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Travel plans

With less than three weeks to go till we depart Italy and begin our return to the Western Isles of Scotland, we closely watch for news that might disrupt our travel plans. Back in February we were returning from a short trip back to London when our return flight was cancelled at the last moment. This brought home to us, for the first time, how vulnerable we are in these situations, how the airport suddenly becomes an alien landscape and how frightening it can be when this sort of thing happens. Suddenly we had become part of the crowd scene normally only seen on the TV news – people milling around looking for information from the airline when there was none available.

We also learnt just how big a place an airport is. Our flight was cancelled after we had checked in and had passed through the security barrier – we were ‘flight-side’ – so we had to be led back on a roundabout route, guided through various code-controlled barriers, till we once again stood in a queue for re-booking a flight. Several hundred confused people had to be rounded up and walked a distance of about a quarter of a mile through the airport complex, a not inconsiderable logistical problem for any airline. Some will no doubt provide a better service when something like this happens, I am sure some will be far worse. For the passenger it is the feeling of helplessness that is so distressing, the lack of control over what is happening and what made it worse for us was that we were travelling with my mother and her companion, both of whom are elderly and have mobility issues.

The reason for this disruption – the French air traffic controllers were striking – was an event far beyond our control. Now we hear that on the date booked for our return at the end of March another strike is being planned. It is difficult to see how this might affect us (our airline is not involved) but nevertheless we must consider planning for the eventuality so we are better prepared.

No matter how difficult these events make it for us to get there (we will walk if we have to) soon we will be participating in the re-birth of our catamaran home in far-away Scotland. And in case anyone is wondering how this is done, take a look at the picture below, a bizarre set of drawings we spotted in a Ventimiglia hotel, of all places.

‘Comment naissent les bateaux’.(How boats are born) shows an ‘elfe marin’ and a ‘sirĂȘne’ (mermaid) blending together to make this fine vessel, a very modern-looking multihull. We just can’t wait to get started on Cirrus Cat.

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