Well, it’s 3am, I’ve finished my work, cleaned the kitchen, put the bins out, sorted out my office, wrapped a few of my presents and located my passport for Morocco next week. Tomorrow, well, today I suppose, is Christmas Eve, and I cannot wait for a few days of family, eating, telly and no email.
Exactly this time last year I was flying on an Air India/Kuwait Airways code share red eye from JFK to Heathrow, slightly shellshocked with the realisation that I had actually managed to get on a plane home. It was the Christmas of disastrous snowstorms, and I was supposed to fly to London four days earlier. Four Virgin Atlantic flights had left on my departure day, two did not. Guess which one was mine?
After hours waiting to get through to their call centre, Virgin admitted that with hundreds of thousands of displaced travellers, there was no way they were getting me home before Christmas so, when I found a random flight at vast expense on Expedia that could get me in on Christmas Eve, Virgin offered a refund and a contribution towards the cost. (Which was a lot more than most airlines were offering, so thank you!)
I spent the rest of the week sitting anxiously in Williamsburg, fingers & toes crossed that the snowstorms would let up in England and that my flight would be allowed to depart New York. The family home was being sold, and I was desperate to get back for our final Christmas Day in the house we had lived in since 1986.
This was also supposed to be my final moving back to London journey – I had spent the preceding month winding up my New York life, and it didn’t help that I had piles of luggage to bring back with me. I had hideously under estimated how much stuff I had to take on the plane, but my boxes had been picked up by the shippers the previous week, so I just had to keep sitting on my cases in the hope that they would shut.
Mind you, given that the large extended Indian families on my flight seemed to have packed their entire house contents for the flight into giant cardboard boxes tied up with string, no one was too concerned about my extra cases. The problem was more that I couldn’t actually fit them all on a trolley.
I didn’t think anything else could go wrong, until I got to London at 8am and discovered that our village was still snowed in, so no one could drive out to collect me. I hefted my five cases onto a trolley and staggered off, cursing & bleary eyed, to Heathrow bus station, where I paid a fortune in excess baggage on top of a ruinous coach ticket to Banbury.
It didn’t end there. Banbury Bus Station was so snowed in that I couldn’t wheel my cases off the arrival bay before the electric gates shut, which I then had to climb over, throwing my cases before me into the slush. There were no trolleys and no one to ask to watch my bags, so I had to lug each one separately to the tiny bus station caff around the corner, manned by a nice Romanian bloke. Oh & I had no credit on my phone, so I had to Skype from my laptop, bellowing at my mother, who still couldn’t get her car up the hill from the village. There were no cabs willing to drive out to the arse end of nowhere in the snow, so a family friend eventually had to come out to collect me, helping me drag my bags through the snowdrifts on the bus station access road.
So that was last year’s journey. It seems almost tame that this year I am in London on the 23rd, with a mere 1.5hr car journey & maybe a few traffic jams up the M1 to get to my mother’s house in the morning. But, after last year, I’ll take tame any day. Aside from everything else, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.