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Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Curse of Travel (Part 1 of 3)

I get stressed when I travel.  Not the fear of crashing while being strapped in a metal tube 5 miles above the Earth's surface (pretty reasonable when you think about it), but a fear of being late, of missing my flight.
So, I always try to arrive at least 30 minutes before the stated time, and if I don't, I get stressed, my pulse rate goes up, I get snappy with my family and I start to mutter, curse and twitch.
Going to the UK was no problem, everything was under control, no excitement, no stress, everything in plenty of time.

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary with two of the flight attendants who feature in this year's 'Girls of Ryanair' charity calendar
While we were in the UK, my lovely daughter had arranged a 4 day trip to Paris (Posted previously), and we were using Ryanair to fly to France.  For those readers who haven't used this service before, let me explain.  It's a very cut-price airline.  The return fare to Paris (Beauvais actually, 40 km outside Paris) cost £5, but there are severe restrictions on baggage (One small piece of hand luggage), no free refreshments (a bottle of water at £2.20) and if you don't check in 40 minutes before your flight leaves, they cancel your seat.
We had to get from St. Andrews in Fife (Scotland) to Edinburgh Airport.  When I'd lived in Scotland, I always allowed 1½ hours for the journey, and I automatically added an extra 30 minutes to my travel plan, leaving in plenty of time.

But, I'd made two small errors in my calculations.  When I'd lived in Scotland, I wasn't actually living in St. Andrews, but in a small town near Dundee (Newport on Tay), near the motorway system, 30 minutes closer to Edinburgh.  The second error was forgetting that the Forth Road Bridge that we had to cross was sometimes a bit busy during rush hours, and we were planning to travel at 7:30am on a Tuesday.  I knew we were in trouble when the motorway traffic began to slow to 5 mph . and we were still 6 miles from the bridge.

For the next 60 minutes, time crawled.  It felt like every stupid bloody commuter was heading to Edinburgh at the same time.  We crawled over the hill, and I could see the bridge ahead, jam-packed with cars moving at a snail-like pace.  I could see the bloody airport, I could see the lines of glowing tail-lights stretching out towards it.
We were absolutely stuffed.  If we missed the 40 minute deadline (so my lovely daughter informed us) we would be off the flight. We could get on the next one, but we'd have to buy new tickets.  At £200 each.
We finally arrived at the airport with 10 minutes to spare, but I had to hand back the hire car first.

We made the gate with 2 minutes to go.  It must have been quite an amusing sight.  An elderly white-bearded gent, sweat running down his face under his possum and merino beanie (it was still -5C outside), sprinting up to the Ryanair desk, being followed by his daughter, son and beloved (wearing for some reason a full length formal coat, patterned on the Wehrmacht's greatcoat design)

 doing a fast waddle and towing a small cabin-baggage sized overnight case, with smoke drifting up from its over-stressed wheels. 
When we 'd all got our breath back, my beloved mentioned casually that it was all my fault (again), and that she'd wanted to leave 40 minutes before my set time.
I was very good.
I didn't smack her, or even swear.
I just put the scene carefully in my memory.  My time would come.


  1. It seems we share the tee shirt for this scenario........

  2. But wait,
    the worst is yet to come.
    Thanks for caring.

  3. You don't deserve all the blame.

  4. great post. looking forward to part 2.

  5. I have booked Ryanair in about three weeks to get to Ireland. In order to save about £10 I have decided to not take any check in luggage and survive for 6 days on only what I can fit into cabin luggage. This is going to be interesting...


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