Since Monday, the atmospheric conditions have been very unfavourable, as Owl expresses it in Winnie-the-Pooh. "The what?" asked Christopher Robin. "It has been snowing". British newspapers and websites carry instructions for making perfect snowballs, for the benefit of those lucky people who have never seen snow before.
I was going to Dublin this morning. Since airports had been closed now and then all week I emailed my conference hosts yesterday to warn that I might not be able to come. But this morning I checked Ryanair, I checked Stansted, and I even checked National Rail, who yesterday warned about possible delays, but this morning assured that all services ran normal. Since I always want to have good margins, I was at Stansted two hours before departure, stated happily that although some flights had indeed been cancelled, mine hadn't, and planted myself in a cafeteria with a cappuccino and my conference paper. (Actually, I had this little thought that if the flight were cancelled, I wouldn't have to give the paper, so there was no point in revising it, but it felt wrong to argue this way). In due time, the gate was announced - same procedure as every year, a long queue in front of the gate, a smaller one for priority boarding. Lots of announcements about change of gates and cancelled flights, not my flight though, not my... and - there it goes: 30-minute delay. The old lady beside me sits down cross-legged on the floor, and I do the same (incidentally, I am an old lady too, I keep forgetting it). Crowds of confused people running here and there. Hords of people attacking our gate, going somewhere else and informing us that the Dublin gate has been changed. The Dublin crowd moves across the hall and arranges itself in two considerably less organized queues. At last! We go on board, running from the gate to the parked aircraft under snow and sleet. We are only an hour and a half delayed, and although I won't make it to the opening of the conference, my paper is not until later this evening. Breathe out.
No? What? Dublin airport closed? And you have just learned about it?
Off we go, led through secret airport corridors marked "Toilets" (honestly!) to avoid UK border, through bagage claim and racing toward Ryanair ticket office. The queue is huge. I get a glimpse of the departure board to notice that there is a flight three hours later. I call the conference organizer to tell her that the flight has been cancelled, and that I will do what I can, although I have almost decided to go home. Fortunately, I don't have to make the decision. "Passengers wishing to go to Dublin should be aware that there are no seats available until Sunday". A young man behind me is calling other airlines on his mobile. A lady in front of me is crying over the phone because she obviously was going to Dublin for a funeral. And I call Staffan to tell him I am coming back.
My only consolation is that the queue behind me is ten times longer than when I first joined it.
Staffan is flying to Stockholm tomorrow. We'll see if he has better luck.