As 2010 winds inexorably toward its date with destiny in the shape of Jools Hollands Hootenanny (surely The White Heather Club of the dad rock generation…) its time for me to reflect if not on the year soon to pass then at least on the last week. A tip of the stovepipe hat may be in order toward Saint Nicholas, Old Father Time, Jack Frost, Bruce Forsythe and other seasonal deities, as despite the combined best efforts of freezing weather, BAA, Heathrow Airport and rampaging influenza to keep us from enjoying our festive cheer we have made it though the myriad of obstacles strewn in our path to enjoy another Christmas in the UK.
Those who follow our (mis)adventures on Facebook will probably have more than an inkling of the travel woes that beset us just over a week ago… in a nutshell, one hour from Heathrow we were diverted to Copenhagen where we spent three days waiting for our flight to be rescheduled. It was cold. No, rephrase that, it was freezing. We only had our hand luggage as all other bags were sealed in the airplane. Rather sensibly Anita and Otis had packed some additional layers in the event of just such an event, but I was garbed in traditional north highland winter lads wear, namely jeans and thin shirt with t-shirt below. Conditions were, however, much more savage than those of a traditional north highland winter, so not surprisingly I was feeling extremely chilled in body, but not so in temperament. Although we were treated to absolutely wonderful and charming Danish hospitality in the hotels they shunted us between we couldnt actually do much other than hang around as we were on alert for our flight being called. Which, after three days of sharing the manifold germs of, and observing the best (and the worst one young gentleman was determined to single-handedly clear every free bottle of beer from the hotel during lunch we were allocated two each, and I observed him concealing eight around his person, then coming straight back for more yes, advancing age is turning me into a jobsworth I didnt fight the punk wars for nothing, you know!) of our fellow passengers behaviour at very close quarters, it finally was.
In life, nothing is certain. At airports, absolutely nothing is certain. Ten hours after check-in, and after six hours sitting on the runway, we were being placated by the smiling Thai Airways staff with reindeer jerky wraps, which along with water and orange juice were the only forms of sustenance still available on the plane. Clearly not even Santa was going anywhere and had been reduced to slaughtering and processing his flying friends in order to survive the rigours of this particular Christmas. Shocking. Not quite as shocking as the news that filtered through that Heathrow had already allocated and cancelled ten different slots for our flight… things were not looking good, but eventually amid much clapping and murmured approval we rose into the sky, leaving behind the frozen runways and deep piles of snow dotting Copenhagen airport, to wend our way to what must surely be the winter hell of Heathrow.
We were all rather surprised to see just how minimal in comparison to Copenhagen the volume of snow surrounding Heathrow was. Surprise turned to shock when we saw just how much the airport resembled a post-disaster movie, with passengers lying sleeping where they could and clearly overstressed and overstretched staff trying to manage the waves of anger and people surging at them as they attempted to send all of us including those with baby buggies and additional needs, down stairs and escalators and narrowed off passages as it appeared that essential reconstruction work was going on… the mind boggles, and without a doubt heads should roll at senior level for the utter debacle that Christmas at Heathrow was…
Enough negativity we were among the really fortunate ones as Anitas wonderful Mum and Dad had come to meet us, so we were soon sped away from the scene and esconced in the warm and cosy house where we would be spending Christmas. By now we were also all suffering from flu (and we still are as I write this), so the build up to Christmas was fairly low-key, with the exception being Christmas Eve, when we all went for a nostalgia-inducing trip on a steam engine. It was a grand day out indeed and Otis was particularly excited when he spotted the actual real Thomas the Tank Engine sitting in a siding en route, and he even got over his fear of Santa (and his motley Victorian garbed chums one of whom Uncle Paul pointed out bore a somewhat unnerving resemblance to the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang… so thats what happens to naughty girls and boys….) long enough to allow the bewhiskered gent to sit beside him and pose for photographs. Christmas day was most enjoyable, with Otis awakening at a very sensible hour and being completely engaged and sweet regarding the whole thing, and a rather magnificent Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and crackers and things that went bang! was the undoubted highlight of a truly happy family day.
More musings on the festive season to come and the announcement of my first annual Album of the Year award watch the skies (and this space!).