I’d taken a month’s leave in order to take Son No.1 along the backpacker trail of Indonesia, and this was to be our first major travel together. We’d already spent many weekends and weeks exploring France, but they were close to home and my French was a lot more than adequate. I’d only been in Indonesia eight months, knew very little Indonesian and what we experienced would be the first time for both of us.
Shortly before I left the UK, I’d taken Sam to London’s Heathrow Airport to prep him for what was to be his first flight, and because he was 11 he’d travel as an unaccompanied minor so needed to know something of the procedures. We explored the airport, chatted with some staff and spent some time on the viewing gallery. I wonder if he can recall watching Concorde take off with a beautiful grace which was not impeded by the accompanying loud roar.
He flew to Jakarta with British Airways yet he, and I, felt that he was not treated too kindly. Firstly, he would have liked a window seat, but for someone his age this was “against the rules”. I waited at Soekarno-Hatta airport for him to appear and figured that he’d speed through immigration because he’d already got his 60-day tourist visa in London.
I waited and waited … where the hell was he?
Someone else was waiting, the then BBC correspondent in Jakarta who was looking forward to spending some time with her boyfriend. She was angry because their planned short time together would be even shorter. I was panicking. Together she and I went in search of BA’s office where we demanded news of our loved ones and to angrily remonstrate about BA’s appalling lack of communication.*
It turned out that two passengers had been bumped off the Singapore-Jakarta leg, and we’d ‘won’ the lottery. They were put up in a hotel overnight and were collected the following morning. I was glad that the flights I’d booked for Bali were for a couple of days later or we’d have been doubly screwed!
When I returned to work several weeks later, I discovered that BA had in fact sent a message by phone to my workplace. Telecommunications were appalling to non-existent back then, and it was to be at least a dozen years before cell phones became mandatory for the chattering classes. BA’s message was routed through the reception desk, and was written down and had been left on a colleague’s desk, Colin’s, and not mine – Collins.
And he hadn’t thought to pass it on!