The world on an airport floor

From above, it was just a mass of people, milling around, standing still, different languages babbling together, confusion if not chaos and no-one going anywhere.

But a closer look at this mass of humanity at Chambery Airport revealed pilgrim populations of micro worlds within worlds, all with one objective, to pass through the Slough of Despond, through to the Gate of Victory, the Way of Plane.

When we arrived for our flight, we'd already been warned that some hadn't gone the previous day, so it would be a 'bit busy' – remind me to add tour reps to estate agents on the league table of Professions Who Use Creative English to Describe Things that Aren't so Good But we Want them to Sound Better. A bit busy? A BIT BUSY? It was like all the Harrods sales over the past century rolled into one, except nothing was on sale and everything was expensive.

No-one was going anywhere, except to the check-in desks to watch their luggage disappear, probably never to be seen again. It took an hour or so to announce that the airport was closed, heck, WE could have told them that. And stilll they came in, hauling skis, snowboards and those stupid cases on wheels that pass for hand baggage, can I just say that the next one to run over my feet will be seized, the wheels forcibly removed, the silly extended handle wrenched from its housing and shaped into a a long poker, then its owner prodded all the way to the Samsonite shop where they should be fored to buy proper luggage at inflated prices. So there.

As more and more people appeared, territory was marked and claimed. Both seats in the airport were taken by people who looked like they had machine guns and knew how to use them. We, the People's Republic of Yorkshire (and adopted Tykes) scoured the concrete floor for somewhere to establish an outpost and staked a strategic claim, a concrete pillar with good all-round view of the screens and somewhere to lean against, the downside was the litter bin, others had to step over us  to reach it, but it was a small price to pay. Then the Russians arrived, they placed their snowboards in a square, faced inwards, pulled out a board game and a flagon of vodka and had a damn good time.. The Germans did the same, except in a more orderly fashion and without the vodka. All over the airport, enclaves were established and defended, scouting parties sent out, some never to return.

The first flight to arrive after the airport re-opened was ours. We resisted any temptation to look smug, though I think we failed on that, after letting out a great 'Hoorah!' when the annoucement was made. It did come as a great relief as the South of England Kingdom was bussed lock, stock and barrel-shaped luggage to Milan for their flight home where at least they''d have the luxury of great Italian coffee. Some were teasingly ordered to check-out where they picked up not their boarding passes, but vouchers for accommodation at a nearby motel.

So at least we got home the day we set off, arriving in a snowy Manchester, keen to return to the Kingdom of Yorkshire.

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