Friday, 19 January 2007

After the Baby is Borned*, We Finally Arive in the UK

Joanna was born on 17th January, the same day as my father’s 101st birthday. Of course we wanted to get to the UK asap so we flew from Limoges on the 18th. We should have arrived at Stansted with plenty of time to get to the hospital in Kingston and see everyone, but it did not turn out as planned. We hadn’t realised that the UK was having very high winds and even if we had, we would not have thought that this might affect a commercial jet.

The approach to Stansted was very turbulent and I have never been thrown about in a large plane like that before. It was bucking and side-slipping like it was a small light aircraft. It reminded me of a trip in the tail of a DC3 going over the Rift Valley escarpment in Kenya at three in the afternoon when the thermals were really rising off the cliffs. As we lost height I was nervous, but I expected it to improve as we came down. It didn’t. If anything it got worse. The group of young French lads in front of us thought it was all very funny, but I couldn’t see any reason to be amused. I did not believe that it was possible to keep the plane sufficiently horizontal in order to land it safely! We were less than a couple of hundred feet off the ground when the pilot aborted and did a “go around”. This involved a noisy full throttle climb away from the runway and a big circle for another attempt. As we came in this time the lads were very quiet! Again he aborted, but at a slightly higher altitude. I am never a nervous flyer, but I admit I was scared! When you don’t know the full situation, or the available options, the imagination takes over and the adrenalin was pumping.

With the plane still bucking and weaving, the pilot said that his wind shear radar had twice sounded an alarm and they had no choice but to abort, but that he had plenty of fuel and was going to wait for about a half an hour for the wind to drop, which it was predicted to do by 4pm. It was much calmer in the stack at a higher altitude, allowing the stewardesses to walk down the cabin and pass around the sick bags. I knew Ryanair would regret its ridiculous no seat pocket economies! I relaxed a little. But after about 25 minutes he announced that the winds at Stansted were still gusting to 65mph and we were diverting to East Midlands airport, where 25 other planes had previously been diverted during the day.

Having keyed myself up for another bumpy ride, the landing there was relatively smooth and a round of applause went up. Christiane and I were glad to be on terra firma all in one piece, but you can imagine the chaos with the bags. After waiting for an hour and a half they finally appeared allowing us to leave and find out where we were, and how to get to London. We decided that we would abandon any ideas about taking a coach to Stansted when firstly, the information desk did not have any information and secondly, a policeman told us that the M1 was closed due to overturned lorries! We eventually caught a local bus and took a train from Derby, which was very slow since the rail network was also disrupted, but it got us to St Pancras at about 10pm. The rest of the trip to Richmond was uneventful.
 James was still up and showed us pictures of little Joanna, who is a very lovely, well rounded and hungry little girl. We will see her today, when we hope that Sandra will be bringing her home.

*(Borned? - past participle of “to be born” when Christiane was feeling rather excited)!


Post a Comment