Is it a bird? Is it a plane?….Oh…it’s a bird….

Group A leaving at 5.30am after the concert or group B leaving at 10.25 am.

Which would you choose?

B. Well done, that is the correct answer, after all, leaving Poland at that ungodly hour would render me incapable of being sprightly dad at half term. So Group B it is, a little later home, but a more refreshed and capable father I shall be.

We arrived the airport and checked in; I then went through passport control where the man behind the desk looked at me and my photo many times. He then ran my passport through the machine and looked at me again. I wasn’t wearing a suspicious looking jumper or anything, maybe he was a friend of Schubert, I don’t know, but he eventually let me pass. If you’ve flown recently, you’ll know that security has been tightened again, but it was rather alarming going through the scanners. For some reason, the powers that be in Warsaw have decided that the people that operate the bag and body scanners should now look more intimidating. Whereas before they used to wear pseudo-security uniforms and a badge that said, “Hi, I’m Vaclav, let me pat you down”- or something, they now were kitted out in full military fatigues minus the weapons. One of the guys who tells you to remove your shoes even had a black beret on, although as he was the only one, I think it was his own accessory to butch it up a little. He told me to open my bag, it’s because of my flute which I’m told looks like a machine gun on the xray machine. I pulled out its little blue bag.

“What is?” he asked.

“A flute”


“A flute. A musical instrument.”

I then did a little mime.

No response, so I opened the case.

“Oh!!” He then said something to his friends without the berets and they laughed; one of them pointed at my flute, gave me a thumbs up and said,”Clarinet! Coooool!”

I paused, realised I was through security, bit my tongue, smiled and left. Clarinet? Cool? No and No.

Anyway, I digress. When we all arrived at gate 35, not a lot seemed to be happening. However soon there were some announcements in Polish and people’s faces dropped. I awaited the translation. To cut a long story short, the flight was cancelled, and we had to go back through, pick up our luggage and queue at the BA desk for information.

Miriam and Alan quietly organised everything and we awaited information. There wasn’t any. Well, to tell the truth there weren’t any planes until the next day. The radar system had gone on the blink and so no planes could take off or land; any flights which were flying later were already full so the only option was to go back to the hotel and sit it out. Fortunately we had no concert in the evening and Thursday was a day off for most of us – but still, we wanted to go home.

Now finding a flight from Warsaw for 48 people (Yes you guessed it, group A were already home!) is tricky and Miriam made several frantic calls to the LSO office who went into overdrive phoning insurers and airlines trying frantically to get us home. Rumours circulated about the air traffic control over the whole of Europe going down and that we would be given citizenship as we would never get home, proved untrue. BA flights weren’t doing anything but one of the budget airlines managed to fly out to Luton much to our annoyance as Bryn had booked himself on that flight. I guess thats the advantage of having a bright orange plane when the radar is down.

Anyway, we all crushed into the one cafe in the airport and waited.

And waited.

And waited. Another rumour began to circulate about a plane that was flying out to Gatwick at 8.30pm, a mere 9 hours after we should have left. We waited and finally at abou 6.30 we confirmed that we were indeed being flown home on Aer Lingus. Ah the luck of the Irish; Sarah Quinn got quite emotional that we were being saved from eternal damnation at the airport by Ireland’s favourite airline. Personally I didn’t care whether it was green, orange or pink, it was a plane and we were on it, as long as the radar system worked again. I felt like Han Solo fleeing the death star in the Millenium Falcon, hoping that Obi Wan has managed to switch off the tractor beam thereby enabling us to take off.

Happily on this occasion he did.

So we then had to check in again. This time I went through passport control where the same man looked me up and down again, ran my passport through his machine and then looked me up and down again probably wondering how on earth I managed to leave Poland twice in one day. I then braved the military junta at the baggage screening, but this time I made sure I followed Joost and his bassoon as they look like bazookas on xray which are much more dangerous than machine guns. I didn’t get stopped this time. I had time to have a nutritious evening meal of beer and crisps and then we were off.

As we landed at Gatwick at 10.30, 12 hours after we left, everybody scrambled down to the station via the Cornish Pasty shop and we all dispersed in different directions into the night before reconvene on Friday. I finally walked in my door at 12.30am and as I write this it is 1.23am.

I’m off to bed as the glamour of my job has taken its toll. Now where did I put that wodka…

About LSO

The London Symphony Orchestra is one of the world's top orchestras. Our home is at the Barbican Centre in the City of London where we play over 80 concerts every year, but we also spend quite a bit of time out on the road, touring all over the world. Recently we have toured to Germany, France, Russia, New York, Japan, Holland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Lithuania; and coming up this year are China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Portugal, Florida, Romania and a return visit to New York, where we are resident at the Lincoln Center.
This entry was posted in Gareth Davies, Vienna/Warsaw February 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Is it a bird? Is it a plane?….Oh…it’s a bird….

  1. Keith says:

    Hasn’t the Maestro got his own plane? Not sure you could fit 48 on it, thought maybe if you all squashed up a bit?

  2. claire says:

    ……..we all had the Dunkirk spirit!!!!!

  3. LSO says:

    or was it the Blitz spirit? Close run thing. By the way, I think I owe you £12.50!

  4. Basia (from Sweden) says:

    What an absolutely amazing blog. Just discovered it, and I’m giggling and laughing my way back through previous tours!

    As for Polish passport control, what can I say, it was worse in the 80’s during martial law… To prevent that the flute is mistaken for a clarinet ;), try assuring a Pole that ‘this is a flute’, by saying: “To jest flet”
    (‘et’ in flet is pronounced as in English “set” or “get”.)

    Happy travelling and playing!

  5. limewire says:

    wow amazing info man.

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