Your Hand in My Hand

Storm of the Century
Friday 18
th February 2022


"We picked a fine day to fly!"  said Julie as we woke up to today's weather trending on Twitter with #StormEunice being described as the #StormoftheCentury!

It was all calm when we travelled down yesterday, staying overnight at the Radisson. But this morning was a different matter. There was a Red Alert, which means a risk to life and the advice was to stay indoors. The moment we stepped outside the hotel we could see why. A gust of wind almost knocked us off our feet.

"They can't fly in this, can they?" questioned Julie.

We checked the British Airways app and apparently our flight was still scheduled to leave and on time. With a reassuring "they definitely won't fly if its not safe" implanted into Julie's mind by a BA staff member last night, we donned our face masks and got an Uber taxi to terminal 5.

Arriving five hours early and not even having to check-in our luggage (because we did that last night) we were through security and on the hunt for breakfast inside 10 minutes.

Julie had done her research and found an amazing dish (for me) of Scrambled Eggs with truffle at the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar but could we find it? We desperately walked up and down the entire departures terminal, both floors, twice but we just couldn't find it anywhere.

In the end we gave up and decided to have breakfast at the Fortnum & Mason's bar instead.

I remember eating here before our trip to Brazil and I didn't rate their Welsh rarebit at all so today I opted instead for the Burford Brown dippy eggs with soldiers, nicely washed down with a delicious Bloody Mary. Their soft boiled eggs were cooked perfectly. "I should have this more often at home" I said as I revisited my childhood by dipping in sticks of toasted bread into the runny egg yolk.

Whilst Julie was tucking into her crumpets with marmite I noticed a camel on the table mat, a reference to how Fortnum & Mason were the grocery providers of choice for well-to-do 19th century British tourists who ventured down the Nile as well as serious explorers in search of the source of the world's  longest river.

 "I'm not getting on one" said Julie emphatically before I even got a chance to raise the question. 

After our wonderful brunch we checked our flight and it had now been delayed by an hour.  It all seemed calm inside the terminal but outisde it was quite treacherous. Most of the morning's flights had been cancelled so they could concentrate on the incoming planes. An hour later and our flight had been delayed by a futher hour. We seemed to be constantly five hours away from our departure.

Out of curiosity just in case our flight got cancelled I checked with Uber how much a taxi to Cairo would cost. I was expecting an message saying "your requested route is not available" but was surprised when it actually offered me a price of £3000.20 for the trip!

With ample time on our hands, and with a Plan B, we spent the time wandering up and down, doing some window shopping in all the best shops. InTiffany's & Co, Julie even tried on a ring that she fell in love with. It was a five row diamond ring costing over £7000, flanked by two thin strips costing £2000 each. Wow!

After completing our ten thousands steps for the day amassed entirely inside terminal 5 and having bought our customary two bottles of champagne and large bar of tolberone we decided to have some lunch in  Giraffe.

We always have good food in a Giraffe before a flight, unfortunately today wasn't up to their usual standards. Both my halloumi and falafel burger and Julile's fish and chips just didn't please.

Nevermnd. It filled a gap.

At 4pm the gate number came up, A17, so we made our way towards the Fortnum & Mason side of the terminal and sat by the gates waiting to board. Eventually, following even more delays we boarded, sitting in our preferred seats (18E/18F) by 6:30pm. 

Then they anounced a further delay because they were yet to receive clearance over their flight plans from German air traffic control. In the meantime, to distract us, they came around the cabin handing out the immigration forms and health declaration forms to fill in.

After a visit to the toilet Julie came back saying she had just been inside the cockpit and had met the pilot Jamie and Toby the co-pilot. She had been invited in by one of the cabin crew. She hadn't just walked in on them.  

Anyway, shortly after 8pm we taxied to the runway and finally took off. It was a little bumpy but a lot less than expected during the "storm of the century".

