Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website,

Saturday 12 January 2013

A Tale of Several Cities (I)

Christmas this year provided at least two miracles. The first one was catching the flight home. Having got into San Juan in about an hour, it took almost another 2 (in gridlocked traffic) to reach the airport (a distance of only about 10 miles). Then when I arrived in the airport, I found a sight I've only had the misfortune to witness once before - a total lack of anyone at the check-in desk. This was because it had closed.

This was, naturally, hugely frustrating, but not panic-inducing. Obviously, having gone through this once before helps. Also, and ironically, the previous Christmas disasters have built up a mental drive akin to that which makes salmon swim thousands of miles and leap impossibly high waterfalls to experience one almighty orgy before they drop dead from exhaustion. I was damn well going to get home for Christmas, a truth as sure as death and taxes.

Thankfully, being eaten by a bear was never much of a risk.

Although I wasn't planning on literally swimming (or even partaking in an orgy), which I guess makes me way less awesome than the fish, my determination to bloody well get home was enough that I didn't care how I did it - whether than meant waiting a day for the next flight or finding an alternative that evening, even if I had to shout at every airline operating in the airport.

Fortunately, it didn't come to this. The desk had only just closed. The nice people at American Airlines (the next desk, which was thankfully very quiet) were able to go and retrieve one of the British Airways staff, who, like some sort of magical wizard or perhaps the Ghost of Christmas Present, was able to make everything better. For a few minutes I face the prospect that I'd have to go tomorrow, then suddenly I found that I was able to get on the flight after all, even though the gate had closed 10 minutes before.

I learned later that the flight had been delayed slightly, which was probably how I was able to get on. Ah, but why was it delayed ?  Engine trouble ? GPS not working ? I think not. I place this one firmly into the Christmas Miracle category, it being the only truly logical and rational explanation. And then it started snowing in San Juan and everyone started singing in a street musical.

Wait... that's not San Juan at all !

Christmas Miracle 2 was even better. In the whole 3 weeks I spent in Cardiff, I never even saw a hospital, and after the previous 3 Christmases, that's probably the equivalent of our heroic salmon having survived his unlikely struggle in order to do the whole thing again next year. Hmm. Bad analogy. But it'll have to do.

Having survived the exotic city of Cardiff - and I describe it thus without irony, because exotic is a relative state - I embarked on an ambitious plan to attend the winter AAS meeting in Long Beach, California. This is ambitious for me since, due to previous Christmas disasters, I've never managed to attend one. Just to make things even more unachievable, I tacked on a day trip to New York in there as well, ostensibly so as to avoid a 16 hour flight but mostly because I've always wanted to visit New York. I shall describe my adventures in the Windy Apple That Never Sleeps, or whatever it's called, in the next post.

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