Perspective: dealing with a very British crisis

THE British quite often have a unique way of reacting to big events, writes John Adams. The Icelandic volcanic ash saga is an excellent example. It started off in a dramatic but straightforward way. Volcano erupted in a far off cold land which most of hav

THE British quite often have a unique way of reacting to big events, writes John Adams. The Icelandic volcanic ash saga is an excellent example.

It started off in a dramatic but straightforward way. Volcano erupted in a far off cold land which most of have merely heard of and have only a vague idea exactly where it is.

Said volcano begins belching out clouds of bits of rock and stuff which can turn into glass if it gets into aircraft engines.

High velocity winds blow it all over us and our neighbours on the Continent. And the upshot is chaos as the people who run the air traffic control organisation for this country declare that it is unsafe for planes to take to the sky. Other countries follow suit.


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Oh well, it can't be too bad because we can't actually see anything in the air and anyway it will all blow over in a day or two.

So it was inconvenient for those who were about to travel but it was just one of those things, a phenomenon of Nature which no one could do anything about. On the other hands, those already abroad got an unexpected bonus of extra days on holiday. Hopefully, their employers were understanding about the situation and the airlines were meeting the costs of accommodation and food. So what was the problem?

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But the mini crisis became a major crisis as the days went by and the airlines continued to be banned from flying.

By day six the mood had turned with recriminations now filling the air. The airlines, which have suddenly lost a lot of money because of the enforced inactivity, began suggesting that all was not right.

Mutterings about the Met Office being responsible for causing the "unnecessary" shutdown of British airports became headline news.

And the people stranded abroad were quickly realising that their dream scenario could in fact cost them dear as the airlines stopped paying for their keep as the planes took to the skies again and they could be stuck where they are for another two weeks.

Attention became focussed on how to get some of those holidaymakers scattered across Europe home to Blighty.

No matter that there were nearly 60,000 spare spaces available on ferries and the Eurostar in the following three days. The Government reacted in true British, Dunkirk spirit by deciding to send in the warships.

Not with all guns blazing, of course. No, this would be a quiet excursion across the sea, spending up to �1m on despatching three Royal Navy ships to rescue British travellers. It was not clear whether these thankful folk would be expected to wade out to the ships and clamber on board.

If I were in that position, I think I would prefer to take my chances hitching a ride on one of the speedboats taken across the Channel by broadcaster Dan Snow. But then he only got one load of people before being told by the French to go away and not return.

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