We were due to fly back from South Africa in time for Sandie’s 65th birthday celebration on Saturday 13th April. But there were problems on the way….
The long journey home
We arrived at Cape Town airport about 5 pm on Tuesday 9th April. We were in time for the BA evening flight, but did not count on being able to board. We had standby tickets (Claire’s staff travel) which worked fine on the way out, but we knew that the planes going back were much busier. (We discovered that this was because BA changes at the end of March from two flights to one per day.)
So we missed the flight, but not to worry – we had a back-up plan! This was to fly Emirates via Dubai. So after spending the night in the airport hotel, we returned on Wednesday in the hope of boarding the 1.25 pm or the 6.10 pm Emirates flight. But we had no luck with either, nor the 8.05 BA one. So it was back to the airport hotel for a second night.
We repeated the procedure on Thursday, but still no luck, and we were getting sick of Cape Town airport! Between the temporary excitement of turning up for a flight and being turned away again, we did some research into alternatives, using the Internet and also talking to airline staff at the various sales desks. The story was consistent – no available flights to London, or anywhere else in Europe, for at least a week.
We began to despair of getting home in time for the birthday celebrations at the weekend. But finally we found an option which (rather to our surprise) actually worked. It was a long and expensive journey, but it did get us back. It meant leaving at 9 am Friday, but unfortunately the airport hotel was full on Thursday night. We therefore had to go into the city, which meant a taxi both ways, and the ‘guesthouse’ we booked turned out to be nothing of the kind – we were taken to an apartment nearby, which was spacious and really quite nice, but in a far from ideal location, where we felt rather isolated.
Fortunately our taxi driver returned next morning to collect us. From Cape Town we flew to Johannesburg, and then to Nairobi, where we had a five-hour wait before finally boarding a plane to London. We landed at Heathrow at 7am on Saturday 13th, nearly 24 hours after leaving Cape Town. Claire and the boys were there to meet us – it was lovely to see them all again!
When we unpacked we discovered that one of our bottles of South African wine had broken in transit, so we had a lot of wine-stained clothes to add to the heap of dirty washing we handed over the Claire! We repacked, checked in at the Travelodge and managed to grab a couple of hours sleep before an appointment at the hairdresser’s.
In the evening we went to the Old Queen’s Head in Penn to celebrate Sandie’s 65th birthday. We were joined by Claire, Andrew, Ellie and five friends, and had a very pleasant evening. The time whizzed by; after drinks and a very nice leisurely dinner, we were amazed to discover it was 11.30pm!
Paul was unable to come down from Manchester for the dinner as he had a migraine, but the next day (Sandie’s actual birthday) he was feeling better and caught an early morning train to Wycombe. Andrew and Ellie came over again with Hope and Isobel, and Claire prepared a buffet lunch for the family. She had decorated the house with balloons and banners reading ‘Birthday Girl’ (Sandie) and ‘Birthday Boy’ (Charlie, who turned four three days later).
The weather was unbelievably good, so after lunch we had an expedition to the local park. Then it was back home for jelly, cake and presents. Later we went with Paul, Claire and the boys to a local pub for dinner. Later still, Claire’s neighbour Debbie came over with a prototype of the birthday cake she was making for Charlie. We sampled the cake, accompanied by sparkling wine. All in all, a great birthday weekend!
Charlie’s birthday was on Wednesday 17th. Claire’s present to him was a trampoline, and on Tuesday Ian helped her assemble it. It involved considerable effort; the most difficult part was stretching the base to fit 40 springs into the surround. Charlie was amazed when he found it in the garden on his birthday morning. We didn’t see too much of him that day, though, as it was his first day back at nursery school, and after that he had a birthday tea with his father.
Saturday 20th was his big party day. On Friday evening we helped Claire to put up banners and balloons all through the house and in the garden. On Saturday morning there was a party at the local bowling alley for Charlie and seven of his friends. Afterwards they came back to the house for more food, drink and games. Luckily the weather was perfect, so the children were able to play outside on the trampoline. Charlie and some of the other children wore pirate costumes. People came and went all through the afternoon. By the time all the guests had gone, we were exhausted!