A Memorable Moment
By Simon James

On 4th March 2020, I was scheduled to attend a job at Orkney. It was for two DFM100 defibrilators that required an FCO. I needed the relative parts, a few tools, a defibrillator analyser and an overnight bag.

I drove to Manchester Airport very early, parked my car and caught an early flight that arrived in good time, I collected a hire car and my luggage and attended Balfour hospital in Kirkwall. It was a relatively newly constructed and very pleasant hospital.

The job went smoothly and only took a couple of hours which meant that I had the rest of the afternoon to do some sightseeing. Not a lot to see really. I saw a couple of ancient stone circles, and noticed that there are no trees at all on the island. I visited Skara Brae – which was not up to much and then had a walk around Kirkwall. There was a little museum, a cathedral and a castle.

I checked into my hotel, which was really a pub with some bedrooms upstairs. The food was okay. Could not see the aurora borealis as it was raining lots so gave up and went to bed in a tiny little single bed room.

The next morning I awoke early and ready for the journey home. I rang my Dad to wish him a happy birthday while I was eating my breakfast. On the TV in the bar was the BBC breakfast news and the main headline was that Flybe had gone into administration. 

My flight back to Manchester was with Flybe! Mild panic ensued as I made some phone calls, but there was no-one answering this early in the morning. Eventually our Customer Services team got back to me and we waited for the travel agent. The travel agent did an amazing job and before 09:00 I had an alternative route home arranged.

First I had to take the hire car back to the airport and catch a helicopter to Inverness. Never been on a helicopter before so I was a little nervous, and even more nervous when sat at the back were 4 burly prison officers and a prisoner with his hands and feet secured. He was not swimming if we ditched in the sea!

Then a flight from Inverness to Edinburgh on a little passenger flight that appeared to be powered by wind and elastic bands! However, once I had got to Edinburgh the journey promised to be easier, but I was sadly mistaken. I had to get on a crowded transfer bus from Edinburgh airport to Edinburgh train station where I was due to catch a train down the west coast mainline to Manchester. However, all the trains were cancelled because the line was damaged north of Carlisle. 

While I sat around eating a Tesco meal deal and wondering what do next, if the day could get any worse and how long my phone battery had left with all the calls I was making, an announcement came over the station speakers. There would be a replacement coach service to Carlisle train station. I swiftly located the right place to wait and got on a very luxorious coach, with USB sockets built into the backrest of the seat in front of me, so at least I could get my phones charged.

It was starting to get dark as the coach driver, obviously following satnav and not his experience took the A702, which is a long and winding road, difficult in a car, never mind driving a big bus! He got stuck a couple of times but we eventually arrived at Carlisle train station just after 20:00. The station café was still open so time to grab a brew and something to eat while waiting for the train.

The train took 2 hours to arrive in Manchester Piccadily and I slept for most of that because I knew what was coming next. My car was still at the airport. I had to catch the metro tram to the airport to retrieve my car and take it, me and my luggage and equipment home. Finally, 18 hours after setting off I pulled onto my drive completely exhausted.

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