This past year I have spent almost as much time in airports as out of them. The book tour for Global, as you know if you have been reading this blog, has been intense. And it seems that I had always been very lucky in that I managed to get to my destinations and back home from them almost always on time.
Take spring 2010. Remember the ash cloud? All European air space closed, thousands of passengers left all over the place, trying desperately to get home and taking days sometimes to do so. I flew that very day from Moscow to London and then to Spain. Each time I got the last flight out before respective air spaces were closed.
Two weeks later the ash cloud returned to Spain, and once again I was flying. I managed to get to Poland and back with no trouble, but would have been stranded had I left one day later.
Fall 2010. When French Sarkozy raised the retirement age by two years, all France ground to a standstill, including the air traffic controllers. I had to go on a trip, but it was the next day. I merely had a two hour delay but otherwise no problem.
Which brings me to the last trip I made, my last trip of 2010. And what a trip it was. I had a workshop on the Friday in Stuttgart, Germany. That evening I took a train to Paris, where I presented at the TESOL France colloquium the Saturday morning. The Saturday afternoon I was off to the airport to London to get a connecting flight to Bangkok where I was to spend a week giving talks and go to a conference too.
All went fine and it was finally time to go home. I had my last two flights of the year, from Bangkok to London and then connect to a flight to Spain. And sure enough, my luck ran out at that moment.
On December 3 and 4 the Spanish air traffic controllers went on a wildcat strike and effectively closed all air travel in and out of the country. Arriving at Gatwick airport it was the all too familiar scene of long queues, angry people and general disbelief, combined with mad dashes from one area to another trying to get an alternative route. My record of 2010 had been miraculously free of this stress (only just) and it finished with a big bang. After several hours of confusion at the airport – bear in mind I was also tired from a 13 hour flight I had just finished and was pretty jetlagged – I finally managed to get a flight for the following day to Barcelona. From there I would have to take a train down to Alicante, the nearest big city to where I live.
Fortunately I had a good friend in London who took me in, but I still had to get up and to the airport for 3am the Sunday morning. The flight actually left on time (and joy of joys it was not a Ryanair flight) and I only had to wait three hours before I could get on the train. To pass the last five hours of my journey I calculated how long it had taken me to get home. This time I broke all my personal records: fifty-one hours.
I’m not complaining though. As I said, I’ve been pretty lucky. It brings to a close my year of blogging dispatches. In my next post I’ll summarise the year in numbers.