Trains, Planes, Weddings & Bears

Well, it has to be said our latest trip to the UK was pretty nerve jangling and full-on to say the least.  It all began with a simple train journey from our home town of Flix to Barcelona – about two & a half hours in total. The plan was to have a relaxing night before catching a bus to the airport terminal. Plus a chance to take in some city nightlife (and football match too). Unfortunately the cheap, cheerful & most convenient hotel we chose stood directly above the underground system. Hence one noisy, hotel-shaking, tap-rattling train graced us with it’s presence once every seven minutes….all through the night.  Not so relaxing after all, but who needs sleep anyway?

The following morning we awoke bright and early, bleary eyed and caught the bus to Barcelona. We were excited to board our flight – destination: Leeds/Bradford Airport. It was chilly but cold when we left, but we’d been keeping an eye on the UK weather forecast. Snow, fog & ice were on the menu – perfectly normal for February in the North of England. David’s daughter Rachelle, was getting married in a couple of days and had been wishing for a romantic, snowy white wedding for months. It was looking like her wish was coming true.

We boarded the plane on time, complete with a suitcase full of 30 assorted Ecobears and wedding rigmarole. We watched as boxes upon boxes of fish were dispatched from the plane’s undercarriage. (So it’s true the Spanish do love English shell fish). The suitcases were then installed. Relaxing to see as there were some pretty important Ecobears in our case. The flight coming in from the UK had been full, but on this departure there were only 28 passengers. A quiet flight. Not that it mattered.

The plane took off and we flew over the snow-covered Pyrennees, looking like dots on the ground. Then over a very white, icy-looking France. Just over two hours from take-off we were fast approaching our destination. The pilot calmly informed us that we would be landing shortly. Or would we?

As we prepared to land we looked out of the window only to be greeted with thick pea soup fog. How on earth could the pilot see the runway? Well they’ll be used to this kind of thing. We watched the wings do their flip up flip down dance, and listened as the engines quietened and the descent began. So we should be landing any.. second now..

But we didn’t! The plane soared back up into the sky with a woooosh! The pilot then informed us the the automated landing system had failed and we would have to try landing again…fuel permitting…on a shorter runway. Not really words of comfort at a time like this.

By this point there was an eerie silence on the plane as passengers were coming to terms with the severity of events. Surely this only happened in Hollywood movies. Where’s your sense of humour when you need it most?

So as attempt number two dawned we all prepared for what could be a bumpy landing. The pilot told us we were descending and did the fancy wing-moving thing again. The engines quietened and the ground loomed, and, get ready, and…woooosh! Back up in the air at hair-raising speed for a second time.

I love flying but by this point was shaking like a leaf. Everybody seemed to be turning a whiter shade of pale. David whispered he’d ‘damn well land this plane himself if the pilot didn’t stop messing about.’ It didn’t help matters when the pilot mentioned that ‘we should be okay for fuel’. Not funny! Fellow passengers carried on pretending to read their books and magazines.

Afterwards the pilot informed us that there would be one final attempt at a manual landing. All was silent for what seemed like an eternity. Finally the descent came and, for a third time, was aborted. OMG. Heart in mouth stuff! Now what?

There had been mutterings from passengers earlier of heading straight to another airport. Maybe they should just take us elsewhere. Wisdom heralded a further 20 minutes (which felt like hours) of circling in the hope of the weather improving. Fat chance from what we’d already seen, and the light was fading fast. As we flew we past the sun about five times; a very surreal experience. This could not be happening.

Thankfully, after what felt like an age, the voice of reason explained we would be heading for East Midlands Airport – only ten minutes away. At last! Couldn’t they have made that decision sooner? It would have saved a lot of time reading the same sentences in books and magazines over and over again.

Finally, a few minutes later, we descended towards the runway – lit up like Blackpool Illuminations. We braced (plenty of practise by now), and gently landed – the most perfect of all landings. We’d survived! We were alive with our feet (or at least plane) planted firmly on the ground, after the joyride of a lifetime! Then some of us decided that the pilot was just toying with us, until we got off the plane and saw him still sat in the cockpit, lighting a cigarette!