After reading Marvellous Mother In Law’s account of being knickerless in Madrid it has jogged me to put finger to keyboard and recount our various ‘adventures’ concerning travel this year.
Desperate to see Ted and Harry, our grandsons, who we didn’t see at Christmas, we booked to fly to Doha in February and my mounting hysteria and excitement was difficult to live with! We have been numerous times and stupidly it never occurred to me to check the immigration policy for Doha. I knew we needed a visa on arrival (sometimes taking two hours to get through their “Welcome to Doha” queues) but in my excitement I forgot to check the necessary passport requirements.
As chief administrator in the household I booked all the tickets from Toulouse to Doha, etc and my daughter arranged for us to be met by Maha Services, a private immigration company. They organise that you don’t have to stand in the queues with everybody, including the poor migrant workers who arrive full of hope that they will earn money, who have their passports confiscated and live in appalling conditions while working in the full heat of the sun in July and August (often reaching 55 degrees). Anyway, I digress, so we were grateful that after a long flight we would get through immigration fairly speedily.
We arrived at BA Toulouse check-in to be told that John did not have enough time on his passport to enter Doha as you needed 90 days. He had 74. Filled with horror I rang Sophie, who then rang Maha Services who informed her that on this occasion he would probably be allowed in as we were only staying for 10 days. So off we flew from Toulouse to Heathrow to get our connecting flight thinking all would be well.
No, it wasn’t. On the second immigration check in transit at Heathrow we were stopped with only 45 minutes connection time to get the flight to Doha. The woman at immigration told us John had been taken off the connecting flight and would have to be escorted out of the terminal. With not much time to have a sensible conversation with each other about what to do, we sorted out the packing of our two carry on cases (I always distribute things equally in case of lost luggage, despite them being carry-ons) in full view of the queue behind us and John was led away, muttering, “I’ll probably go back to France”. We only had one mobile between us and it was in my handbag, along with the car key, as we had left the car at an hotel in Toulouse. Having aired my clean laundry in public, I was feeling somewhat distraught and carried on to get the flight to Doha. We had been travelling since 5am that morning and, as I approached my seat, looked up at the locker to store my hand baggage, realised I was too short to launch it up there and promptly burst into tears. Seeing my distress one of the cabin crew asked me to go to the kitchen area with him to see if he could help.
I explained the problem and he offered me a glass of Proscecco to help me relax a bit (was interested he already had one open at 10.30 am – he was a little florid!) which I gratefully accepted. As he greeted other passengers on board my drama training/deviousness came to the fore. When he returned to see how I was doing I continued to blub and asked watery eyed, “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of an upgrade is there?” He gave me that direct knowing look and searched out the cabin services manager. He returned within two minutes and replied “The only seat we have available is First Class. Will that be alright?” In my stampede to the front of the plane I nearly flattened several other passengers still boarding, shouting “Mine, mine, mine!” Thank you BA , it was a fabulous treat and one that I still relish when I snuggle into my complimentary jim jams with “First Class” embroidered on my chest!
Meanwhile, poor John, had gone straight to the passport office in Victoria and got an appointment for 8.30am for the following morning, bought a mobile, texted me the number, stayed in a hotel in Victoria that night, found an excellent pub followed by a superb curry. As I had the car key he had no option but to come on to Doha, much to my relief, which he did after having his passport renewed and spending the second night in Terminal 5.
However, his somewhat calamitous journey did not end there. The daytime flights to Doha usually arrive between 10pm to 11pm at night. Sophie arranged for a car to pick him up but unfortunately the driver did not take a board with his name on so he had a further hour standing around. They never did connect but John eventually got a taxi to the house and had a very large glass of welcoming bubbles.
Three weeks later we booked to fly to Rome for five days… but that’s another desperate story.