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Thursday, December 31, 2009

How I got to Boston

My son Mike had to be back at work at Google in San Francisco on the 30th. I had planned to get to Boston for Amanda’s New Year’s Eve concert on the 31st, and I had wanted a day in Boston to recover. We were both on 7.00 am flights from the highlands of Scotland – his flight to take him to Gatwick, where he would bus to Heathrow and take a San Francisco plane, mine to take me to Manchester, where I would fly to Amsterdam, and from there to Boston.

So I napped for a couple of hours and we left the house at 3:00 am. I drove for three hours, got us to the airport for 6:00am. Was sort of proud of myself. We checked in. We were on our way through the security line when a voice said “Due to snow, the airport is now closed. Nothing will be landing or taking off until 8:30.”

We ate breakfast. They called me to the ticket desk and changed my flight from Manchester to Gatwick, with the same get-to-Heathrow plan that Mike had, which I didn’t mind. At least we’re together, I thought. Then I noticed they’d made a complete mess of the actual reticketing, went back and pointed it out to the lady who’d done it. “Oh,” she said. “I didn’t notice. Not to worry. I’ll make a phone call and tell them what it ought to be.”

My heart sank a little at this. (If it is not actually written in the system you can find yourself screwed as people squint at their screens at what’s written there, and the statement that “a lady said she’d make a phone call” can be met with indifference.) But Lorraine, my assistant, was still awake, and had just emailed me to see if there was anything she could do. And the tickets had been booked through a travel agent with a 24 hour helpline, so I asked Lorraine if she wouldn’t mind making sure that everything was okay.

Since the last time I was in that airport they’d moved and hidden all the plug sockets, but I found one anyway at an office desk and charged my computer. At 8:30 the Tannoy voice said they’d tell us what was happening at 9:30 and at 9:30 they said they’d tell us at 10:30, and I do not know what they told us at 10:30 because I went to sleep in my chair, and slept until midday, when the Tannoy voice told us that we were boarding. From the Twitter stream, it looked like Lorraine was still awake and locked in a hellish battle with the airlines.

“We will still make it,” I told Mike. “It’ll be a close thing, but we will make it.”

I tromped across the quarter of an inch of snow that had fallen, puzzling over how this could shut down an airport, knowing the kind of snow it takes to shut down Minneapolis-St Paul airport. But then, in MSP they expect snow.

We boarded the plane, found our seats. The pilot announced that the de-icing rigs weren’t working and I went back to sleep. My hopes had shrunk from getting to Boston today to just getting out of the airport. I woke up. We were still there.

I walked back into the plane, told Mike that we wouldn’t be getting out of the UK today. “Yeah,” he said. “But we’re together”. And I thought, He’s right. This would be awful on our own. Together it was just some kind of interesting adventure.

We took off at 2:15pm. We landed in Gatwick at 3.45pm

Lorraine called just after we landed, before we were even off the plane. “You’re on the 7:15pm flight from Heathrow,” she said, and did a rapid briefing on what it had taken to get my ticket and its value back from FlyBe and over to British Airways. She’d been up all night and worked miracles. She was ready for bed.

While we waited for our luggage, Mike talked on the phone to United, and got off very glum. “They’ll rebook me, but they’re charging $1900 to do it,” he said. He’d also used his airmiles to do it in business class, and was losing that.

Luggage arrived. Lorraine called to make sure our luggage had arrived. She sounded beyond exhausted. “Can you check Mike’s ticket?” I asked. “They want another $1900 to get him home.” She took the booking number, called back twenty minutes later having got the change fee down to $300 and having got him back into business class. An amazing lady, my assistant.

We took a taxi in the rain from Gatwick to Heathrow, I checked in without problems, hugged Mike a lot. The plane was late taking off due to the new pat-down and bag-examine rules. I was patted down (the pat-down wouldn’t have found any explosives I’d hidden in my inner thigh, where the idiot on the Amsterdam-Detroit flight hid his, because the man was too polite to check there) and my backpack was opened and looked into (it has many compartments that weren’t opened or checked, and the man would have missed a syringe if I had had one, like the aforementioned idiot had). I wondered for whose benefit the pat-down and baggage rummage was, and decided it was to make everyone feel safer without actually being inconvenienced in the way you’d have to be if you wanted to make sure no-one actually brought something dangerous onto the plane.

I landed in Boston 28 hours after I left the house. Took a taxi to Amanda's apartment. I'd taken a hotel room nearby, as I knew she was going to be practising Tchaikovsky for the New Year's Eve gig until late, but was I asleep in her bed in minutes and the 1812 Overture with real cannon fire would not have woken me.

Yesterday was spent in the hotel, writing introductions and things. I went out for lunch with Chris Golden and Steve Bissette. Went back to the hotel. Wrote. Went with Amanda to watch her getting her hair done. Back to hotel.

What I am going to do today: write, (blog in bed which I am doing now), wear a tuxedo, do a brief reading at Amanda's show tonight, play an instrument. I am not looking forward to the latter bit.

...

Lots of interesting stuff creeping out at the end of the year. I'm probably proudest of this:




The theme of National Library Week is "Communities thrive at your library". Lots of details and a poster at http://www.ala.org/nlw.

AMERICAN GODS was named one of the ten best books of the decade by Time Magazine. This makes me happy -- American Gods tends to be a bit of a marmite book for people: they either love it or hate it. And the ones who hate it tend to be so vocal that I often forget how much the people who love it love it.

The Coraline film is turning up on Best of 2009 lists all over the world. But this one is particularly heartwarming.

My story I, Cthulhu is up on the Tor website. What's that you say? It's up at Neilgaiman.com? Well, yes, it is. But Tor have a wonderful illustration by Brian Elig (and some of his roughs up at Irene Gallo's blog).

Right. Time to stop blogging in bed and go and grab some breakfast.

Expect one more post, in a few hours, with a wish for 2010 in it...

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