21 April 2010

With the world grounded with the ASH AIR crisis , I considered the options. We were due to spend a week in the mountains redesigning our products and services with colleagues from UKFast. The word grounded didn’t figure high on my priorities as a kid. With scaffolding outside my bedroom window for a good few years, this was my usual exit when I wanted my own space. It was at these times, I used to head for the hills.

1. Cancel the Hosting Summit in Verbier

2. Wait for the news that we could take the private jet

3. Consider other options?

I am confident at this point as the pilot had been on to the powers that run the airspace and in-spite of the doom and gloom on the news, there was no reason in his mind why we would not be able to take off at 9am on Sunday morning. Little do I know!

It’s late Saturday afternoon in Manchester, a good friend James who runs the very successful business Printerland turned to me saying “you are not going to Verbier Loz, they are not going to open the airports.”

Thank God James said this. I might have waited if it wasn’t for this comment.

It was this one line that inspired me to change my mindset. I realised that everything hung in the balance of nature and the weather.

This was not a great situation to be in. James bet me £1 that I wouldn’t get there and that was it “game on.”

I picked up my mobile and rang my PA, “Rach, put everyone on full alert. I want everyones bags packed and around at our house in the next 90 minutes.”

Gail was already looking at options to get us across the Channel. The P&O website was inoperable, clearly a business who doesn’t host with UKFast! We found away via another site and we booked the ferry for 4am.

News was coming in from my PA of everyone’s whereabouts. It wasn’t looking good. 2 in a beer garden, one in Wales without transport, one getting ready for her grandfather’s birthday party. One gone walkabout and, one thankfully at home – Charlotte.

Charlotte started to help round up the troops. Meanwhile, I had another problem.I now had one car and 8 people. I rang my bro, Jonathan who is my communications director. He was in Sainsburys.

“…..well leave your trolley where it is, you are not going to need it.”

I had another driver, but I was still a car down. I then rang the marketing director Paul Harris. (Big Frank)

Paul and his lovely wife were getting ready to go out for a dinner party with friends.

It’s times like this, when you realise just how committed friends are.

“I’ll be there for you in half an hour” he said.

This was great news as Paul had just bought a Porsche Cayenne, which meant the vehicles for our RoadTrip were 2 very handsome black beasts.

The team was now complete, and with a bit of creativity we prized the boys from the beer garden and Wales and Rach even made her Grandfathers party; cut short admittedly, however I had done the calculations using the satnav, and I knew that as long as we left no later than 8.53pm we had a good chance of arriving at the early ferry, Dover.

James and Sue, his wife, were laughing at us, as this was going on in support of the madness required to change direction with little or no thought or regard for the consequences.

Grandma turned up, and with an emotional “goodbye” our 2 little daughters headed off a night early.

It was the best thing we could have done in hindsight and I owe James for bringing the realism home. Else we wouldn’t be sat here.

We made it to Dover and with 2 minutes to spare we boarded the early ferry at 1.55am.

The ferry was a far cry from the private jet and I remembered the times we did this as a kid. It was different from how I remembered it. Already tired, I couldn’t sleep. There was a great buzz amongst the team who had arrived at the house with lots of hugs kisses all ready for the adventure.

There was a massive sense of relief, as all of them had thought this great trip would inevitably be cancelled.

We headed from Calais across France, past Lake Geneva and into the Alps. The trip was exhausting and the hairpin bends were the only thing keeping Ross my co-pilot awake. The sheer fear of each bend approaching kept him on the edge of his seat.

This stage of the journey took us 8 hours, and with the exception of one flashing speed camera, and being pulled over by the French police for misunderstanding the speed limit, we had a great journey.

In fact, the French police made the  UKFast RoadTrip complete and after a couple of UKFast baseball cap souvenirs and a massively reduced fine, they ignored the 3 girls sleeping in the back seat. They escorted us to the cashpoint at the next service station, we shook hands and we were on our way again.

So as the rest of the world is grounded (apart from Richard Branson, who set off anyway from Necker yesterday in spite of the uncertainty of where he might land) we found there is always a way. But it does remind me the importance of friends, because none of this would have been possible with out the flexible grandparents, John and June, “Thank you.” To Paul’s family, especially Claire, the ultimate working mum, “Thank you”. To everyones parents, girl and boy friends, “Thanks, it is much appreciated.” Most of all, to my 2 little-ones who didn’t get a choice in the matter, “thank you T & P, I miss you lots!”

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