Written by Deborah Wilson, ACIS Tour Manager & Supervisor in Spain
For us here in Spain, we are given a “puente,” this basically is like the British bank holiday, we just have about ten times the amount of them, and being Spain we tack an extra day (or two) on to the weekend and cause endless traffic misery all over the country. Any excuse will do for celebrating a “puente”; such as it being the day of the patron saint of, let’s say, bulls, well we must celebrate that, let’s make it a puente!
So my plane to London, (where I was going to attend the annual ACIS Tour Manager meeting last month), was full to bursting with my fellow citizens of Granada. I secretly questioned the wisdom of their exchanging Granada’s cloudless blue skies for a weekend of London smog but it was too late to dissuade them.
Being Granadinos there was none of that British studiously avoiding making eye contact with your fellow passengers in the airport lounge. No, within five minutes we were all best buddies.
On arrival in London city airport my fellow passengers naturally assigned me the role of well, Tour Manager. Given the fact that, when looking at the British transport network website I had thought that DLR, (Docklands Light Railway as it turns out), was maybe a version of the BLT, (a bacon sandwich practically the only source of sustenance served on all British trains 20 years ago), I fear their trust in their TM might have been somewhat misguided. Leading groups in Spain, no problem, in the UK I’m about as much of a foreigner now as my fellow Granadinos. Still I guess I do speak the language, or maybe not, when I asked about period returns on said DLR, the young lad at the ticket desk looked horribly embarrassed and mumbled something about Boots the chemist/pharmacy. My brother later informed me that the term period return went out with the BLT. Oops.
Still, my pied piper self and my merry band of Granadinos made it down to the platform from where I dispatched them to where they needed to go. I hoped.
The following morning airports were scuppered by the air traffic control system being down, apparently the pre-computer age old codger air traffic controllers who had now retired hadn’t thought of teaching the computer generation how to do things manually. Now you just know this would never happen in Germany, firstly their equipment wouldn’t fail in the first place, (vorsprung durch technik), and if it should then Aktionplankontrolmanual would slip seamlessly into place. The chap from air traffic control shamefacedly admitted, when asked by the BBC reporter if they couldn’t just revert to the manual system that yes they could if only someone remembered what it was. Sometimes Mr ATC man just a no would suffice. We wouldn’t have known any different. All a bit “leaves on the line.”
The meeting and party I must say were brilliant. What an amazingly talented, wonderful group of people. Just a joy to spend time with them all.
Returning to the airport I got there unfashionably early, I know being travel professionals we’re supposed to nonchalantly rock up three minutes before the gates close but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
London City airport is blissfully small compared to the horror that is Gatwick. Maybe to compensate for this and make sure adrenalin and stress levels are still kept at exciting levels, the hand luggage scanning process is particularly high pressure here with staff barking at all and sundry to keep moving to divest oneself of boots belts and liquids at double fast speed, keep up, keep up! I felt like a participant in a horribly stressful version of the Generation Game, (it’s a practically pre-war British game show) and not even a cuddly toy to be won.
I was happily reunited with my fellow granadinos and on arrival in Spain my husband was not in the least surprised to have to wait as I dispatched some to the bus waiting area, helped others with luggage claims and of course told them where the bathroom was.
A busman’s holiday indeed.