The longest day

The ‘cold snap’ as the media has been calling the low temperatures and snow of the last three weeks, went into an intermission over the weekend. Temperatures rose to the giddy heights of +5oC in the middle of the day. However, that also meant a return to grey, damp weather rather than the clear blue sky of recent days.
It was something of a relief to see that the weather forecast for the weekend implied that there would be no problem getting down to Newport for the National Express coach to Heathrow on Sunday morning for my trip to Canada. Temperatures did drop enough to coat the drive with a thin film of ice but not enough to cause a problem. Mike came to pick me up at 08.30 and despite a little slithering on the drive we got the luggage into the car and we were off.
And so began the latest of Barry’s Big Adventures. And the longest 12 December of my life.
It was strange leaving the house again. This time it had to be coddled for the winter weather. Central heating left on with the room radiators set low. Plants watered, hopefully enough to keep them alive for 4 weeks but not so much that the roots would rot. People will be calling in and out so, again hopefully, nothing will go badly wrong.
It was also strange going away with mountains of thick clothing rather than shorts and ‘T’ shirts, though because most of it was lightweight fleeces and other ‘technical’ fabrics the luggage was well within the weight limit for the flight.
There was little traffic at this time on a Sunday morning and Mike dropped me off in an eerily deserted Newport bus station. I was the only person waiting for a bus at first and then a group of Poles arrived to wait for the same coach, presumably going back to Poland for Christmas. The bus arrived very promptly, hoovered us and our bags up quickly and expertly and shot off at high speed, 3 minutes ahead of time, leaving the bus station once again completely deserted. Tickets for the coach have to be pre-booked so if the passengers are all accounted for there is no reason for it to delay further.
Once I got on the coach I knew has I was going to have to put my brain into stasis in order to cope with the boredom of travelling and not lose my marbles completely.
For a start the coach journey was just over 3 hours.
Arrived Heathrow 12.30.
Couldn’t go to check-in until 13.10 so sat outside in the pale but pleasant sunshine for 40 minutes.

Hanging around Departures at Heathrow Terminal 5 - four stories up

I had checked-in on-line on the Saturday so there was little delay at what is now called ‘baggage-drop’.
Then 3 hours of getting through security, waiting around, queuing at the departure gate for the airport bus which give us a guided tour of the airport before dropping us off at the steps of the plane.

Got on the plane in time for the 16.10 take-off. However, because people were faffing around with massive amounts of ‘cabin luggage’ until 16.20, the plane was delayed leaving the ‘stand’ which meant that we missed the take-off slot and had to wait an hour for the next one. Eventually took off 17.10.
By now it was 9½ hours since I left the house and the flight was scheduled to take another 9½ hours. It was grim. Watching old TV comedies on the screens in the backs of the headrest. Dozing. Reading a book about Greece. Dozing. Having aeroplane roast beef and Yorkshire pud. Dozing. Doing stuff on the computer. Dozing. Chatting to the Argentinean girl in the next seat. Dozing. Having an aeroplane sandwich. Dozing.
I was quite spaced out when we arrived in Calgary airport at 19.00. But this is Canadian Mountain Time not GMT and so is the equivalent of 02.00.
It was a relief to get off the plane and walk to customs and baggage reclaim. What a walk! It was miles along empty corridors, down escalators, on travelators, along more corridors….. But I really enjoyed it. I could stretch my legs at last. I walked quickly and after being quizzed at immigration/passport control was one of the first to arrive in the far distant baggage hall.
Ruth was waiting for me in Arrivals with proper sandwiches and coffee which we quaffed until the bus left for Banff. That was at 20.30 (03.30 GMT).
Arrived in Banff at about 22.00 (05.00 GMT) and trundled the luggage through the snow covered streets to the apartment which Ruth and Tim had moved into that afternoon.
It was still an early hour for going to bed so we sat up chatting and having a bottle of wine until midnight (07.00 GMT). Which was when 12 December ended and became 13 December.
12 December was already 8½ hours old when I got up at 08.30 and lasted another 22½ hours. The longest 12 December and the longest day of my life.
I went to bed and slept. Fitfully.

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