by Shai Wosner April 27th, 2010


Eyjafjallajokull and me

Well, by now it’s old news. But although it started with a bang (literally), it must have taken sometime for most people to realize how much their life could be affected by the whims of Eyjafjallajokull, the world’s most notorious volcano for the past few days.

At first, I found myself blissfully ignoring the news about the impending travel catastrophe, since Eyjafjallajokull (or, in short, Kull) erupted April 14 and I didn’t have to leave for Europe until April 21. Then there was talk of shutting down airports, followed by national airspaces which quickly spread across most of the continent (Kull, not cool!), and that posted comment on the New York Times website, which linked to a documentary on YouTube about that horrific British Airways flight that almost crashed above Indonesia because of volcanic ash! (Now that’s a link you regret you opened).

But still, I thought, surely this can’t go on for much longer. Around April 18 the words “Plan B” started floating around in emails. By the next day, I was actively looking at various flight alternatives which after a few hours became a study of the more exotic means to reach the Old World.

First Class Travel?

First Class Travel?

Turns out, there are rather nice last-minute deals on cruiseliners. The only problem is they don’t necessarily leave when you need them to. And did you know that you can join cargo ships as a passenger? That piece of news exhilarated me for a moment until I found out it can take the cargo companies up to two weeks to process a reservation. Europe began to seem farther than ever.

But wait! Then certain airports in the south began to reopen. Clearly some people were able to get tickets for those flights Madrid and Barcelona, but I wasn’t one of them. Istanbul seemed the only option (hmm… why, a voyage on the Orient Express!) – at about $6000.

I was running out of ideas when all of a sudden it was announced that Heathrow Airport had been reopened, about 12 hours before my flight was supposed to depart. Of course, by now it was clear that this was not a very trustworthy volcano (the last eruption lasted for more than a year!)

But a quick check of the flight status just before leaving for the airport in the morning showed that the flight, indeed, was expected to leave on time. I checked in (still somewhat incredulous), and about 3 hours after take off started searching for suspicious clouds.

Nothing. Not even a bump. I expected to see tens of thousands of angry tourists everywhere but things were oddly uneventful. Was it all made up? What if Eyjafjallajokull doesn’t even exist? Well, clearly it wasn’t and Eyjafjallajokull does exist, even if his name can look like it was scribbled on a keyboard. He simply thought that six days were enough this time.

Shai Wosner appears with Britten Sinfonia and Gwilym Simcock, touring a new work by Simcock, a movement from Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps and Ravel Piano Trio.  Performances in Krakow, Cambridge, Norwich, Birmingham, London 25th April to 5th May.  More details at www.brittensinfonia.com