The pain in Spain

One stranded news editor reflects on being stuck in the story.

    Thousands of people have been left stranded after volcanic ash grounded planes [AFP]

    "I want to go home," says my daughter demandingly, "I want to go home right now".

    At two-and-a-half, my husband and I try our best to explain to her that we would all quite like to do that, but for the moment we have an extra holiday 'treat' and we have to stay a bit longer.

    "Aren't we lucky Lily-Rose?!" we say with false grins plastered to our faces.

    We are now at five days and counting with our only realistic estimation of return to the UK being Wednesday, April 29.

    We were one of the first affected by the ash travel chaos as my family and I were due to return from our holiday in 'not so sunny Spain' on Thursday, April 15.

    We, like the hundreds of others, fought through the carnage and chaos at Malaga airport - flights leaving, flights not leaving, told to check in anyway, flights cancelled at the gate, confused airline staff everywhere, anxious passengers on mobiles.

    Then we were all told to join the 200-long snaking queue through the airport in order to rebook our flights.

    At this stage my grumpy daughter's protests of "I want Peppa Pig, I want biscuits - I DON'T want any more raisins - I WANT to get out of my buggy right now ... waaaahh!" did not seem to ingratiate us to the other passengers and certainly did not have the affect of speeding us to the front of the queue.

    Amusingly, at the front of the queue was one solitary Ryanair employee looking somewhat bemused and totally clueless as to what anyone should do.

    Stuck in the story

    iN depth
      Flight cancellation updates
      EU considers resuming flights
      Q&A: Grounded by volcanic ash
      Bleeding airlines call for aid
      Your views:
      Have you been affected by air traffic disruption?
      Europe seeks to reopen skies
      Volcano's name in song
      Travel chaos spreads
      How ash damages aircraft
      Icelanders battle to save livelihoods

    Having spent our holiday at the kind hospitality of my uncle and aunt, my aunt then whisked us away from the chaos and took us back to her house where we would rack our brains as to what to do.

    As we drove away from the airport in the rain and wind (Southern Spain is also known as the Costa del Sol, but ever since we have been here that has not been an accurate description. Coast of Rain and Thunder Storms would be a more fitting title) we did realise that having accommodation and the TLC of family on hand made us much luckier than the thousands of others across Europe.

    Still, we desperately need to get back - pets, births of friends' babies, friend's weddings, godchildren's birthdays, countless appointments - the list goes on and that is without mentioning the most important aspect - mine and my husband's work.

    As a news editor for Al Jazeera in London, being stuck in the story is slightly like having your arms and legs cut off - you feel helpless and anxious to be able to be involved in some way, offering phone interviews being the best I can do.


    Cars, trains, boats, buses - you name it we have gone through every possible Spanish port, harbour, train station, bus depot. We couldn't, unfortunately, find a tandem bike with child seat attachment for a family version of the Tour de France.

    Travelling with a toddler makes all alternatives more complicated and more expensive, so we resigned ourselves to re-booking with Ryanair for Tuesday, April 20.

    On Sunday, April 18, Ryanair announced that their flights were cancelled until Wednesday, April 21.
    As the thunder and rain crash down above us, our restless family watch the news and hear of plans that the Royal Navy may be drafted in and the British foreign office is doing all it can to get stranded people back - a cynic may say that it is quite a priority for the government to get people back by May 6.

    I head out to buy raincoats and jumpers and am ever optimistic that the sun may peak through the clouds and at least release my daughter slightly from her indoor holiday hell.

    Beyond that, we wait, hope, rely on family hospitality and cancel all our plans for the next two weeks ...

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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