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.


9 thoughts on “Vilecano

  1. It doesn’t serve us right. People noticed that quiet, and they noticed it rather loudly. What ifs were mooted. What ifs were planted in people’s minds.

    Sign up with those people:

    What if just one day a week could be clawed back for peace and quiet? For peace of mind?


  2. I notice Andrew a moan about the noise of planes over your house. Correct me if I’m wrong. You moved chose to live under the flight path.

  3. An interesting argument, Graham. So does this mean that I have to live with the fact that there are more and more flights, and they fly later and later, thus, more noise every year? Also, it’s very difficult to avoid flight paths in London, as the planes fly in to two major airports and circle right across the city. It’s nice to know that you’re sympathetic.

    • I live in Aberdeen and i’m under flight path for Dyce airport. We don’t have the air traffic that you get.

  4. That “global dimming” documentary that BBC Four used to love so much highlighted evidence that when the planes stopped flying for a few days after September 11th, temperatures rose significantly. The theory had it that pollution has been masking global warming, so that as we’ve cleaned the air in the past few decades its effects have accelerated. Something like that anyway.

    Maybe you should move somewhere nice and just fly to London.

  5. I don’t know if this has bothered anyone else but in a week where there were reports of the terrible conditions still being suffered by people in Haiti 100 days after the quake, wasn’t there something sick about Walsh et al. repeatedly calling the volcano a ‘natural disaster’?

  6. I was one of those people stranded, in that hellhole that is the Algarve in fact. So I had to endure four more days of watching Bee-eaters from my balcony and eating oranges that are much tastier than you can get in British supermarkets. I will admit, however, to being rather taken with the idea of being rescued from this torment by the Navy but it seemed like an awful lot of effort to drag myself up to the other end of Iberia for the privilege.

    But if that all sounds a bit cushy then I’d like to point out that I had to queue really quite a lot at the airport to get my tickets sorted out. And it did seem a bit like nobody, least of all the airlines or the government, really knew what to do. But there you go. I’m home now and a I get to work in an office in Aberdeen rather than a nice apartment in Tavira. And it was pleasant not having the airplanes coming and going out of Faro for a few days and just being able to enjoy the birds and the waves…

  7. Overeaction or not expect to see one almighty tear up between the airlines and the governement for the lost of revenue and the millions paid out to house and feed those stranded.

    It seems now is not the best time ot have shares in BA.

  8. Noise pollution should be recognised as the torture it is. There ought somehow to be a noise tax, and the sound equivalent of speed cameras, and I wouldn’t complain if the death penalty was introduced for noisy neighbours. I loved this, when James May fell for a silent electric bike.

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