August 20, 2002

Some things don’t change—it is rather reassuring. . .

I was going to Orvars Krog with Walter tonight; it’s been a long time since we were out drinking beer together, so I was rather looking forward to it. I was slightly late due to the bus, but Walter wasn’t there yet; when he arrived it turned out he didn’t have his student ID with him so we couldn’t get in at Orvar. Good old Walter—still as absent-minded as ever! (And that’s an endearment.) Instead we went to O’Connor’s which was nice and empty, and had a couple of beers and some pubgrub there instead; Walter being a gentleman picked up the bill since it was his fault we couldn’t go to the pub with the student prices on beer. In any case, it was really good to see him; we talked about old times and the present, about geocaching and horse-riding and the infamous trip to Ireland in 1993.

I realise I must tell the story of that trip; it’s too good not to be told. I was going to Galway for a few weeks, and had asked my friend PD if he’d like to fly me there; PD acquiesced provided we could fill the four-seater plane, and Walter and Jon were recruited. We left Uppsala on a Thursday; I was supposed to be in Galway on the following Wednesday, which left us with a few days to explore Connemara by air.

Thursday’s flight plan was for Uppsala to London, where we planned to land at Biggin Hill airport and stay for two nights at a B&B, giving us one day in London. At Malmö airport, at the very southern end of Sweden, we landed to refuel. Here we discovered that the weather in northern Germany was bad, and PD who is nothing if not a cautious pilot, decided we had to stay overnight. We repaired to a hotel in Malmö. On Friday we returned to the airport and looked at the forecast, which told of low clouds over Holland. . . all day. We stayed at the airport, requesting weather reports every half hour, all Friday—and all Saturday. I read the book Walter had brought with him (Ian Banks’ Walking on Glass) from cover to cover, and we played Scrabble and other games, and learnt to hate Malmö airport intensely.

On Sunday we finally, finally got a favourable weather report, and flew from Malmö to London/Biggin Hill, landing in Bremen and Groeningen to refuel. In Bremen, the airport security people didn’t want to allow PD the Swiss army knife he was carrying in his pocket until he managed to convince them that he was actually the pilot of our flight and as such exceedingly unlikely to hijack the plane! Once we’d landed at Biggin Hill—a magical place for me, reared as I am on Battle of Britain books—we found a very pleasant bed&breakfast place, and went to the local pub for dinner. I had a ploughman’s lunch, with a very generous piece of cheese and quite a lot of salad.

I shouldn’t have eaten the salad.

That night, I got very, very sick. I puked my guts out, to put it plainly. It was out of the question to continue our trip on the following day, which was Monday; the guys went into London whilst I stayed at the B&B, vomiting gall every fifteen minutes. I haven’t been quite that sick, neither before nor after; the kind hostess at the B&B gave me some kind of vile-tasting concoction that actually worked quite well, and Walter got me various kinds of meds as well, one of which made me quite happy and content with life. (It contained morphine.) By Tuesday morning I was able to walk on rather trembling legs to the airplane.

The airplane didn’t start. One of the magnetoes had given up, and we had to get a new one. The mechanic at Biggin Hill was very sorry, but he had to order one, and it wouldn’t get there until that afternoon at the earliest—no flying for us that day. I was quite happy to get another day of rest, but I was getting slightly nervous about getting to Galway on time!

But on Wednesday morning the engine started, the plane got into the air, and we got to the west of Ireland, only four days later than we’d intended.

In Galway, I said goodbye to the others, who travelled around for a few days and then returned home. After a week, I got a postcard from Malmö airport, where PD, Jon and Walter sat waiting for the weather to change.


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