All the way from Cape Town to London. But no further.
It’s sad that after all the anticipation, all the planning, all the trials and tribulations, that the final photo I managed to get on my trip up North was this one:
But it does speak volumes about my last few days in the UK. Taking photos inside the airport – even if you were in the mood to do so and there was something worth recording – is frowned upon by the Sussex police and their big guns. And the view from the windows was grey, industrial and limited by poor visibility.
That pic was taken on my arrival at Gatwick on Wednesday afternoon. The following morning, I trekked 4 miles up the A23, towing my suitcase. To put you in the picture (not literally), this is the the major route that leads in, out and around Gatwick airport. It’s a major road, a busy dual carriageway. Usually, anyway.
This was it on Thursday morning at about 9:30am:
This was just before I hitched a lift with an aircraft engineer called Brian, who was trying to get into work and who had been on the road for over an hour, despite living only 6 miles away. He told me that the ground staff had cleared over 160,000 tonnes of snow off the runway in 8 hours the previous day. I wondered why the person weighing it was bothering – the numbers are meaningless when you’re fighting a losing battle anyway.
And so, with Gatwick cut off from the outside world – no planes, no buses, no taxis, no hire cars, no nothing – in or out for over 24 hours and with reports of the weather rapidly worsening towards the west of London, when a single (and I mean a single) bus did become available to Heathrow, I jumped at the chance, got to T5 and moved my flight home forward by 48 hours. And thus, I found myself – ironically, left without a reason to stay - checking in for a flight back to Cape Town at just about exactly the same time a-ha would have been coming onto the stage at the Oslo Spektrum.
Utterly heartbreaking and a disastrous end to my trip. I didn’t see the friends I wanted to see, I didn’t get to Oslo and I didn’t get that last opportunity to see Morten et al doing their thing for the last time. At least for my part, I did everything I could.
There were the usual, annual reports in the papers about how badly Britain had coped with the snowy conditions, but this was exceptionally bad weather: the worst in living memory in Sheffield, as you can see from this photo of my parents’ road – yes – it is there somewhere.
Back to Cape Town and normal life (such as it is), then.
Which actually isn’t such a bad thing.