These last six days must have been utter misery for people stranded in airports with nowhere to go, but for some British kids this would have been the holiday of a lifetime. Not only did they get extra days off school, but they got to go home in a warship. They’ll be sitting on board right now as the ship rolls across the Bay of Biscay, hanging out with the soldiers and thinking about how dead jealous their friends are going to be when they finally get back to school. The other lucky kids will be those who might always remember volcanic ash as the stuff that means you get to spend an extra few days around the swimming pool in holiday places like the Silver Coast. They’ve probably learnt over the last few days not to show too much enthusiasm in front of the parents who are wondering exactly how much more abuse their credit cards will stand.
Of course none of this will be any consolation to those poor people who have been stranded in airports with nowhere else to go. The local civil protection agency has only just decided to rig up camp beds and soup kitchens for those who really need them. They have gone to some pains to point out that the beds will only be available for genuinely stranded passengers, which I thought was somewhat unnecessary. I cannot imagine anyone with somewhere else to go being tempted to spend a night at the airport on a canvas bed with a bowl of soup for their dinner. Their timing was great – it came just a day before the UK authorities decided to revise downwards the set of safety criteria that was keeping the planes on the ground. So apparently it is now safe to fly, not because of a dramatic change in weather patterns but because those in charge appear to have decided their criteria were a little too strict. If I had spent the last few days on a hard seat, staring dully at an unchanging departures information screen I might just be tempted to break something round about now. And it would take a particularly unwise person to tell me that for some kids this had been the holiday of a lifetime.