Well, it started like this. A trip up to Harrogate to do a spot of research for an upcoming book. No probs, you would think. Lovely! Harrogate has many good things to offer, mostly Betty’s Tea Rooms and Rudding Park’s new Spa.
But then I was overlooking my devastating effect on planes of all shapes and sizes.
We decided we’d travel from Southampton airport on an airline which has now let me down more times than I care to count.Last time, it was a five hour wait and an unscheduled trip to the arse end of nowhere in France. This time, the airline in its wisdom had decided to subcontract out the flight to Leeds Bradford.
All good, surely?
We were just taxiing down the runway when a passenger alerted the hostess that there was ‘a little flappy thing’ flapping away merrily on the right hand engine (we had propellers!). This caused consternation and a maintenance crew to be summoned. The airline we’d booked with said their maintenance people wouldn’t touch it, it was the OTHER airline’s problemo. Then they changed their mind and decided they would. After an hour’s delay, we were off! Flappy thing was not flapping any more.
In Harrogate – so charming, so beautiful – the weather then decided to muck up about as we went about our schedule. Booked into the Spring Flower Show on the Friday, and couldn’t go – pouring with rain all day. Tickets already bought, not transferable. Decided to laze about in Rudding Park instead, which was FABULOUS! Upgraded by kind and endlessly patient reception desk team to a suite. Then lots of swirly spa type treats, loved it and it’s going in the book.
Then … ah, you guessed it. The trip back!
All going well. Lovely Blue Line taxis ferried us to airport, sitting there ready to go. Boarded plane. Which looked suspiciously like plane we’d travelled up in. But we ignored that. All would be well! True, it was just a wee noddy little plane, and there were only ten of us on board, but what could possibly go wrong this time?
Answer: plenty.
The right-hand engine again. The pilot started it up, stopped it. Started it up. Stopped it. Dainty plumes of blue smoke started to drift out, about which I kept obstinately silent. Then Him Indoors says, oh so casually: ‘Oh look, they’ve got the fire engine out.’
My mouth went dry.
They bloody well had, too.
It was coming down the tarmac toward us.
The pilot switched off the engines. We all sat there, feeling very warm and every so slightly panicky. Debates were held up front. Sweets were handed around to the passengers. Then the pilot came back and said: ‘There’s a problem and we have to have the maintenance crew out. Maybe even get another plane on, but no problem. Let’s just get you off the plane and back into the comfort (comfort???!!!) of the airport and we’ll sort this out.’
We all trooped off the plane, into the airport. We sat down. And then a pair of ten-year-olds in hi-viz vests came and said: ‘The flight’s cancelled. You can either have a refund or we’ve got this coach that will take you back down to Southampton.’
RAGE ensued. Walking sticks were chucked to the floor. Hair was torn from heads. A coach? Eight hours of hideous travel, starting with trying to bust out of the Leeds/Bradford rush hour and going on long into the night? Then getting from Southampton to home?
I am afraid that at this point my famous Taurean bull-headedness kicked in. I would NOT getting on the frigging coach. I would HAVE the refund (supposing that I ever see it, that is …). What we did was check back into Rudding Park for a night and buy two train tickets from York to Winchester, leaving the following day.
By this point, we had no confidence that we would EVER see
home again. But we schlepped to the station next day, got the train, and were home by tea-time.