Druid Initiation? by Neil Pitchford

For the past five years now I have been the official TDN rep for the Interfaith Network UK.  Recently that has involved me attending several meetings a year in London which, when you consider I live in Glasgow, is no small undertaking. This usually involves me booking return flights from Glasgow to Heathrow and then travelling on to Central London via the London Underground. My day usually starts around 5am and I usually get back around mid-night.

On October 3rd this year (2109) I booked travel there for a particularly important meeting at which I would be confirmed as a Moderator for the Faith Communities Forum of IFN. Because the meeting started later in the day, I took the luxury of booking a later flight than I do normally do with “wriggle” room of an hour to allow for delays. This meant that my day should have been around a much more comfortable 14 hours or so.

Upon arrival at Glasgow airport, I was met with the info that stated my morning flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Half my allotted wriggle room gone already. Fortunately the flight wasn’t further delayed and the pilot actually made up a few minutes so that meant I was sat on the underground train about 12.45pm. My destination was Kings Cross, which from Heathrow, the underground train journey to Kings Cross is actually as long as the flight from Glasgow to Heathrow.

The venue I was attending was no more than five minutes from Kings Cross so I should be OK. Or so I thought. A relatively pleasant journey was made until we got to Russell Square, the station immediately before Kings Cross when approaching from the West. People got up to leave at Russell Square but as the train approached it didn’t stop but drove through. Not really thinking too much about it, I stood up ready for arrival at Kings Cross.

We got to Kings Cross but the train, instead of stopping actually drove through at speed. Confused looks all round. It approached the next station, Caledonian Road, and stopped so a bunch of us got off and seeing a west bound train at the other platform, legged it to the train thinking we could disembark at Kings Cross. I had then taken the precaution of texting a collegue of mine who was already at the meeting, that I would probably be late for the meeting.

As the train started off, the info board came up with the message the next station (Kings Cross) was closed and that it would stop at Russell Square but only west bound trains were being allowed to. So I got off at Russell Square. No people,no lifts or elevators working, place in lock down, only people around were us that had just disembarked. Only way out, up the emergency stairs, six floors of twisty close steps.

Now, I’m not as fit as I once was and having people in a semi-panic pushing you up confined stairs is something I hadn’t experienced before. Exit one slightly gasping Druid into a station with only the exit doors open. No one being allowed in. I also had another problem now. The directions for the place the meeting was being held at only showed them from Kings Cross. I was nowhere near Kings Cross.

Thankfully, London has plenty of street maps located in public places and I figured out where to go to get to my destination. About a 25 minute walk. So off I set and arrived at the meeting roughly 45 minutes after its scheduled start. The meeting stopped when I set foot in there and recorded their thanks for me getting there. Speaking later to some of the other people attending the meeting who had been at Kings Cross immediately prior to my scheduled arrival, what was thought to have been four gunshots had been heard and the place, and obviously, the station and surrounding ones went in to terrorist lockdown.

So I had got there and the meeting went ahead. Various things were discussed including the appointment of new IFN officials (myself being one of the appointments). At the end of the meeting, I had a leisurely walk back to the, now, reopened Kings Cross with my collegue. My plan for these days is to get back to Heathrow for around 7pm as that gives me a couple of hours to go eat and relax before the flight back to Glasgow which is normally is scheduled to leave about 9.40pm.

As I arrived, flight delayed for another half an hour. Not exactly a surprise as the volume of flights now-a-days doesn’t leave much in the way of spare capacity. Ah well, more time for a bit more reading of the book I had taken with me.

I went to the allocated gate at the prescribed time. No-one boarding. More delays. By the time I was sat on the plane and it was on the runway ready for take off, we were approximately an hour late.

So the plane took off. I remember thinking “Engines on this plane are louder than the other one” but this plane was an earlier model to the one I had flown down in so I just put it down to that. Now, I have never flown much at all (in fact, the flying I am now doing for my IFN duties is the most I have ever done) but when, eight minutes into the flight, the captain said over the intercom “Senior cabin crew to the cockpit, urgent” I looked up from my reading material.

Two minutes later the captain addressed the passengers –  “Ladies & Gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. Your First Officer and I have experienced funes within the cockpit when we were powering the engines as we left Heathrow. This plane is equipped with emergency oxygen tanks, one for the cockpit and one for the main section of the plane. The cockpit one has deployed, further confirming the presence of what we think is engine oil type fumes. Consequently we are now turning back to Heathrow. BA managers are presently engaging in deciding what will happen upon arrival”

A few “Oh no” statements but everyone else agreeing with the course of action. The gentleman in front of me was informing his collegues that, coming from North America, he must have flown millions of miles and this had never happened to him before.

So we landed at Heathrow about 11.35pm to be met by BA officials, the police (because this was an “incident” and therefore had to interview the pilot) and some buses that took us back to the Heathrow departure terminal. BA mangers were on hand and we were informed that accomodation had been booked for us at an hotel in the Heathrow campus for the night and alternative flights back had been arranged for the following day.

So, after collecting our vouchers needed for our unplanned stay from the BA staff, we all got back on the buses and were transported to a very pleasant Holiday Inn on the Heathrow campus. By the time I had got to my allocated room, it was 1.45am. Needless to say, after phoning family (who I had been keeping up to date with the happenings) I didn’t exactly need any rocking to fall off to sleep.

Next morning and breakfast (which had also been paid for by BA) was pleasant before a shuttle bus back to terminal 5 and another flight back. This time the flight was ontime and smooth and mother nature gave some wonderful cloud formations beneath us. It was one of those type of views that is seen in films as a “morning after the storm” type of image, absolutely breathtaking.

I eventually arrived back home at 2pm in the afternoon. We see a lot of stuff in the news and online about poorly performing travel companies but I have to give a big shoutout to British Airways here. They were absolutely bang on with their decision to turn the flight around and they performed admirally well in dealing the subsequent problems surrounding this aborted flight.

So two major incidents on the way to and from this meeting, which left me wondering, was this appointment subject to an initiation right?  You can decide.