If you had been at Heathrows terminal one international arrivals, on Sunday, you may have observed a slightly scruffy, dishevelled, middle aged man waiting anxiously by the barrier. He had already had a difficult and scary Saturday letting his over active imagination fear the worse, and if he was honest with himself there was a little bit of him that was convinced that the Weasel, the Wiz, his brave and lovely daughter, would not be on that flight from Addis. If you had been there at 1.05pm you would have seen his face light up as he spotted her strolling through the barrier. If you had looked really closely you might have seen him wipe away a tear before he gave her a hug.
Rewind 28 hours. Early Saturday morning, Birdwatcher Towers. My mobile sings to me. I have a text. It is the Wiz. "Hi Dad, I am in Gonder airport, have checked in. Will try and text you from Addis. See you soon x"
That was good news. I got up and gave Lilly our Border Collie a run out. Mrs BW decided to go down into Buxton and get some bedding for the Wiz. We had changed her room about a bit, so that she now had a double bed, and it had been given a thorough clean. It looked lovely, and Mrs BW was rightly proud of all her efforts.
Her flight was due to land in Addis at 9.50am UK time. She then had a long wait for her flight to London via Amman, but despite my offer to find a hotel,she said that she would prefer to remain in Bole airport. No text. Well I sort of guessed that there wouldn't be. The signal in Bole airport is apparently pretty bad. At 10.15am, I decided to just call her and see if there was a signal. If not I would conclude that she could not get a signal and get on with my day. I dialled the her number and waited, there was a hissing noise and then a dial tone. Great I had managed to get through. I waited to hear her voice. It was I confess a bit of a shock when an man with an African accent answered it. There was the sound of voices and shouting. I tried to talk to him, I even think I asked if the Wiz was there, but he rang off. I redialed and the phone rang briefly only to be cut off. I tried again and this time it went straight through to answer phone.
For a few moments I confess I did not know what to do. I checked the number that I had dialed and it was the right one. I double checked, no doubt about it. Clearly something was wrong. I felt sick. I was starting to panic. I needed to do something. I searched the web for numbers for Bole International airport. I was convinced that she had had her phone nicked , I just hoped that it was nothing worse. I tried the numbers but the lines to Ethiopia were either "busy" or no one was picking up. After half an hour I gave up. What now? Supposing she had been hurt? Supposing she had been abducted. A small piece of me tried to remain rational but it was swamped by the much bigger and better practised irrational bit.
Mrs BW came home. I told her what had happened. Now we were both worried.
I decided to phone the Embassy in Addis. They were closed but there was an emergency number. I didn't expect to get through and if I did I expected them to be dismissive. I got through first time and they were brilliant. First some reassurance. Its actually a safe place, some low level crime, pick pocketing etc, but rarely anything worse. They gave me some more numbers to try, and told me to ring back in an hour if I had no luck. I didn't and Phoebe the duty officer said that she would try and contact the airport. Half an hour later she phoned me back and said that she had asked the airport to put a call out asking the Wiz to contact the information desk. Hopefully she said they would let her call the Embassy from the airport. She suggested we gave it three hours. Three hours. Somehow I managed to get through them. Every time my phone hummed I grabbed it hoping that it was good news, only to feel the crushing disappointment when it was not the Wiz or the Embassy.
I will cut a long story short. At five we agreed that there was no point in trying to contact her. It was probable Phoebe said that she was sitting outside in the cafe between the Domestic and International terminals so would not hear any call. The best bet was to wait until check in at 10.30pm. Phoebe said she would arrange for BMI to contact the Embassy as soon as she checked in. As soon as she checked in, not if.
I tried to distract myself. I took Lilly for a walk, tried listening to the radio, tried reading, tried sleeping, but it was hopeless. At 10.00pm I got a text. Susi from the Embassy to say that BMI had all her details and would be on the case as soon as the check in opened at 10.30pm. 10.30pm came and went. At 10.40pm I had a text. I grabbed the phone. It was the Munch wanting to know if we had heard anything. I went upstairs and lay on the bed. I was fearing the worse. If she didn't check in what then? My phone rang. It was the Embassy. She was fine, first in the queue to check in. Slightly surprised to be talking to the British Embassy, and she had her phone with her all the time, she had tried to text but could not get a signal. So she had waited in the cafe, soaking up a little of the sun between rain showers and finishing off her book.
Sunday 12.50pm Heathrow. Her plan landed an hour ago, and no sign of her yet. But it takes a long time to clear the luggage from flights from Addis apparently. I get a text. Its from the Wiz. " Hi Dad landed at Addis, am just having a tea in the cafe and about to order some lunch.See you soon x" I felt a slight feeling of anxiety. I dialled her phone and it rang and the dial tone was the normal British one. So the text was the one she thought she might have sent yesterday. A minute later another text, "Waiting for my luggage x"
And then there she was. Smiling, looking lovely, with a stack of stories and tales to tell.
We sat in arrivals for a coffee and some cake before setting off. She was travel weary and a little tired.
"Oh yeah dad, I know what I want to ask you. When I got to check in at Addis, the British Embassy wanted to speak to me. What was that all about?"
Welcome home Wiz. XX