Saturday, August 26, 2023
We went back to the airport AGAIN. I’ll tell you this, I feel rather differently now about a flight of a mere 50 minutes.
We were travelling to London for our friends’ 25th wedding anniversary. Very generously they were putting us up at the Caledonian club which is where they were having their party. It is in a very salubrious part of London. We went out for a slightly pricey lunch and were pretty excited to see a statute of San Martín on the way.
Not to mention the Argentinian embassy or possibly residence. We pressed on and I bought a signed copy of the new Kate Atkinson book of short stories in Hatchard’s (which it turns out is now Waterstone’s, who knew?) – spoiler alert, a bit disappointing.
Thrillingly, on the way back, we passed the house of Chips Channon. I had read volume I of his diaries earlier in the year and bored everyone about it. He has a lot of content about 5 Belgrave Square and the Amalienburg dining room he installed at truly staggering expense.
I posted these pictures to the family group chat and they got the level of enthusiastic response you might expect. Herself did offer the information that that she was staying around the corner from us. Our paths did not in fact cross in London as we went to our assorted parties for different ages.
At our party, each anniversary guest had got a personalised letter from our hosts, welcoming us and saying how glad they were that we could come. They are setting a pretty high bar for future celebrations.
My expectations for dinner were quite low (club, big group) but the food was excellent. The evening was fantastic also. The guests were all about the same age, and it turned out, shared a lot of interests. Both Mr. Waffle and I knew loads of people there (always a formula for a good night out) but met loads of interesting new people as well. Our hosts had a quiz which was surprising but such good fun. There were a lot of academics present and one round was about who had written various books and articles. My favourite moment was the man who had forgotten that he had written some article and whose table hadn’t got the question right. I might just mention that my table won the quiz. Just saying.
Sunday, August 27, 2023
The following morning we had a sustaining breakfast at the club. Our hosts had arranged for anyone who was interested to go on a tour of Buckingham Palace which was nearby. I was interested (more grist to the mill for my children who say I have bootlicker tendencies) and Mr. Waffle tagged along as well. One of our hosts led the group to the Palace holding the tickets above his head and we all dutifully followed in his wake. I was quite impressed by the power of holding tickets in the air. People just let us through as a group and a policeman even cleared a path for the stragglers in the group to catch up. There was an unnerving moment when it looked like we might miss our slot due to the press of people admiring the changing of the guard, but a policewoman from Northern Ireland chivvied us through a gap.
Buckingham Palace was heaving but there is an audio guide and it’s all very well managed. They have an absolutely stunning art collection.
I enjoyed the trip very much and we had lunch in the garden café afterwards. What’s not to love? Mmm, lovely shoe leather, so tasty, so delicious.
Mr. Waffle said to me later in tones of horror, “Did you see how much the tickets were?” £33 apparently. I suppose King Charles needs the money. You could convert your day ticket into a season pass at the exit but since it’s only open for a month, you’d need to live in London to get value for it. It seems an odd way to manage things.
After lunch, Mr. Waffle and I peeled off to go to Hazlitt’s hotel where we had booked ourselves an extra night. Very nice.
I was quite struck by how clean the streets of Soho were. I mean, how can Soho be cleaner than Dublin? The receptionist in the hotel was Italian and we had a little chat in Italian which I enjoyed. I was still in “io parlo Italiano” mode.
Monday, August 28, 2023
We went out for breakfast to a nice café. “Why are there so many people here when they should be at work?” I asked indignantly. Ah, it was a bank holiday in England. This makes the spotless streets of Soho even more impressive.
We had a very relaxed trip out to the airport and passed peacefully to our gate. There was a huge crowd from the last flight. “Poor souls,” I thought blithely, “there’s obviously some problem with their flight.” As time marched on, there was no sign of our flight being called. “I’m just going to ask someone at the gate what’s going on,” I said to Mr. Waffle.
I nabbed a man at the gate. “Your flight’s cancelled and it won’t be leaving today,” he said. “Nothing is leaving today, air traffic control is down all over the UK. Go back to arrivals and pick up your luggage.”
I scurried back to Mr. Waffle and told him the news, urging him to speed along so we could beat the inevitable queue at the Aer Lingus desk. “But there’s nothing on the monitor,” he quibbled. This was the greatest test of our marriage. “Do you trust me?” I asked. Notwithstanding his belief that I might well have misunderstood and that there were no notifications on the monitor or anywhere else, he got up and followed me. Ladies and gentlemen, a triumph for trust.
He went into baggage reclaim to get our luggage back and I pressed on back to departures to see whether I could rebook our flight or find out what was going on. It was beginning to get a bit chaotic; people were in big queues trying to check in; no sign of anyone on an Aer Lingus desk. Eventually a woman in Aer Lingus kit, stood up and addressed the milling hordes. “Go home, nothing is flying out today, Aer Lingus will contact you by text with alternative arrangements.” I managed to re-book us in to Hazlitt’s, it’s an ill wind etc.
Meanwhile, Mr. Waffle was trying and failing to find our luggage. “Ask someone,” I said firmly on the phone. “But there’s no point,” said he. I insisted, he did and he was pointed to a big pile of luggage in the corner including ours. It was my day of triumph.
We went back into Hazlitt’s and then contacted Mr. Waffle’s sister.
One of the things I like about her is that she is a very calm person and never seems to get annoyed; she reminds me a lot of my mother-in-law. We had told her that we would be in London but our schedule was too busy to see her but now we wanted to spend the afternoon with her. “Come round,” she said cheerfully. And we had a very pleasant afternoon in the sunny suburbs of North London. And they made us cake.
She and her husband gave us two excellent recommendations as well: go to Zedel’s for dinner and take the Elizabeth line to Heathrow in the morning. Zedel’s was great (unprepossessing at street level with an amazing dining room underground) and the Elizabeth Line (around the corner from our hotel) was the business.
By late that evening, however, we had received no word from Aer Lingus. I rang the help desk after dinner and didn’t really expect to get through at 10 on a Monday night but I did eventually and they stuck us on a flight at 10 in the morning.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Can I again recommend the Elizabeth line? So shiny, so new, so handy. We had breakfast at the Perfectionist cafe in Heathrow. Quite a hard name to live up to, particularly in an airport, but actually, in fairness, pretty good, though pricey.
The flight home was painless and that was that.
I put in a claim to Aer Lingus subsequently and to my absolute amazement and with a minimum of paperwork they paid for Hazlitt’s (not cheap), Zedel’s (only cheap if you go for the prix fixe menu, we did not) and even the Perfectionist café. Chapeau. Delighted with Aer Lingus. Will I fly Aer Lingus again? You betcha. Just, ideally, not anytime soon. I’d like to stay home for a while.