THE BEST OF DAYS. THE WORST OF DAYS
Our favourite Mediterranean destination was the small town of San Stephanos on the north-west coast of Corfu.
We liked the clothes-optional beach, the locals and fellow naturists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland and Blighty.
We also liked the ease of getting there. Norwich airport is only an hour away from home; being small, checking in and out was easy and Thomsons smoothed our way wonderfully at the other end with laid on transport from Kerkyra airport to our hotel in San Steph.
It was a trip we made several times. What could possibly go wrong this time? We were due to find out.
Our plane took off on time and everyone settled back in their seats looking forward to a fortnight in the sun. We made good time flying across Europe ...North Sea - Holland - Black Forest - The Adriatic. Yes, kit off, bucket and spade, sun blocker time was approaching. Or was it?
10.30. BING! BONG! "This is your Captain speaking. We cannot land at
Kerkyra...the runway is flooded!
Looking out of our window we saw why-an incredible weather phenomenon. Hiding the Albanian coast was what appeared to be a vertical curtain of lightning!
The Captain continued. "We have been diverted to Brindisi in Italy. Please keep calm. Everything is under control."
Travel companies, like politicians and mothers-in-law get a consistently bad press. Not Thomsons that night!
It was then 2300 hours local time and the cabin crew were already in contact with head office, who in turn got in touch with a closed hotel in Brindisi. By the time we landed, a considerable logistical feat had been successfully performed. Buses to and accommodation in the hitherto closed hotel had been laid on for 150 people from scratch. As a result we were all tucked up in our beds by 3.00 hours.
All well and good but the morning did not bring good cheer. The runway had been cleared at Kerkyra alright but as we were only too well aware a gale was blowing across the Ionian Sea so strong that take off was impossible.
Mr. Thomson to the rescue...free food and drink for during our enforced stay! Suitably anaesthetised, we sat out the day until at 1800 hrs the wind had dropped sufficiently for take off.
This was not the end of our travails however. Among our number were a group who should have joined a cruise ship in Kerkyra harbour the night before but which had since sailed.
This left no alternative but to leave Brindisi, fly south to Herakleon on Crete, drop off the cruise passengers to pick up their boat at its first port of call, then and only then fly back north to Corfu. We eventually got to our hotel at 0100 hrs...a mere 31 hours late!
However, we had an enjoyable holiday but before we knew it - time to return to Blighty. How so very different was the flight back...relaxed passengers, blue, cloudless sky, ahead of schedule UNTIL...
...UNTIL 2.30 crossing the North
Sea with the Suffolk coast in sight...
BING! BONG! "This is your Captain speaking. I am sorry to inform you that we have a problem with our undercarriage. Because Norwich runway is too short in case of difficulties we have to divert to Stansted!". BING! BONG!
Consternation reigned. It was not reduced by our tenth circuit of the airport and the dawning on passengers' minds of why, as a fleet of fire tenders could clearly be seen lining up alongside the runway below.
The pilot finally announced his intention to land. The mood of us stiff-upper-lipped-London-can-take-it Brits was typified by the young woman behind us. With eyes tight closed, whites of knuckles showing as she clutched the back of our seat she vehemently repeated "Shit!, shit!, shit! shit!! This was calmness itself compared to others-screams, long forgotten prayers, promises to lead much better lives so long as, etc. ( Oh yes, in case you are wondering, Elizabeth (bless her) and I retained a stoic calm. We have long had an agreement..."If we can't go together then we're not going to go at all!")
Thanks to the skill of the pilot we landed safely, shaken if not stirred. Then came the next hurdles...baggage, clearing customs and finding seats on one of the supplied buses back to Norwich.
We were so dry we were spitting tanners. In what was becoming s re-run of "Ice Cold in Alex" we were sustained by thoughts of a large hairy pint in the airport.
20.00 hours...Five hours late, tired and above all very, very thirsty we longingly sought out the bar. Yes, you've guessed it...
IT WAS CLOSED.
"Shit! Shit! Shit!". And why not? This was a REAL emergency!