Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Big Fuss Over Nothing: England 2010 Part 1

We generally get to visit England about once every eighteen months, and about once every three years we get to visit over Christmas. A slight logistical problem where my Wife works meant that we had to visit over New Year instead of Christmas itself.

There were two main concerns we had before and during our trip this time: Flight security and the weather. The failed attempt to bring down an airliner on Christmas day resulted in changes to security procedures. It looked like flights coming into the US were where most changes were taking place, so before we left, we were keeping an eye on the latest news. Flights were being delayed, and the carry-on baggage allowance for planes into the US was reduced, both in maximum size and in number of items. Since the Christmas Day incident involved someone spending a long time in the bathroom, then attempting to explode chemicals in their lap, there were also stories about passengers being forced to stay in their seats with nothing in their laps for the final hour of flights. That particularly concerned us, since we were flying with a five-year-old. We also heard that the in-flight entertainment might be disabled, so no-one would know when we were actually over US airspace.

We hoped that these measures would be relaxed during the two weeks we were in England, and that was, thankfully, the case. My Father got worried, however, when he saw a news story about a student at Newark airport who went past the security point to kiss his girlfriend, which led to a huge incident. I think my Father thought that I might be arrested for kissing my Wife! In fact, the security seemed to be pretty much the same as we had experienced in the past, and neither of our flights were delayed.

Generally speaking, the weather in New Jersey is more extreme than in England. We have colder winters, with more snow, and the summers are hotter and more humid. We left New Jersey with snow on the ground, and by the time we returned, the snow had gone. England, however, was experiencing record cold weather, and lots of snow! While by New Jersey standards it wasn't that bad, England is not used to much in the way of snow and ice, and therefore does not invest in the equipment and measures that other places do. Therefore, the entire country grinds to a halt if there are more than a few flakes of snow on the ground. During our trip, the news was full of weather-related stories, such as the sharing and rationing of the grit used to keep the roads free of ice, and worries that important exams might have to be canceled because of school closures.

The poor weather did mean that the bulk of our vacation was spent at my parents' house, and not getting out and about doing the fun things we usually get up to. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing. We were forced to take a much-needed break doing pretty much nothing. The weather improved towards the end of our visit, which allowed us to take a planned side-trip to Wales (more about that in a future entry), and meant that our journey home was problem-free.

It's great to be back writing for my blog again. I'd love to hear from you, so please do make a comment. Did you travel over the holidays? How did things go for you?


Traci said...

Great to have your blog back Graham, we've missed you!

As you know, my husband is over in the UK at the moment and he was delayed in London for two days last week before finally being able to drive to his native Wales on Thursday.

I know all my UK friends get excited at the thought of snow ... then it's a novelty for two days until the realisation that the whole country has ground to a hlat sinks in. Now they dread the mention of a snowflake in the forecast! I remember when it snowed there in January 2003. My usual 30-minute journey home from work turned into a 4-hour nightmare, and many people simply abandoned their cars in the road and walked the rest of the way.

Thank goodness we don't seem to have that problem here in Colorado - we'd never get anything done for half the year!

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed your trip.

Welcome back to New Jersey :)

Leora said...

Good to have you blogging, Graham!

We travel up to the Berkshires for skiing next week. The ideal is cold enough for them to make snow, but not desperately cold... (it is often much colder there than in New Jersey or in England... and someday my husband will get his wish to travel to a warmer place for winter vacation).

organicsyes said...

Ah, yes, the weather. We can never really get away from it, can we?

Good to know that you and your family are safe...and had some time relaxing together!