Even so, when things do go awry it does send one off one’s rocker, especially if those best-designed plans are sytmied by an idiot and an idiot’s charter. Such was the case late last Friday evening at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3.
I was on my way with the organiser of Mobile Web Africa to present at his show in Johannesburg, meet the founder of Soweto TEDx, meet tens of inspiring African entrepreneurs, write something about this for the BBC and visit South Africa for the first time.
After an exhausting two weeks of flying on business (not business class) to Paris, Moscow and New York, this was the last leg in the world tour… and with sunshine.
We were going through the gate when my colleague asked me if I had my visa. What?! Haha, very funny, I don’t need a visa, but you had me going for a second. NEVER F*CK WITH FATE. As we handed over our passports, it appeared there was a problem.
According to the bilious representative of South African Airlines I didn’t have a clear page in my passport for a South African visa. But you don’t need a visa, I said. I know, she said. Then, what are you talking about, I said. They might give you a visa and if you haven’t a clear page in your passport they can’t issue it, she said.
My colleague said that he’d been coming to South Africa for ten years and had never received a visa, only a stamp on arrival. That is probably true, she said. So, please show some discretion please, I said. No, she said. If you are sent back the airline will have to pay a fine, she said. Come on, I said, we’ve spent three months planning this trip, I said. Not my problem, she said.
Naturally, my first thought was that the plane was going to crash and my friend would die with all the other passengers and my life had been spared, but that was probably a wrong thought. The second thought is probably best ignored, just put it under thought-crime, but the fact was I couldn’t board. Sorry, I’ve just thought my second thought again. God, if only.
So, the walk of shame through a deserted terminal into ‘arrivals’ with nobody waiting, like a sick movie. I took a taxi home and as my wife was on a pre-arranged girls’ spa weekend and my house had been overtaken by extended family and kids, I decamped to the Jurys Inn hotel next to Brighton station. Suffice to say there wasn’t much sunshine there.
Ergo, my week has been odd, a whole week without meetings arranged; weird. As it was I made it to the Mobile Entertainment Awards in Kensington last night, saw some (definitely) old faces and endured three hours of hell on the rail networks and expensive taxis to get home.
Still, I had a good Friday to look forward to. A good lunch at the Sussex Yeoman, some deftly arranged meetings in there all afternoon and maybe a bit of FA Cup 2nd Round action on the TV with Super Bees Brentford away to Bradford City.
Alas, that wasn’t to be either. My nine-year-old caught the vomiting bug that’s going around so my wife has taken the car and we’re stuck out in the country with only the iPlayer, DS and fellow-screens for company. We can’t even take the dog for a walk because he’s so poorly.
Still, at least the plane to South Africa didn’t crash and according to everybody Mobile Web Africa smashed it, a fantastic conference I hear and I’m REALLY looking forward to being part of the next one in Kenya at the end of February.
Naturally I will be renewing my passport so there is no problem flying to Nairobi and this time I’m making plans to visit South Sudan on that trip, Nairobi being the only place you can fly in from. Now, that is something to look forward to, but what are the chances of it actually happening?
One thing’s for sure though, I can’t get that Spitting Image ‘I’ve never met a nice South African’ song out of my head. And thanks to YouTube you can get it in to your head, too. You don’t need a link, seek and ye shall find.
Oh, sorry, one more thing… f*ck you, South African Airlines.