So, the Great Volcano Inconvenience 2010 is over. Perhaps not if you’re still one of those stranded in a foreign airport, or queuing at Calais or Santander, basically trapped on holiday, but for most people, the end of the world is no longer nigh. The volcano ash cloud from Iceland shut down British Airspace for six days, and the newspapers were filled with scaremongering and sensationalism for the whole time, presenting the disaster’s refugees as Dunkirk-spirited heroes. This was, as far as I know, a crisis, a disaster, a catastrophe without a death toll. The “vilecano”, as the imaginative, or desperate, Mirror called it, alongside an aerial shot that made it look a scary skull face (no, really), spewed out some of its guts into the air and rather than fly into it and plummet to the ground, airlines had to grit their teeth and stop flying.
Anyone who lives under or near a wretched flight path, as I do, will have enjoyed this fleeting glimpse of a post-oil world, where the only way to travel is by land or sea, and the skies were not crisscrossed with vapour trails, and the peace not disturbed by the incessant roar of jet engines. It was nice. I could hear the grass grow.
Of course, Willie Walsh and the other airline CEOs were itching to get their fleets back up in the air to make some money, because it’s what they do. I can’t help but feel smug about the fact that it wasn’t terrorism but a big erupting mountain near a glacier that scuppered their plans. Volcanoes and earthquakes are the earth’s revenge. (I’m sure if I’d had a wedding to attend or a job to get back to, or a cat in a cattery, or an injured relative due to fly back from a war to a military hospital in the UK, and the Great Inconvenience had inconvenienced me, I’d be less circumspect, and more self-interested. As it was, I didn’t, I was at home, and the living was easy.)
Now the blame game rages. It was, we hear, an overreaction. The Civil Aviation Authority were being paranoid about health and safety. Oh yeah? Well, when I’m flying, my main concerns are health and … hmmm, safety. That an a tiny can of Heineken in third place. If Walsh or O’Leary had had their money-grabbing way, planes would have been hurtling into the dust and glass at the weekend, engines sucking. Imagine if one had come down.
I don’t care why it happened, I’m just glad it did. They’re never going to shut the sky down for six days out of choice, just so we can get some kip. So I’m glad their hand was forced. The planes are back now, louder and more frequent than ever. Serves us right.