The post below reminded me of just how accident-prone and snafu’ed I appear to be. Years ago, a close friend suggested that perhaps I enjoyed the stress and the drama and attracted it subconsciously. I thought there was some merit in this but lately I am beginning to disagree. I just think I am one of those people who the Universe decides is good for a laugh. After all, I am the only person I know who has actually managed to slip on a banana skin.
In one of my old jobs, I used to travel a lot. I was responsible for managing sites from Belfast to Scotland and all the way down to Southhampton. My boss, who was an absolute gem of a man, once queried why I always seemed to be running slightly late. I explained that I thought I had a travel curse. He laughed and said not possible and then made the mistake of travelling with me to Leeds a few weeks later. We got stuck on a train for 3 hours. He refused to travel with me after that.
Some of this was down to my own fault. Certainly, the day I arrived at Gatwick to go to Belfast for a trés important meeting and discovered my flight had gone the day before was one of them. If you were anywhere around Gatwick at 4am that day, you would have seen my hair stand on end, waving my card about, and telling the airline to get me on the next flight as soon as they could, whatever it took (which ended up being quite a bundle of dosh). They were brilliant but I felt like an idiot. My Dad thought it was hilarious and composed a little ditty in honour of the day:
If you plan a trip across the sea to Ireland
Then maybe…… before you get to close your door
You will stop and check upon your tickets
And find you left the very day before.
I have also variously – been stranded on a train for 6 hours in the summer heat with no liquid refreshment and no aircon coming back from Manchester, took the wrong train to Reading one day and took three hours (my trips to Reading were fated – there always seemed to be emergency engineering work the day I travelled and I eventually ended up getting up 2 hours earlier every time I went, once startling the client by arriving at 7am as the office opened), going to Leeds and chipping a tooth badly in the middle of a meeting and attempted to fly to Plymouth three times before I actually made it (bad weather, an airport strike and a bereavement cancelled play).
The only trips that seemed to go well were the Scottish ones. I would get up at 4am, be at Gatwick for 5.30am and in the Edinburgh office for just before 9am, before leaving at midday, taking the train to Glasgow before coming back to Edinburgh in the evening and getting the last flight out of Edinburgh back home.
In later years, as jobs changed, I did far less travelling but would still get caught up in insane traffic snarls, train cancellations and general mayhem. When I was working in the City, for months it seemed I could not get a bus without getting caught up in roadworks and eventually gave up and walked the 30 minutes in from London Bridge.
In my last role, I did a bit of travel to Edinburgh and when my 2IC accompanied me, I warned her we might want to take separate flights. She laughed until she saw me get held up at security, made to straddle out and overly enthusiastically searched by the lady security guard in full view of everyone (I wanted to thank her afterwards for the experience), the gate changed several times and eventually we were herded into a waiting area where we watched the pilot, the co-pilot, several engineers and interested parties, walk to our plane, gaze up underneath it, shaking their heads before we were transferred to a new plane on the grounds ours “did not work”.
Net result was a very shaky and late arrival into Edinburgh, I had booked us into the hotel from hell, we had no dinner and we discovered I had managed to book about as far away as was possible from the office (the hotel blurb said 10 minutes from the centre when in fact it was 40) in the hope of keeping costs down.
The next time we flew, we did a day trip and it was her turn to get pounced on by security and I could but watch as her day bag was turned inside out and searched meticulously for explosive residue with a sponge on a stick (at least she avoided the security guard). A race for the gate was won with seconds to spare and on the return journey, we got held up in a terrible queue and only just made the flight home after repeating the race.
When I got married (and well aware of the pitfalls of my ability to attract disaster), I managed it like a project. I managed projects at work all the time with excellent results so I thought if I applied the same principles, I would be the only bride in the UK not stressing like a moron in the run up. A dress was procured with ease, caterers booked, hall booked and invites posted.
True to form we ended up with caterers who quadrupled their original price (so I pulled the business from them), the hall turned out to be a nightmare and with 10 days to go we had 120 people coming and no food and no reception location.
