I left at 5am to catch the 7am flight to Gatwick, then train and tube to Northwood for Gwilym's graduation. Then tube and bus to Luton and return flight to Bordeaux, home by 11pm. Thankful!
We've taken that 7am flight before. Once I just took the first buses to the airport - it meant a mad dash through security and up to the gate just before they closed the aircraft doors. Other times we've taken a hotel room near the airport and slept over. This time I reserved a Citiz car, the excellent Polo, and decided to park at the airport.
There were threats of strikes causing cancelled flights, but it turned out to be just for Marseille. Then poor Patricia came up with a huge abscess and after a sleepless night decided she should go to the dentist rather than graduation. I I drove to the airport alone.
Travel was a doddle. You arrive just after you left, once you change your watch, and then I hopped on the Bedford train to Farringdon, and the Tetrapelican line to Northwood. I arrived really early, in time to walk to the college, find a loo then chat with Gwilym and Beth before sidling along the procession looking very inconspicuous in my floral shirt. The procession in their robes and hats looked like the prelims for an international quidditch tournament, attended inexplicably by Thomas More and Philip Melanchthon.
Once inside I headed for the section labelled "Rabbit's friends and relations" and found a nice seat alongside the spouses of the chair of the trustees and the director of masters and doctorates by distance learning. It meant I could get nice photos of our two as they shook and hugged their way along the line of luminaries.
The ceremony was a joy. Nice hymns and songs, great piano, organ and band (Gwilym on bass guitar), nice choir, lovely speeches by chairman of trustees and principal. An address from a visiting principal was too long, really, but had some really nice lines. There was quite a bit of falabalam, but also some moving testimonies from a gifted lad who has done a masters and found a wife, and another in a broad Scots accent without subtitles from a lady who is a prison chaplain and somehow found herself doing a theology degree without ever having passed any exams in her life. I think. One brief moment jarred. Someone read Philippians 2:1-11 and the response went "In this is the word of the Lord". Come on! NOBODY says that. I looked. Google. You need to stop that now and have a serious talk with whoever put that in the order of service. There, I said it. Afterwards back through Northwood for a fine buffet lunch!
I chatted with some awesome people. First Gwilym's future outlaws, the Elkins tribe, out in force from Norwich. Then Emily, who deals with vocational advice and is pleased as punch to have placed Gwilym in the church where he is now working full-time. Spouses as noted above. Some of the students, one maybe going to serve in a church in Llandrindod Wells, another off to Trinity, Bristol for Anglican ministry. Bon courage, lads.
At 2:30 I started to panic so hugs all round, then I left and got the tube to Finchley Road, then the Greenline to Luton Airport for the flight home. The French family opposite me were flying to Bordeaux, too, so we found our way together through the maze of building works and into the airport. Then the fun began.
EZY2031 - Bordeaux - Consult Easyjet app.
The flight was delayed an hour. Oh well, that's OK. I wandered round the shops, resisted the cheap stuff, looked in the cafés, decided to eat a beef salad and then consulted the Easyjet app again. The flight was no longer delayed.
EZY2031 - Bordeaux - Boarding Gate 28.
I hared off to gate 28, saw the French family again and a lady hobbling along, found a seat alongside the pen, then we heard "Easyjet customers for flight EZY2031 to Bordeaux, your gate has changed, you are boarding now at Gate 12".
Gate 12 is at the other end of the airport, so we hurtled, scuttled, rampaged, trundled, hobbled and trudged our way across to Gate 12. One bright chap said "Are there any Easyjet staff here?" No there wasn't. Then we heard over the tannoy, "Easyjet customers for flight EZY2031 to Bordeaux you are boarding now at Gate 28"
Well we were beginning to suspect monkey business and I feared that some of our number would begin railing (here the best way to deal with monkey business is to express your feelings loud and long until the monkey business stops). However when we got back to Gate 28 I sat down briefly as my little protest while the easyJet staff quickly scanned our cards and got us through the gate,
onto a bus,
which took us to
I will leave you to imagine our comments as it became clear that we had hurtled, scuttled, rampaged, tramped, trudged, hobbled and trundled from gate 12 to gate 28, only to be hied back there by motorised conveyance. On the tannoy we heard other passengers being similarly directed hither and yon, yon and hither. It was party time in the tannoy room.
Anyway the rest of the flight was uneventful, except that we landed in spectacular thunderstorm. I'd always wondered what it's like to take off or land in one of our storms, and it is a trifle bumpy, but generally OK.
I chatted with a gang of ladies flying together to a gite in the Dordogne. "We're all family going on holiday together. We're flying with the children and the husbands have driven down with the luggage. It means the kids get a short journey and the husbands get a road trip!" What a brilliant idea!
The French couple in front of me looked wary of the rain. "Do you have far to walk?" "No, it's just his suit for the wedding?" "The wedding? Whose wedding?" "Ours! Next weekend." "Wow, that's great! Where?" "In the Basque Country." "Congratulations, that's awesome." They looked at each other and repeated, "Oui, c'est trop bien."
I got a little drenched as I hurried to the car and drove the 10 minutes home.
What a day! Thanks to all who made it possible for me to be there to see my lad graduate!