Signorina in Sheffield #10 – Of nature’s burps and Air France


You would think that after all these years of evolution it would take a little more than a volcano’s burp to make the world panicking.

I mean, we were given rocks and leaves and we end up building laptops. That’s way over Mac Gyver.

But still, with all the computers, the skyscrapers, the carbonated mineral water that we have, a volcano belches some ashes and suddenly we all go ballistic.

The daughter of one of my professors got stuck in Saint Petersburg.

She had to spend a £90 top up before finding a bus that would take her to a boat that would take her to a train that would take her to Paris where she had to wait three days anyway before being able to cross the channel.

As you all probably know, John Cleese took a taxi from Oslo to Brussels in order to get a Eurostar to England.

The bill was £3300, which I am pretty sure was the highest one ever paid for a cab.

Is Oslo really that ugly? I mean it with no offence – as I am one of the most devout fans of all times – but being a Monty Python guy does not seem the kind of job that if you stay away from England for 6 days something dreadful is going to happen to the Country.

A friend of mine from Italy who was working for the Olympic Games in Vancouver is still there.

The Company told him he might be repatriated around the first day of May.

Then there is that English family I saw on TV: grandpa, grandma, father, mother and three kids: all in China for the family trip of a lifetime.

They were told that in order to reschedule they would have to pay another full price ticket each, £2000 each. You do the math.

They did not have enough money. Last time I saw them interviewed they were still at the Beijing airport, their visa expiring in 24 hours.

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to find myself in China without a visa.

I’ll probably keep wondering the rest of my life if (and how many) family members eventually made it back home.

But the most outrageous volcano story of all, and I could stick my life on it, happened to a friend of mine who lives in Sheffield.

She is Italian, from Florence, and she had to go back for her Graduation Ceremony.

Now, what we mean with “Graduation Ceremony” is nothing like a party.

In Italy in order to graduate first you take all the exams, then you write a “thesis”, which is like a final essay but that must be around 60000 words, with some proper research and months and months of work and discussion with the professors.

After the deadline, around 12 professors from the faculty are given 2 months to read it and when they are done they call you on a certain date to “discuss” your work in public.

If you don’t show up you don’t graduate. There is no rescheduling, no second chance.

You just have to be there, and be prepared with arguments not to have your research destroyed by boring academics; otherwise you don’t get your degree.

It is the most important date of your whole life as a student. When we first heard of the cloud it was a Thursday, and she was leaving on a Saturday.

She got immediately worried and wanted to get a bus ticket, so I told her: “Are you crazy? It is Thursday and you leave on a Saturday, there is no way airplanes will be stuck then”. Luckily people very rarely listen to me.

So she took a bus on Saturday afternoon and went to London.

She stayed 6 hours at the station and then took another bus to Paris.

She spent the night again at the station in Paris and then took a third bus.

In 22 hours she had crossed the country and was in Milan, from where she took a train and in just over three hours was in Florence, ready to sleep 6 hours and then wake up to go and do the presentation of her thesis.

Basically she left on a Saturday morning and arrived on a Wednesday evening.

On the plus side, on the bus to Milan she met this cool Colombian director who was going to Turin (my city) to attend the Gay Film Festival, which is the most important in Europe.

He had a first class ticket and she had a Ryanair last-minute, but volcanos bring together all kind of travellers.

As for me, I was supposed to go to Greece for a meeting with people from all over Europe to discuss some boring hipster stuff we pretend to be important.

Due to the world collapsing (my boss from Turin, who is usually a quite good tv producer, called me just to announce to me that this is the first sign that the world will end in 2012) we decided to call it off even if the airport finally reopened the following weeks.

My friends and colleagues called their companies and reschedule.

I so far spent £20 just to TRY to talk with some Airfrance guy.

I wouldn’t be that pissed off if it was just the complete arrogance, lack of any decency, improper way to treat clients, the fact that I will never ever see a pound back.

What I really can’t stand is that in their hold-the-line message they had Sigur Ros. sigur Ros. I used to think that not being able to travel by airplane but only by older means of transportation – trains, buses, boats – carried with it something romantic, like feeling again the sense of the distance, watching the landscape changing, taking time to observe the world around you. After holding the line on Sigur Ros for two hours, I started to hope this is really just a sign that the world is going to end in 2012.

By Marta Musso

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