Flowers were obtained easily, putting them together went less well, after the lady who offered to do it admitted defeat halfway through the afternoon before the wedding and I was dispatched to help her. We ended up in the very posh Croydon Library, me having given them strict instructions as to decor, table plans and name plates (my Dad and I did the decorations in the nights beforehand as the old caterers were due to do this as well and the new ones could not).
When the wedding party arrived, the lady who did our flowers (who with her husband was an absolute marvel) realised that the hall had done nothing at all in preparation and raced in with some of the groom’s friends to sort it out. They did it so quickly and magnificently it was only when we were having our second drink in the bar did I realise what had gone on.
When we got in I realised that with last minute changes to the tables (who the heck cancels their attendance at a wedding the day before – answer: relatives having a barney, that’s who), I had left off a good friend and her husband as well as the photographers so we had to shuffle seating around. We had also left the thank you gifts and cake knife at home!
The honeymoon got off to an inauspicious start after engineering work (again!) meant that we couldn’t get to Bristol to go on to Glastonbury and spent a good few hours traipsing around Paddington looking for an hotel and when we returned from honeymoon, we had a 7 hour train journey back (emergency engineering work 8 days later).
I won’t go into great detail about the hotels I have managed to book that either have rooms that are so tiny, they should only be allowed to be booked by people under 5 stone and 5 foot; the hotel which opened into the cupboard (which was taken up by a massive boiler and no place to hang my clothes) and then managed to fit in a bed and not much else (in order to watch the tv, I had to cram myself into the gap on the floor between the bed and the wall) – let’s just say that Chester will forever remind me of Fawlty Towers, complete with batty host; or are overheated and have no windows; or the fact that every single time I stay in a hotel I manage to end up in the one place in town that contains sleazy salesmen (one of whom actually managed to find out which room I was in and proceeded to bang on the door for 45 minutes before calling me repeatedly throughout the night).
Nor will I go into a long list of other travel fun (such as 9 hour, multiple change train trips from Macclesfield). Or even long distance travel that has seen me stranded in a variety of different locations across the world – although the Frankfurt one ended up in a lovely long distance relationship, the rest were just tedious and involved variously, facing off armed policemen in Lisbon, getting stuck in Johannesburg airport for a day just before Christmas and getting stuck in Amsterdam with no place to go thanks to the volcanic dust cloud.
What this long list of snafus has taught me is that (a) I should never be allowed to book hotels, for any endeavour; (b) that when things start to go wrong, they will continue that way and (c) whenever there is a travel muckup and I have a choice of decisions, the one that on balance is sensible will end up in more chaos.
I am also physically rather clumsy and over the past three weeks have:
(i) Managed to fall down a single step in bad lighting around a hoarding protecting a building site in Soho (resulting in two rather charming bruised and scraped knees which have only just healed – I now know how to pick bits of stocking out of wounds – ouch!)
(ii) Booked, paid for and organised a delivery of groceries which ended up not being put on the till by the cashier and having to be manually put on the system (half an hour extra whilst I waited for them to sort it out) and then wait for 3 hours for a delivery that did not come. I horsed up to Co-op today, to spend another 15 minutes waiting around whilst no-one knew what was going on as all the staff who had dealt with this were off until Saturday.
(iii) Mucked up my internet connection so badly they are still trying to sort it out (hence my relative silence on this blog).
(iv) Stepped on three cats in quick succession (one of them was Arthur who is tiny – they are all fine, I nearly had heart failure).
(v) Booked a cab for cat transport to the vet who arrived and insisted the boys go in his boot (they didn’t and he just had to put up with it as he had chosen to take the job).
(vi) Fallen down the stairs. Twice, whilst perfectly sober.
(vii) Broken two glasses (I’ve given up buying nice ones).
Like Pigpen in Charlie Brown, I seem to trail destruction and chaos in my wake, rather than a smell and flies (I suppose I should be grateful really).
However, the supermarket snafu ended with a knock on my door this afternoon and a lovely delivery man bearing both chocolates and flowers in apology, as well as my delivery. He said he was the transport manager, that he had never seen such a catalogue of errors in his life and was deeply apologetic. I was touched to be honest as I did not expect more than a cursory apology. I could have explained but thought it best to thank him, close the door and try and put the flowers in a vase without breaking anything.