We settled into the flight, starting a game of scrabble on the iPad. Ahead of us was a five hour flight, now scheduled to get into Cairo until 3am local time.  Despite the distance travelled this was still considered a short haul flight.  When the trolley came around all they had to give us complimentary was a bottle of water and a packet of crisp. We had to log onto the onboard internet if we wanted to order anything else. Not that they had much to offer other than snacks.

Around 9:30pm Julie's friend, the pilot Jamie, announced a minor technical fault with the landing system. "It's only a small problem nothing to worry about" he said "but we are returning to Heathrow."

The pilot was clearly worried about it enough to turn around.He would rather fly back towards the storm of the century than attempt to land in Cairo.

The "unlikely event" had become more likely.

Julie was strangely calm. She had drunk just enough prosecco to be settled nicely between apathy and panic. She suggested we rebooked ourselves on the first British Airways flight out in the morning, which I did straight away, 9:45am BA406 flight, getting us to Cairo only an hour late for the meeting with the Intrepid Travel tour guide.

Julie had resigned herself to a "what will be, will be" state of mind. "At least we're together" she said "and at least we'll go together."

The plane turned around and returned to Heathrow where we had a remarkably smooth approach. The winds must have died down. We held each other, looking out the window, waiting for the runway to appear.

Before we expected it we touched down. Only then did the slight technical fault become apparent, and why there was a cluster of fire engines with their flashing blue lights waiting for us in the wings.

The pilot slammed on the brakes. There was an unholy screech as the tyres hit the tarmac. We were thrown forward, only slightly but noticably, as he struggled to bring us to a stop before the runway ran out. That may have been the reason why we were back in Heathrow and not in Cairo.  Extra runway lenght. I'm not an aviation expert but it was as if the flaps which are used to slow the plane down had failed.

We held our breath, it only lasted a few seconds, and it was with some considerable relief we felt the pilot take his foot off the brakes, the screeching stopped and we slowed down enough to taxi normally off the runway. 

The groundstaff were expecting us, but it still took them over half an hour to get ready for us to get off the plane. Then they only allowed us to leave, row by row. Once we were off we gave our details to a member of staff to retrieve our luggage so we could pick them up and check them in ourselves to our rebooked flight in the morning.

Next we queued up for some hotel vouchers so we could have a room for a few hours. By the time we reached the two BA staff they were beseiged by an angry mob because they had run out. They had no more to give out. We didn't hang about and went straight to baggage reclaim after making our way through the biometric passport control.

Whilst we waited for our luggage we tried to book a room at the Radisson. I went through Holiday Extras, the company which we had used previously, whilst Julie phoned them direct. Julie got through first and they said they had no vacancies but the holidays app was still showing rooms available.

So I quickly continued with the booking, paid for it and received an email  confirmation.

Our next problem were our bags, they were nowhere to be seen. After a lot of confusion from the staff at the First Class & Club office we were eventually told that they were struggling to get the bags off the plane"due to the wind". Our only course of action now was to check-in our luggage receipts in the morning so the bags would be transfered to our rebooked flight.  

With that resolved, or at least deferred we left terminal 5 and returned to the Radisson. It had gone midnight. We were still unsure whether or not they would honour our booking. "If not, we could always sleep in the car if we have to" I suggested.

We walked up to the desk, showing the receptionist our booking confirmation from Holiday Extra and said "We have a reservation for ...  yesterday. We're a bit late."

He was a tall guy wearing a tartan face mask. He searched the system but couldn't find us. He tried again with no luck. It wasn't looking good when he disappeared around the back for a few minutes returning with a worried expression. We could tell, despite the face mask, by the furrowed brow.

He then picked up two key cards and his eyes smiled. We were in !  

Not only were we in but we had an upgrade to their executive rooms. It was a shame we were only going to spend a few hours in it!

Overwhelmed with relief we ordered a room service pizza and drank one of our duty free champagne bottles to send us to sleep. "What's going to happen tomorrow?"  asked Julie

"God knows" I said "but it will be fine"

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