Planes, Trains & Automobiles

I am currently in Singapore and not expecting to be blogging for a little while. But the journey here was an adventure in itself, and I thought I would share it.

Our plane was scheduled to leave Heathrow at 10pm on Tuesday evening. We’d booked a cab for 5pm that afternoon – figuring, even with the predicted bad weather, that should still leave us plenty of time to get there.

The snow began to fall in London on Monday evening, and showed no signs of stopping as Tuesday progressed. I began to get a bit worried, but checks on the airport website showed that there were no significant problems with the flights. One of the reasons I hate snow in the UK (as opposed to Canada, where it’s so common everyone knows how to deal with it) is that the country grinds to a halt at the first snow fall of winter.

Then around noon the cab company phoned. They had no drivers available to take us to Heathrow. They had tried ringing other cab companies, but found no one available. They were really sorry.

After a moment of panic, we thought perhaps public transport might be an option. More internet research revealed that the trains and underground were, apparently, still running. The snow was still falling. Fortunately we were done with most of the packing – we finished hastily, bundled up with gloves and scarves and thermal socks, and left the house three hours earlier than planned.

It’s a five minute walk to our local train station, but we had to drag our suitcases through the snow, so it took rather longer. The cases have wheels, fortunately, although if we’d have known before we started packing there would be walking involved, we might have gone for the back-packer option instead. Dragging cases through snow is not recommended. And although I had been cursing the cab company, figuring that when they said they had no drivers available, that could be interpreted to mean they had no drivers prepared to drive in snow, during the walk to the station I began to understand what the problem was. The roads were gridlocked. Even struggling with our suitcases, we were still moving faster on foot than most of the traffic.

Still, we got to the station, and got on the next train to come along, which took us to Victoria Station. After that, it was a trek on the underground, which fortunately had no delays, and the fact that we were travelling mid-afternoon instead of rush hour helped immensely.

We made our way to Paddington Station (the home of the famous bear) and decided to catch the Heathrow Express. This is a very fast and convenient train, but very expensive. However, given that we were anxious to get to the airport, we decided it was the best option. And indeed it was – we found ourselves, after all the hassle, at the aiport six hours before the flight was due to take off. But we were just relieved to be at the airport. We checked in, we wandered round the shops, we had coffee. We find a place to have a leisurely dinner. I got through a complete Janet Evanovich book on my e-reader while we were waiting.

And the plane, though delayed by over an hour, took off. Safely in the air I breathed a sigh of relief. It had crossed my mind many times over the last few hours that we weren’t going to get to that stage.

After a twelve hour flight we landed in Singapore. Rolling our suitcases across the concourse and out of the airport, into 28c heat, we were hit by Singapore’s oppressive humidity. With my thermals stuffed into my hand luggage, both the jacket and fleece I was wearing to stave off the chill in London slung over my arm, I thought about how strange it was that our suitcases had started their journey, many hours before, covered in snow.

I hear on the news now that Gatwick Airport is closed. I think we were very fortunate that we managed to get on our plane, though getting there was a journey in itself. In the meantime I am going to enjoy this heat, and hope that by the time we get back to London, the snow will have gone.


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