06 March 2022

Getting back to the UK

It had been great to be in the Netherlands, but I was also looking forward to going back home. There was a fluffy cat waiting for me! And the relatively difficult part is to get into the Netherlands; the way back should be easy. On the way back I didn't even have to test. The only thing I needed to do was fill out a passenger locator form. And I had brought my laptop. (I wanted to have it with me for in case I would get covid and would be stuck.) So in the morning I made sure to fill that out. All should be well!

When I went to the airport, one train had been cancelled, so I was later than I had hoped. I was still on time, though, with checking in and getting through security. When I got to the gate, the person there sent me in the wrong direction, and I made a strange loop during which my passenger locator form was checked. I had made sure it was emailed to me, but neither me nor the person checking could open the attachment. Luckily there was a link in the email in which you could access the document as well. Phew! It was okay and I could move on. Then I could go where I was supposed to be. And soon we were boarding.

I sat down in the plane and noticed a sleepy-looking elderly men next to me in the window seat. Soon he seemed to wake up, and we got talking. He turned out to be a Californian who was on his way to Manchester. There was a lot of time to talk before we took off; Schiphol is a big airport and you can spend quite a lot of time taxiing. But after it felt like we surely had taxied out of the country, there was an announcement. There was a problem with one of the sensors; the one that tells the pilot what the speed and altitude are. They understandably didn't want to take off without it working properly, so we turned around and we were taxiing straight back. The good news was that they soon announced that they had already sourced a replacement plane. 

My neighbour and I discussed the implications. He was tired; this was his connecting flight. He had left in the morning! And he was 93 years old. The good news was that the people who were picking him up from Manchester airport lived nearby; they could just check the flight online, and only leave the house when it was clearly imminent. And when we could disembark I offered to help him with his luggage; I pointed out I was half his age. He wittily retorted that he was twice as experienced as me. I couldn't come back from that!

We went to an entirely different gate, and then waited to board again. I made sure to get some water, and I ate my sandwiches. I was glad I had made a packed lunch at my mum's! And then I got back to the same seat in a different plane. And I picked up my conversation with my neighbour again. He asked me where I lived. I said Bethesda, North Wales. I don't think he could quite make out what town I mentioned (he was hard of hearing) but he heard North Wales. Did I live close to Caernarfon, he asked. I didn't expect that from a Californian! And soon he was showing me pictures of him in front of Caernarfon Castle. And he showed me a picture of his granddaughter; he had said I reminded him of her, as she also had dreadlocks. So in no time I was showing him a picture of my cat, and of my sister in my niece, and we had loads of fun. I also received a picture of a friend's new car while we were doing that, so he even got to see that. He later asked me where I was going to take it. I said it wasn't mine to take anywhere. He got all twinkly-eyed and said that surely, I could exert some influence?

We also talked about history, and the Arctic where we both had lived (him in the much more remote location), and the laws in California, and geology, and the situation in Ukraine, and so on. It wasn't easy; I always find it difficult to have a conversation with someone if I can't see their mouth, and we were wearing facemasks. And the plane's engines weren't helping either. I'm sure him being partly deaf wasn't helping either. But we had a whale of a time!

When we were at the gate in Manchester we said our goodbyes. It had been a great flight! I have been lucky with such a neighbour. I hope he has a really great stay in Manchester! And that he manages to see a few more exciting places before travelling has to stop for him.

With the whole sensor malarkey you were about two hours late; not what I had hoped. But I drove home without further ado. The airport parking I have booked knows what flight I am inbound on; they would have known it was delayed, and there was no problem. And I'm convinced this flight will remain a positive memory in spite of the delay!

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