Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The best bit was the bonus night in London

Like the timing of childbirth, toilet training, children's vegetable consumption and the weather, volcanic ash is just another thing I have to accept I do not have any control over.

On my journey back from England last week, I had to take an unexpected detour via London and Brussels due to the volcanic ash that closed Manchester airport. I had visions of being stuck for days as Britain got shut off from Europe again. It was all very expensive and anxiety producing. But several long phone calls, train journeys, a bonus night in London, and a quick visit to Belgium later and I was eventually home - 24 hours later than planned.

Apart from the quick re-visit with Nicki to borrow her sofa for the night, it was mainly just tiring and inconvenient. After a few very lovely days away from my children, I did just want to get home to them...although I knew they were perfectly fine without me. (Aksel, on the other hand, was very ready for me to be back, so I was perhaps missed a little bit.)

Some things:
- I read an entire book in 24 hours. I haven't been able to do this for years.
- I don't even come close to understanding Belgian French or Dutch and I felt very, very foreign in Brussels.
- I sometimes get mistaken for being Irish, I suppose because of my red hair. This happened while waiting to get a seat on Eurostar. I was assured there would be a seat, but I was not allocated one until everyone else (presumably those that booked way ahead of ash-induced-travel-necessity) was seated. There were three of us in this situation for carriage eight, myself and two men. One of the men, who happened to be from Dublin, started to make polite volcanic-travel-detour conversation with me. All fine, if not a bit of a struggle at 7am in the morning while wearing the same clothes as the day before. I was stressing a little over the news that Rotterdam and Amsterdam airports were now also closed and had this horrible sense of urgency to just get going. And I was looking forward to some coffee and sleep on the train.

Then the train manager guy calls us over and allocates us seats - the carriage is not full and it is not a problem he says. And, seeing as we are both Irish, he can even sit us together! Oh god. I try to say something like no no that is alright, really you don't have to. But then there we are, sitting next to one another. And I see that the Irish guy is quite pleased. And now I will have to chat politely to him for the next 2 hours. I really, really don't want to, but I can't see how I can change the situation without being really rude. (I didn't think that I could whisper quietly or discreetly enough to the train manager: Look, I'm not Irish, I don't know that guy, I don't want to talk to him, please let me sit elsewhere....) And, honestly, even if I was Irish, it doesn't mean I want to chat to random strangers that just happen to come from the same country, does it?!

Luckily, as the train pulls away from St Pancras, I remember that I have a book and an iPod and I get up to get them from my case. Then I spot several empty seats a few rows down. I make a swift decision; mumble something to the Irish guy about preferring to sit facing the direction of travel and move seats before he can say anything. I hope he understood. I was very pleased with myself.

- I have never been so happy to see Copenhagen as when I eventually arrived at Kastrup. It was all so familiar. I understood the language and I knew where I was and where I was going.

So, perhaps I need to experience the true foreign-ness of a country that is neither England nor Denmark to really appreciate how at home I am in both countries.

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