It was a bit of a no-brainer really. The email said something along the lines of “Would you like to help run an Initial Training Course in Gibraltar?”. Well, let me just think about that one for a minute – sub zero temperatures in the UK or a weekend in dry, warm, sunny Gibraltar? Yeah – ok – why not?
And so it was that Doug Morden and I set off for Heathrow on just about the coldest, snowiest day of the year so far. Fortunately for us, after major delays and cancellations the day before, the airport was operating reasonably normally and, after a short detour to de-ice the wings, the plane took off only around 50 minutes late.
We climbed quickly into the sunshine above the clouds below. Even the fact that BA ran out of food before reaching our seats didn’t upset our equilibrium – but the next announcement by the Captain certainly did. Severe storms in Gibraltar meant that the airport was closed. The next choice landing strip, Malaga, was also closed. It was therefore decided that we would land at Jerez. No, I hadn’t heard of it either. It turns out that Jerez is actually a lovely little airport but it probably only sees around 3 arrivals a week. All of a sudden it saw 3 arrivals all at once. It’s probably fair to say that the ground staff, passport control and security struggled – just a little. It’s also fair to say that my expectation of dry, warm, sunny Gibraltar was disintegrating rapidly.
Only 3 buses were provided but we managed to get on the first one. We were promised a trip of about 1.5 hours – Doug and I had plenty of time to continue chatting.
The Rock of Gibraltar eventually came into view – only just and shrouded by the rain – but we had at last arrived..........except the bus driver dropped us in an open air car park on the Spanish side and promptly sped away, presumably back to Jerez to collect the next batch of travellers.
The monsoon season was in full swing, whipped up by gale force winds, as we made our way to the small building housing passport control. Emerging out into Gibraltar, even The Rock seemed to have disappeared. We splashed across the runway (yes, you really do walk across the runway, even when the airport isn’t closed) towards the terminal building where we were due to be collected. The whole airport was unsurprisingly deserted apart from one vehicle crashing through the spray. Ivan and Rob had managed to locate us and the two drowned rats happily squelched into the back seat – around 3 hours after our original expected time of arrival.
The hotel was a welcome sight and, after a quick towel down, we joined Ivan and Rob in the bar in dire need of several glasses of wine. Well, one of us was; Doug was much more restrained. Tapas followed wine and wine followed Tapas and suddenly everything was well in the world. Outside, the rain still bucketed down.
Nine Gibraltarians were booked onto the course the next day and they all, more or less, came out of the other side relatively unscathed. Certificates and polo shirts were presented by the Gibraltar Badminton Association and we departed for a well earned glass of wine. It was still raining.
We were taken back to Gibraltar Airport the next day just as the sun began to shine. It was warm and dry. The brand new terminal building was in full working order and we promptly added Gibraltar to our list of “must do” holiday destinations.
We arrived back at Heathrow without further alarm. It was raining.