Monday, 13 June 2016

The continuing nightmare...

When the nightmare began, it arrived quietly. A text message while the phone was switched to 'silent'. It was probably there for half an hour or so before I noticed it. The message was simple: your flight to Stockholm with SAS has been cancelled.

Once I spotted and read the message, what had been a fairly relaxed, if mildly fraught weekend, was turned into a stressful, irritating one. I phoned my travel company to see what could be done and, as always, the end result wasn't favourable. I was told that to get there (to my destination) on time I'd have to pay £1,680 for a business class ticket. This was completely out of the question as the price quoted was almost double the original quote for the entire trip. Surely there must be something else?

Well, yes, there was, but it meant arriving Monday, not Sunday, at around 1630hrs. This was kind of fine, but not brilliant as it meant that I would miss Day One of the conference I was booked to attend. The alternative option was to abort the whole thing, and believe me I considered it. However, by taking the option of arriving on Monday afternoon, missing Day One's proceedings, I'd still get to be involved in the lion's share of the event, so I said 'fine, go ahead' – and within a few minutes I'd resigned myself to leaving the house around 5pm, getting to the airport around 6.30pm, having dinner at the airport (fish and chips in the Perfectionists' Café in Terminal Two at Heathrow, of which, more later) and then flying off towards the Arctic Circle city of Lulea (is it a city? I don't know).

So I reached the airport and went through the tedious process of security: taking the lap top out of the suitcase, placing a small container of shaving gel into a plastic bag, walking through the scanner and then re-packing the lap top and re-organising myself. Soon I was in the aforementioned Perfectionists' Café eating, arguably, the best fish and chips I've ever eaten. Fillet of cod, battered, with probably the best mushy peas ever and some excellent chips too.
So far, this has been the only good thing I've experienced

Then, more problems. The flight was due to leave at 2030hrs – sorry, by the way, for switching 'the normal clock' to the 24-hour clock in a matter of two paragraphs – but instead it was leaving half an hour later. And hey, I didn't mention that it wasn't going to Stockholm, did I? No, it was going to Copenhagen and I'd be spending the night in the First Hotel Mayfair in the centre of town. I'd then have to fly to Stockholm in the morning (Monday – today!) and then on to Lulea later in the afternoon, arriving at 1630hrs. Half an hour delay suited me fine, but it got worse. We all boarded the aircraft, me in seat 24A, armed with Noam Chomsky's Who Rules the World? Why not? It might be worth finding out, I thought. So I'm sitting there and I'm told, after listening to the same message in Swedish, which seemed to use far too many words to convey a simple message, that we'd be sitting on the tarmac for at least 45 minutes. It turned out to be more than an hour before we headed for the runway. I was getting very annoyed. You know what? I can understand air rage incidents.

So eventually off we go and the flight was fine. It took about an hour to reach Copenhagen, the flight was smooth and the paper cup of tea offered by the cabin crew was also fine after those fish and chips (and a couple of glasses of Cabernet – well, it was Sunday for heaven's sake. I should have been at home watching the cringeworthy Top Gear).

After a shortish cab ride from the airport I arrived at the First Hotel Mayfair only to discover that while I thought my travel company had reserved me a room, the guy on the front desk thought otherwise. By now I was tired. It was 0200hrs and I had to be up early and back at the airport to catch a flight to Stockholm. "How long is this going to take?" I asked him, almost falling asleep on two feet. "About fifteen minutes or so," he said, and I thought of those delays I'd already experienced back on the tarmac at Heathrow and, of course, the initial cancellation that had led to me standing here in the early hours, tired and in need of a good night's sleep.

He handed me a key card and directed me to my room on the second floor, room 2084 or 2042 I can't remember. Then, more hassles. Once I'd gained access to the room I discovered that I had to place the key card in a slot on the wall to get any power. This is commonplace,  but this one was difficult. I tried putting the card in one way and then the other, but no joy. It was 0200hrs and I was tired and irritable. I starting swearing under my breath and then eventually managed to get it working. I can't say I had a decent night's sleep.

I dreamt that, for some reason, I had foul-smelling breath and was upsetting a lot of very important people as a result. This must have developed because I didn't have any toothpaste and it must have played on my mind. It was one of those dreams when you wake up thinking it was real and then sigh with relief when you realise it wasn't.

So, I was lying fretfully in bed when I hear a noise. Like a small harp being played by a spider. It was my phone. I reached for it. "Cancellation: SK1420 Copenhagen to Stockholm." I couldn't believe it, although it meant I could lie there for a little longer, which I did. Then I got up and had breakfast: cereal, fresh fruit, scrambled egg, two mugs of tea and sat in a rather relaxed environment, from where I write this post. I'll need to call my travel company again and now I'm seriously weighing up whether it's worth pursuing this trip at all. Perhaps I'd be better off heading home and calling it a day. We'll see. If the new booking means losing another day I'm going to better off going home. More later.

More on Noam Chomsky later, but if you're in two minds about how to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, bear this in mind:-

 "In Europe, the decline of democracy is no less striking, as decision making on crucial issues is shifted to the Brussels bureaucracy and the financial powers that it largely represents. Their contempt for democracy was revealed in the savage reaction in July 2015 to the very idea that the people of Greece might have a voice in determining the fate of their society, shattered by the brutal austerity polices of the troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (specifically the IMF's political  actors, not its economists, who have been critical of the destructive policies). These austerity policies were imposed with the stated goal of reducing Greece's debt. Yet they have in fact increased the debt relative to GDP, while Greek social fabric has been torn to shreds, and Greece has served as a funnel to transmit bailouts to French and German banks that made risky loans."

For more on Christine Lagarde of the IMF, click here now.

1 comment: