Had a pretty good night’s sleep in our hotel. It was definitely better than the floor of the terminal! Breakfast was good too. A Turkish spread with very good coffee. We tucked in knowing our next meal wouldn’t be for hours.
The shuttle bus picked us up at about 1115, a group of perhaps 20 people. Some others had already left for the earlier flights. Back at Istanbul airport we went through 2 security checks and passport control, finally getting airside. We had our boarding cards already of course as all our paperwork was checked last night.
We sat drinking coffee and feeling very relaxed. It’s a beautiful very new airport, more like a shopping mall than an airport. It’s huge. Really huge.
Our gate went up at about 1.45pm for our departure at 315 so we decided to go to the gate. It was quite a hike, about 15 minutes. There was a short queue there as one of the TA ground staff was checking our paperwork again, prior to 3 security checks and all this before you actually present your boarding card to get on the plane. I got to the front. Showed my vaccination status, covid test, locator form and Day 2 package booking. Fine. All ok. I entered the gate. Bob was next. Same documentation. Ah…. big problem…. you have an antigen test not PCR. Yes, that’s correct, it’s valid for the UK. 2 phone calls later – the gate guy agreed…. But there’s another problem, Sir, your covid test is more than 48 hours old. Bob started to fizz. “Yes, but it wasn’t when I departed Cyprus to start my journey which is what the rule is, not 48 hours before arrival. Although it would have been within 48 hours of arrival if your airline hadn’t delayed me overnight. And you’ve just passed my wife through with exactly the same paperwork”!! They called me back. Neither of you can board the flight without an antigen test taken in the last 48 hours. You can get one here in the airport. By now, it was after 2. You have time, he said. Did we??? It felt frantic. Our blood pressure went through the roof.
The testing booth was at Gate A1 apparently, we were at D5. We had to run. It was horrendous. My phone showed me afterwards that we’d run a mile. And it was hard to find this little testing centre. No signs at all. We went upstairs and downstairs, asking….. finally found it but it was on the arrival side of airside ie through the security check. They let us through. We got to the booth at 215, in a very stressed and sweaty, out of breath state. We’d had to drag our cabin baggage with us of course.
Anyway the testing manager was lovely. At first he thought there wasn;t time but seeing our faces, he rallied, and said they would expedite it. Samples taken. £10 each paid. We waited 10 minutes and the lab passed us as negative. Then we had to run back to the gate, also having this time to pass through the hand baggage scanning check. We were put to the front much to the rage of a Russian lady who yelled at me and then at the staff. I left them arguing. We ran on…… another sweaty mile.
We got back to the gate at 240. There was still a small line but the guy saw us and pulled us to the front, looked at the test results and waved us through. We boarded. Sank into our seats in utter relief, like sweaty panting, wide eyed loons.
Lesson learned. We’d wondered a bit about the tests and decided that they’d been checked so much that all was well. A sort of should we-shouldnt we thing. We should have. We had ages this morning to do it.
The flight was very smooth and we had a nice meal and I rewarded my run with 2 small red wine bottles. I slept. Probably as a result of the run…. and the wine…..
We arrived 20 minutes early and Gatwick was absolutely empty. I mean…. it was empty. We walked into the passport hall and there was no one there except the staff. We were on our way to the car park with our luggage 30minutes after the wheels touched down.
John was there with the car to meet us! So lovely to see him and to collapse into the back seat and just relax. Very kind of him to come and get us and bring a food parcel to carry us over till Tescos came tonight.
And I must mention that my friend, Penny, left her moving-in tasks this morning and came to the house and waited to collect our post. It had been held since the end of October by Royal Mail keepsafe system. Surely Royal Mail are the most dinosaur business EVA!!! Their Keepsafe service is positively baroque in its user unfriendliness. When Bob emailed them yesterday (waiting time on the phone was 40 minutes) saying please don’t deliver the post tomorrow, he got an email back saying “Thank you for your message. Our customer service staff endeavour to READ messages within 3 DAYS”. Needless to say the post was delivered today but Penny was in the house to receive it. Thanks, Pen.
She also discovered the wonderful service from Hermes and also (again) Royal Mail. I had ordered some parcels in advance of Christmas and they were due to come at the weekend, however the suppliers supplied early, which was fine. I’d seen that the parcels were going to be delivered yesterday but I didn;t worry because the emails advising of delivery informed me they would make 3 attempts at delivery. Fine. We’d be back by then. So I was surprised yesterday, to get an email from Hermes to say “Hooray we have delivered your parcel. You weren’t in, so we delivered it to your “outbuilding”. Outbuilding????? We haven’t got an outbuilding of any kind, not even a shed, and anyway, I hadnt nominated a safe place, AND the side gate to our back garden is padlocked when we are away. Hmmmm…. But all was not lost as Hermes helpfully enclosed a photograph to prove they’d delivered to my “outbuilding”. I clicked to see it and up popped a photograph of my side gate……. So…. when Penny arrived she found said precious parcel delivered by Hermes…. tossed over the locked side gate!!!!!! And it was not alone. Royal Mail had decided to disregard their own keepsafe order and had tossed 3 packages over the same gate….. unbelievable. Or rather, all too believable…..
We fell in the door….. so happy to be home and we will sleep well tonight. Dear old Tesco turned up early and all is well with the world. House is warm and in good shape, clean and tidy.And so to bed…..