looking at paint colours and selecting photos for the multitude of frames we’ve bought to redecorate PauliePaul’s pad. By 4:30, I realise I should probably get a wriggle on, if I’m going to get the car back by 6. So with hasty farewells, I’m back on the M40 towards London.
By the time I hit Beaconsfield, I’m still doing well; not only is the traffic good, but I even remember to refuel the hire car (rather than getting to the Heathrow perimeter road and thinking ‘bugger’). A quick check on Google maps suggests my ETA at T5 is 5:44, so I still have 16 minutes to spare – excellent. I park up and swing into WHSmiths.
Slightly sidetracked by home comforts, I emerge 20 minutes later with a raisin & biscuit Yorkie, a packet of Wine Gums, a dark chocolate Galaxy and some chocolate HobNobs, promising myself that these delicacies will all go in the cupboard when I get home, reserved for snaccident purposes. I’m only buying them for novelty value because I can’t get them in Amsterdam. And if they’re all gone within a week, there’ll be trouble… oh my god, you can get Malteser-type HobNobs now too?…
Overly excited about my acquisitions, I almost forget to refuel on exiting the car park, but the bright lights of the forecourt bring me in (and send me out with an extra bag of Rowntree’s Randoms and a cheeky packet of Minstrels…)
As I rejoin the M40, I realise my new ETA at T5 has shot beyond my hire car’s 6pm drop-off – shit! Luckily, I get my foot down and reach the T5 car park at 6:05… my flight leaves in an hour. This would be fine, except the barrier into level 4 (where the hire car needs to go back) is broken, and I’m directed over to the next lane by a chap in a hi-vis vest. I’m clearly returning a hire car, so there must be a way into level 4 via the other lane he’s direct line me through… or maybe not… ah look, there’s the downward ramp… yep, only way back up to level 4 from here is to go back out and round and come in again…
Staying completely calm, and not screaming at the (probably lost) driver in front, who can’t make up his mind which of the two lanes he’s currently occupying he actually wants or needs, I finally return the car and get into the terminal. It’s 6:20.
Now I’ve been caught out before; when I’ve needed to change my flight, but because I’d checked in, I wasn’t then able to change my booking. That was an expensive day. So nowadays, I tend to check in later, just in case I need to move my flight.
So as I’m tight on time tonight (for which I totally blame Cadbury’s), I ask the first Blue Doris I see, “What’s the latest time I have to be airside?” “35 minutes” she replies “otherwise they’ll offload you.” I look at my watch, I have 42 minutes to spare. So speed walking like a wonky donkey, I head straight for the First wing, where a Gold Doris is waiting to help. I explain that I’m running late, she asks for which flight, I say the 19:05 to Amsterdam, but as I’m not yet checked in, if it’s easier to bump me to the 19:45 that’s fine, as I can grab a quick drink in the lounge… Gold Doris checks her screen, “the flight’s now closed, and they’ve offloaded you as you hadn’t checked in.” She picks up her phone and calls Gary at the Gate. “Evening lovely; the 426 to Amsterdam – we have a passenger here at First wing, could you re-open the flight for me, so I can check her in, then you can close it again? No bags, just cabin, she can come straight down to the gate. Great, thanks.” So at 32 minutes before my flight, I check in and head through security (I think that’s a record, even for me) panic over. Hang on, we’re flying from the B-gates?
Still refusing to run in an airport – I’m checked in, they know I’m here, they can wait for me – I take the transit to satellite B and arrive at the gate, just as they open for boarding, and after all that, I’m still first onto the plane – lol.
OK so the ‘lol’ing stopped there, as Gary at the Gate comes on the tannoy… due to the wind in Amsterdam, Schiphol is only using one runway again. So flights are all backed-up. We can’t take off for 90 minutes, but we’ll lose that slot unless we’re ready to go. So we need to board and get the doors closed to keep our slot, even though we know we’re going to sit on the tarmac for 90 minutes… ahhhh faff.
90 minutes later
They say every good story has a twist in the tail, right? Our First Officer has been keeping us updated on our progress… so far, we’ve been introduced to our captain, Jesus Fernando (no joke), pushed back off the stand and taxied to the other side of the runway (so we don’t blow into anything while we wait), and our slot has been brought forward (so we’ll be setting off in about 20 minutes). In the meantime, anyone who’d like to go up to see the cockpit, should form an orderly queue…
I can honestly now say I’m on a plane, delayed by bad weather, watching a bunch of people queueing to see Jesus…
Thank god I bought Wine Gums.