December 22, 2010

Large World, Small Odyssey

Being Manly is now coming to you from Montreal, after much trouble. After years of harping about the smallness of the world, I am now convinced of its largeness, and promise to hold my peace in future. To say that I am lucky to be here today would be an understatement. Our arrival depended, ultimately, on our ability to transfer from a domestic to an international flight at Frankfurt in only nine minutes. I wonder if I can submit that to the people at Guinness as some kind of world record?

Something else I have been given to harp about is the ubiquity of gadgetry that does its utmost to make us less human. Yesterday’s tormented journey was actually caused by such gadgetry, and not by snow, as the news would have you believe. After days of struggling, Mrs. VB and I were actually sitting on a plane in Berlin, two minutes from taking off. At that moment, somebody with the internet in his hands discovered that his connecting flight in Frankfurt was  cancelled, and decamped himself and his cohort from the aircraft. Despite the remonstrations of the crew, they insisted on getting off, which meant that their luggage also had to be removed. This caused us to miss our 8:45 a.m. departure slot, and we were then allocated the new slot of 3 p.m. These people knew that their selfish act was about to jeopardize the Christmas plans of roughly 200, but they did it anyway. I checked this morning, and discovered further cancellations from Berlin to Frankfurt. Despite my general disposition of good will, I can’t help hoping that those people remain stranded for a very long time.

Once we’d been told that we would now have to sit for six hours in the cabin without moving, most people decided to give up and get off. About thirty of us decided to stick it out, reasoning that it was better to get to a hub and take our chances than to remain in the Berlin backwater. We dug in. The spirit of the Blitz was alive on a Lufthansa craft in Berlin. A man next to us had spent nine hours in a queue the day before, and figured it was better to wait in a comfy seat with free drinks on offer, than to sit in the terminal. Turns out he was shrewd. Along the way there were rumours of earlier slots, only to be dashed, followed by a sudden flurry of movement that allowed us to leave at short notice at about 12.05 p.m. Those who had fled at the first bad news must have kicked themselves. There were no further flights to Frankfurt that day.

When the plane reached the stand at Frankfurt it was 1.15. Our onward flight was at 1.45. We knew already that if we made it the luggage wouldn’t, but thought this a fair sacrifice and ran. Amazingly, there was no second security check for connections (Heathrow take note), and we covered the distance between gates at a good click. Naturally, once the gate was closed and we were safely on board there were further delays because there aren’t enough de-icing machines in Frankfurt. And furthermore, the Jetstream headwinds that are causing all the wintery awfulness made the Frankfurt-Toronto flight time a gruelling eight-and-a-half hours.

Gillray, Britannia between Scylla & Charybdis
We naturally missed our connection to Montreal, but got lucky with standby seats on the next flight (which was naturally delayed because the pilots were absent – stuck in the US). How strange it was to emerge into the Montreal winter air and reflect that it was colder and snowier in Europe. The world is on its head: no wonder travelling around it is tricky. Between the Scylla and Charybdis of the weather and the blackberry, our Odyssey is over. For now.


  1. You have been on my mind. I am glad that you finally made it to your destination.

    All's well that ends well.

  2. Stick-to-it-iveness pays off once again. Glad you and the Mrs. are safe and sound. I'm sure your thankfulness at having arrived is all the better for your trials.

  3. Sorry to hear of your troubles. You're a better man than I am 'Gungadin' as I'm sure I would of stangled that couple who delayed all of passengers on your flight.
    Anyway, I'd like to wish you and yours a healthy & restful festive season and all the very best for 2011. I look forward to reading your future posts.
    (It's 26c & sunny in Melbourne now but rain is expected for the Boxing day test.)

  4. Thanks all. Indeed, it's good to be home.
    Merry Christmas!


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