Monday, 19 April 2010

Story finally takes off

THE Media was dreadfully slow to wake up to the implications and opportunities in the story about the volcanic ash grounding all flights in or out of the UK.
The BBC in particular kept telling the same story illustrated by the same graphics: Volcano erupts, plume of ash might get in engines, flights grounded, airports quiet. For several days, Heathrow and Manchester airports hosted reporters giving an exercise in déjà vu.
The first real human interest angle I heard was actually on good old Radio Cumbria which featured a lady from Barrow who had her trip to Penang and on to her daughter in Australia cancelled. What was really interesting was the knock on impact on the lives of all the people she knew.
If there were 150,000 Britons trapped abroad, there would be that many fascinating stories to tell on how people were coping.
By later on Saturday it was the plight of celebrities that was obsessing the national media.
First there was former Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star John Cleese who took a £3,000 taxi ride from Oslo in Norway to the Belgian capital Brussels after becoming stranded.
The 943-mile journey is due to take him more than 15 hours. He is being driven by a total of three taxi drivers who are taking turns at the wheel.
But Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker wasn't far behind. He made sure he was available for Saturday night's programme by making a marathon trip across Europe.
Lineker was holidaying in Tenerife when the flight ban took effect. So he booked a flight to Madrid, hired a car at the airport and drove through the night to Paris where he caught the Eurostar to London.
Clare Balding drove back from Switzerland to present the fourth-round rugby league Challenge Cup tie between Hull and Leeds. And Jonathan Pierce drove from northern France to commentate on football this afternoon.
Singer Whitney Houston, who was due to perform in Dublin as part of her Nothing But Love world tour, was forced to take to the Irish Sea on a less-than-glamorous car ferry.
The 46-year-old star opted for the boat after the flight ban threatened to cause another cancellation on her tour, which has already suffered several cancelled dates due to her respiratory infection earlier this month.
By the time I had bought my Sunday papers, they were full of journeys of daring-so by staff trapped abroad (which says something about the lifestyle of these national media types).
One Independent on Sunday writer wrote glowingly about his adventure getting from near Rome back home, the travel editor of course was stranded in the Algarve, and Janet Street-Porter, God Bless Her, filed her copy from Italy, saying: You’re Stranded – Get Over It. She would say that, wouldn’t she.
But if you want real Dunkirk spirit, TV presenter Dan Snow had been planning on ferrying people back to Dover throughout Sunday. Each round trip was expected to take two hours. He filled three rigid inflatable boats with 25 people but was told by officials in Calais that he would not be able to return. A spokesperson for the group said they did not know the reason why.
It’s a good job there were no health and safety inspectors around in 1940.

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