Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Spring Fever 2008

The hills are alive ...

... with the sound of BEEP-BEEP, BEEP-BEEP, BEEP-BEEP. It seems I subconsciously knew what was in store for later in the day, before the early-morning musical reverie was rudely interrupted. My first instinct on snapping out of it was to part the blinds with just a little trepidation, to check the weather outside. When I'd done something similar approximately 24 hours earlier, I'd been greeted by the most unusual sight of snowfall in April. No such meteorological mischief today, thankfully, so I was able to go about my morning routine without too much concern about the journey to the airport. As I got ready to hit the road shortly after 0800, I realised that while it wasn't actually snowing, the title that I'd given this trip was looking a little shaky. Spring Fever, eh? Winter Chill, more like. But still, nothing could quell that familiar and unmistakeable buzz that came with the knowledge that I was off on my travels yet again.

I had a trouble-free drive to the airport, the only incident of note being the point at which I was overtaken by a convertible with its roof down, doing about 80mph. I pressed a button to do a quick external temperature check : six Celsius. I recalled reading somewhere that more convertibles are sold in the UK than any other European country - this despite our climate. If anyone seeks proof that the UK in the early 21st Century is an image-obsessed society, look no further. I parked at my preferred car park and transferred to the terminal where, following the usual brief formalities, I was soon settling into the bmi Business Lounge. It was to be a longer than expected stay : by 1000, my flight was already showing as 'Delayed 1215'. I assumed - correctly - that the inbound aircraft was suffering from either a continuation of, or the aftermath of, Heathrow's well-publicised de-icing problems the previous day. Wonderful.   Is LHR the most dysfunctional airport in the developed world? Answers on a postcard, please.

(Link to flight log in side panel)

On arrival at LHR, sadly, things started to go further downhill. We pulled in at Gate 84, which was once an easy walk to Baggage Reclaim. Now, following recent changes, it required a short bus journey. The initial plan was to disembark by one of the middle doors, which wouldn't have gone down well with those moved forward to ensure a sharp exit. This was then changed and we used the jetty - or at least part of it, before being diverted down some steps to the bus. We were then delivered, in error, to the Republic of Ireland baggage belts, instead of the UK ones. The bags then took over half an hour to appear, despite the relative quietness of Terminal 1 these days.

And there was more! I made my way down to the Heathrow Express platforms and paid the outrageous return fare of £29, whereupon the ticket machine issued me with two credit card receipts, but no travel ticket. I could scarcely believe it. In fairness, they were very good about it and didn't question my story when I reported what had happened, but I was left wondering whether anything at LHR - anything at all - ever works any more. Oh, and of course I missed a train in the process of getting it all sorted out.

As I eventually sat on board a train to Paddington, I began to assimilate the somewhat depressing reality of the situation : any hopes of doing a bit of afternoon sight-seeing had pretty much melted away. I thought to myself that the show I'd booked had better be good, because it was now the only remaining reason for the evening stopover in London.

On that account at least, I needn't have worried. After a short rest, a little walk and something to eat, I made my way to the London Palladium for a long awaited and much anticipated performance of the hit musical The Sound of Music. I'd managed to get a seat in the front row of the Royal Circle and they don't come much better than that. Although it was an updated version of the show, it remained fairly true to the original and was none the worse for that. It was all very well done and I thought that the children in particular were excellent. A highly enjoyable night out!

I made my way back to the Hilton Paddington and settled into bed, conscious that I would have another early start the next day. Although I felt contented that the trip had got off to a reasonable (though not ideal) start, I had a few gnawing anxieties as well. Was winter going to drag on for the entire duration of my stay in Europe? How would I get on in Terminal 5, which had never been out of the news since it opened, for all the wrong reasons? Would I arrive in Paris sans bagages, putting the rest of the trip in jeopardy? And most pressing of all, would I ever get the tune of High on a Hill was a Lonely Goatherd out of my head?   Mercifully, tiredness won the day and I was soon fast asleep.

No destination pictures today, I'm afraid, as a result of my schedule going off the rails  

Monday 07 Apr

Flight Log : BD55

Next Day