Star date 16 May, Consultants log 1. At three pm this afternoon I was arriving at Manchester airport expecting to catch a 40 minute flight over to Belfast for a relaxing evening before visiting customers on Monday morning. Six hours later I’m sat on the desk of a Norforkline ferry with a seven hour crossing ahead of me. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against ferries, but this one is predominantly filled with drunken football fans, screaming kids, and high octane, beer swilling, diesel fragranced truck drivers, and there is not a spare chair to be had. Camping out on the floor is my only option. First class travel!
We’re half way through our road trip of the UK – we being Bill Mooney and myself. The first half of the trip started off just peachy. Some great customer visits and some lovely British scenery to drive through – and drive we have. We have covered hundreds of miles in the last three days, but it’s a small cloud of dust that threatened to halt our travels. Did this daunting fact stop Bill in his tracks? I think not!
The volcano in Iceland has again decided to spew out more dust into our ever so fragile atmosphere. The resulting cloud has grounded flights around the UK yet again. So, sat in a local bar, every bit of modern computing and communications equipment to hand, we set about attempting to find a resolve to our predicament. No cloud was going to stop us from visiting our customers!
Several calls, web searches and dead-ends later we hatched the plan. The trouble was so did everyone else. We were not alone in our quest to reach the emerald island. With all planes grounded, and both of us not remembering our swimming trunks, our only option seemed to be to sail. Our options were limited – we needed to reach a port within the next couple of hours to have any chance of securing a berth. And so began our “great adventure”.
The drive over to Liverpool was rather eventless. On arrival at the wrong port (freight only) we were guided to the passenger terminal, some ten miles away. On arrival Bill made a dash for the check-in desk. Knowing Bill as I do, I parked up and hot-footed it over just in time. “Ya, that’ll do fine” and heard Bill say as he was handing over his credit card. “What will?” I inquired. “It’s OK, they have room for us.” On further interrogation is transpired that “room” actually meant “any space you can find on the floor”. There were no cabins left, and the boat was completely full. “Full” actually means “more people than the facilities on the boat can handle”. But the customer always comes first, I thought to myself. Tickets booked, car loaded onto the ferry, and here I am, sat on the floor wondering what sleep I may actually get, knowing I have a two plus hour drive to Belfast ahead of me – at five the following morning. And the prospect of a shower a distant dream.
Then I started to notice a smartly dressed gentleman winking at me? Not sure of his intentions and cornered (did I forget to mention Bill had left me to watch over our bags while he assembled his tripod and camera and set off around the ship to “capture the moment”?) I was concerned, to say the least. Should I try to carry all the bags and run? “Hey son”, shouted the winking man. “We’ve got you a cabin!” It turns out the very nice gentlemen had a slight affliction in his right eye, but how was I to know that? The news was greeted with much joy, “And one for Bill?” I inquired. “You’ll be lucky, you’re sharing!” Now I’ve known Bill for many years, but sharing a small cabin on a rocking ferry has never been very high on my bucket list. But, needs must, and the customer always come first, I thought.
Very little sleep (due to a snoring Bill) was rudely interrupted by the crew banging on the cabin door at four am. “Breakfast is served”. Still, we had a cabin, and it had a shower! OK, let’s clarify – a gently dripping faucet and a shower curtain that gets blown about and actually wraps around you as you attempt to wash. Not the best start to an early morning. Breakfast was nice, or at least it looked nice. I’d no sooner sat down with my full English when the PA announced “would all car passengers please return to their cars immediately”.
We were soon off the boat, and heading up the motorway towards Belfast. Both customer visits were a great success, and to be honest well worth the effort. We were booked on the return ferry from Dublin to Liverpool on Monday evening. Did we make it……